The Eco-innovation Action Plan (EcoAP) comprises seven actions to help build stronger and more stable market demand for eco-innovation. These actions focus particularly on market supply and demand, on research and industry, and on policy and financial instruments. They will bring together stakeholders, the private and public sectors, and the European Commission.
European environmental policy has moved European industries towards greater sustainability. The goal now is for eco-innovation to be at the heart of the revision of EU legislation – from air and water to waste and infrastructure. The Commission wants to perform a selective screening of European regulations in these areas, leading to specific and evidence-based recommendations for action.
However promising they may look on paper, many eco-innovation technologies still fail to make the leap from lab to market. Starting in 2012, the Commission will fund eco-innovation demonstration projects. Participation is open to all industrial sectors and themes – from demolition waste and soil remediation to pesticides and climate change adaptation. This approach will be continued under the Horizon 2020 programme, the next EU research and innovation framework programme, from 2014 to 2020.
Eco-innovation benefits from ambitious standards and performance targets. Working with Member States and international standardisation bodies, the Commission is to launch a dialogue to identify and prioritise areas where standards and targets could have the biggest impacts. Areas likely to be included are waste treatment, drinking water, sustainable construction materials, and building insulation.
Public sector finance is crucial to accelerate eco-innovation in the private sector, especially in SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises). To bring new investors onboard, the Commission will create a European network of eco-innovation financiers. It will also launch new funding instruments, in order to offer targeted debt and equity facilities in support of eco-innovative businesses, and expand other services to SMEs, so they can find and exploit eco-innovation opportunities in the EU and beyond.
Emerging economies such as China, India and Brazil offer new market and partnership opportunities for European eco-investors. To capitalise on these opportunities, the Commission will promote the establishment of European business and technology centres in support of European businesses seeking to expand their market.
EU Skills Panorama is a Commission initiative mapping out current and future skills needs in Europe, with a focus on green jobs. The aim is to drive forward the transition to a green economy by equipping tomorrow’s labour force with relevant skills and knowledge. The Commission will also facilitate information exchange between Member States on training schemes targeted at eco-innovation.
European Innovation Partnerships are initiatives that aim to bring together public and private actors in key sectors where eco-innovation could contribute to create greater resource efficiency. Partnerships are being set up for raw materials, sustainable agriculture, and water.