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Environmental Technologies & Eco-innovation

The EU Growth and Jobs and Sustainable Development Strategies place particular emphasis on the potential of pursuing economic growth while securing a high level of environmental protection. Innovation is central to this and European innovation policy aims at a shift towards a knowledge-based and resource-efficient economy.

These strategies have led to the development of the EU Environmental Technologies Action Plan (ETAP) launched in 2004. The Action Plan stimulates eco-innovation and the take-up of environmental technologies on a broad scale to better protect the environment and contribute to competitiveness and growth. Actions focus on getting from research to markets, improving market conditions and promoting responsible investments in environmental technologies in developing countries.

Eco-innovation significantly contributes to Europe's drive to improve competitiveness and create new jobs. EU eco-industries include sectors such as climate-friendly technologies, air pollution control, wastewater management and recycling industries. They already enjoy a total turnover around 320 billion (about 2,5% of Europe's Gross Domestic Product), employ approximately 3.4 million people (about 1,5% of all EU employment) and account for one third of the global market.

Some significant examples of current Commission efforts through ETAP are: the imminent proposal of a European environmental technology verification scheme, and the use of the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP) to help finance to eco-innovative companies, either directly through the Pilot and Market replication projects or indirectly, via investment in such companies by risk capital funds.     

ETAP actions are also closely linked and integrated into other relevant policies developed by the Commission; such as the Lead Market Initiative (2007), the Strategic Energy Technology Plan (2007) and the recent Sustainable Consumption and Production Plan (2008). However, building on the Communication establishing ETAP and the reports (published in January 2005 and May 2007), the Commission is currently considering options to step up efforts to increase eco-innovation uptake and working on a set of actions for the future.

ETAP – EU environment website