JRC conference Scientific support for growth, jobs and sustainability: the example of eco-industries, held on Tuesday 15 May in Brussels, emphasised the unique role eco-industries can play in Europe's economic recovery and sustainable future.
Opened by Máire Geoghegan-Quinn European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, and Hannes Swoboda, President of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats at the European Parliament, the conference welcomed high level speakers from businesses, research organisations, governments and EU policymakers. They shared experience from their fields and discussed how scientific support can boost the growth of eco-industries.
In his closing remarks at the end of the conference, JRC Director-General Dominique Ristori emphasised the need for action. Science and innovation are crucial for technologies to meet the new challenges in this process. Eco-industries can be an answer to the challenge of combining growth and protection of the environment. He also stressed the need to propose integrated solutions, as air, water, waste and energy challenges (the fields in which eco-industries work) are closely interlinked. He highlighted that the JRC will support focused innovation in close co-operation with key partners from public administrations, industry and the science community. He also raised the challenge of costs and risks of developing and introducing new technologies and suggested they should be shared by public and private partnerships.
Malcolm Harbour, a MEP and Chairman of the Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) pointed out at the success of joint technology platforms, which include companies, universities and researchers creating bridges between researchers and consumers. He said standards need to be applied more consistently and globally, indicating as a good example JRC’s agreement with the US on interoperability between e-vehicles, smart grids and recharging systems.
He also emphasised the need for more co-operation between customers in the public sector and inventors. The completion of the reform on public procurement, he said, will be a new tool that public customers could use to drive innovation.
The day long programme attracted more than 350 participants. It revolved around five main sessions, focusing on water management, air quality, waste management, renewable energies and energy efficiency. Eco-industries develop technologies and offer products and services that reduce environmental risk and minimise pollution. These activities measure, prevent and limit environmental damage to water, air and soil. In addition they tackle problems related to waste management and preservation of eco-systems. The European eco-industries are very diverse with strong potential for further development.
Some of the topics discussed were the need to tackle water management together with energy, the challenges of urban areas for air quality, the potential of clean transport and smart cities policies and the need to better address availability of resources, especially rare earth metals. In the field of renewable energies, key sectors highlighted were off-shore technology, photovoltaics, biomass and biofuels. Further development of these and energy efficiency are critical in making the European economy more competitive.