European brands account for at least 70 % of the global high-end goods market. And while high-end products are usually associated with fashion, the sector consists of a wide range of products and services: cars, yachts, furniture, wines, spirits and more. The European Commission is committed to ensuring Europe’s high-end sector continues to thrive. Full story
New opportunities for eco-innovation projects
Green technology and eco-innovative solutions are vital to the EU's future sustainability and competitiveness. The European Commission has launched a €35-million call for project proposals under its eco-innovation scheme, which aims to transform environmental challenges into new business opportunities.
Eco-innovation is all about creative ideas which show that environmental protection and competitive growth can go hand in hand. Entrepreneurial talent can, in fact, be used to stimulate innovation that is good for the economy and good for Europe's ecological footprint.
The EU's Competitiveness and Innovation Programme (CIP) provides support for eco-innovation, thus making a significant contribution to the Environmental Technologies Action Plan (ETAP). This year's call was launched at the CIP Eco-Innovation Info Day. It concerns market replication projects, and is addressed mainly to small and medium-sized enterprises that have developed an environmental product, service, management practice or process which has a proven track record, yet is not fully marketed due to residual risks.
Through this latest call, funds will be made available for projects in the following areas, with particular emphasis on resource efficiency:
- Materials recycling - such as improving sorting processes for waste materials, strengthening the competitiveness of the recycling industries, and the development of innovative products that use recycled materials.
- Sustainable building products - which could include developing greener construction materials and technologies, along with better use of recycled materials and renewable resources.
- The food and drink sector - covering such areas as cleaner production and packaging processes, and finding new ways to tackle waste.
- Green business practices - from improving the efficiency of purchasing methods and more careful use of resources, to the greening of production processes and the development of sustainable practices in supply chains.
The European Commission is particularly keen to hear from small businesses that are developing green products or services that need a financial boost to get into the marketplace. Up to 50 projects are likely to be selected for funding through this call, covering up to 50% of project costs.
Projects that make it through the selection process must show an innovative approach and provide an end-product that has the potential for market replication. They must be in tune with Europe's environmental policies, especially in terms of the efficient use of resources.
The CIP's eco-innovation initiative runs from 2008 to 2013, with a total budget of about €200 million. Previous calls have proven to be hugely popular. This summer, nearly 100 projects will be running with interesting perspectives, receiving a total of around €60 million from the European Union (see boxes for examples). In addition, selected entries will mobilise about the same amount in funding from the private and public sector bodies that are involved in project consortia.
The previous calls succeeded in attracting the main target group, SMEs, who submitted 70% of applications. The most popular areas for submission were recycling followed by green business.
The 2009 call saw a 50% increase in applications compared to the previous year, attracting submissions from 614 organisations in 32 countries. Spain, Italy and Germany delivered the most proposals, although new entries also came in from Iceland, Serbia and Albania.
The projects finally selected for funding from the 2009 call reveal the broad scope of EU support for eco-innovation. For example, one consortium will use their funding to develop a new type of milk bottle made from a mixture of recycled paper and plastic, while another project aims to use laser technology for fruit labelling which will replace conventional paper labels.
As well as being the 'green' strand of CIP, eco-innovation will make an active contribution to the EU's new strategy for economic growth. Europe 2020 sets out to build an economic future based on smart growth - which is about nurturing knowledge and innovation - while stimulating green growth to promote a competitive, low-carbon economy that uses resources efficiently.
The 2010 call will close on 9 September 2010 at 17:00 (Brussels local time) and the application pack is available at: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/eco-innovation/application_en.htm
Funding for the eco-innovation scheme is managed by the Executive Agency for Competitiveness and Innovation (EACI).
Concrete applications of plastic
The NUMIX project aims to recycle plastics for use in the construction industry. To do so the project is harnessing innovative industrial processes to treat scrap produced through the sorting of recyclable plastics, which is then transformed into aggregate for lightened concrete and mortar.
The NUMIX team looks into developing two products - expanded granules and flakes. A plant for producing flakes is already up and running, and concrete producers are showing a great deal of interest in the product.
The project tackles two pressing issues at the same time: global demand of concrete is steadily on the increase, so a reliable and more eco-friendly alternative is very appealing; plus NUMIX offers a great way to use the large amounts of plastic waste produced in the EU every year.
Water into wine
About five litres of water are used to produce one litre of wine. Vineyards also use chemicals to keep pests and fungus away from the grapes. This project aims to tackle both these issues by bringing two eco-innovative technologies to market in the form of a new filtration system and a new product recovery system.
To complement the technical work, the consortium is also developing an innovative methodology for environmental and quality management.
Project demonstration takes place in five wine-producing countries. The goal is to reduce the use of pesticides and fungicides by 20% and cut water usage by 30%. In addition, the project aims to recycle 10% more waste and to treat 10% more effluent.
The project's resource-saving techniques have the potential to make 56 000 wine producers more competitive - and greener.
The text only of the articles can be republished as long as the source of the article is quoted: Enterprise & Industry magazine (http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/magazine/index_en.htm), © European Union, 2008 - 2012