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Eco-innovation Action Plan offers new opportunities for business

23/01/2012

  • Experts interviews

The Commission has launched an Eco-innovation Action Plan to expand the EU's focus from green technologies to all aspects of eco-innovation.

The Eco-innovation Action Plan develops actions under the Europe 2020 "Innovation Union" and "Resource Efficiency" flagships. It proposes measures to target eco-innovation specific barriers and drivers. The aim of the Plan is to deliver efficient solutions for environmental problems, improving European resource efficiency while opening new opportunities for business. Commissioner Janez Poto─Źnik explains the reasoning and the key elements of the new plan.

Why is eco-innovation important for Europe?

EU businesses need to adapt to the pressures of high resource prices and scarce materials. Many of our firms will need to become more competitive, improving their energy and resource efficiency. Eco-innovation in particular can offer many new business opportunities. It also reduces the risk of environmental pollution. In fact this is a business sector that is already growing rapidly: EU eco-industries are already bigger than the European automotive industry and are often world leaders.

Eco-innovation needs to permeate all sectors of the economy, from construction to the chemical industry, if we are to face up to the challenge of sustainability. There will be tremendous competitiveness benefits too, if we provide the solutions that everybody is looking forward to.

What specific new actions are you proposing?

We propose to start with a review of EU environmental legislation, because it needs to drive eco-innovation more strongly. There has been some progress already: new markets for greener chemicals have already been created as a result of the REACH regulation, with chemical Substances of Very High Concern (SVHC) being phased out, with less harmful alternatives being developed.

Traditionally there has been a problem with marketability, and with attracting finance. We are trying to help here with a new Environmental Technologies Verification (ETV) Scheme. This is a pilot project to provide independent verification of new environmental technologies. The aim is to help manufacturers prove that their performance claims are reliable, which in turn will help technology purchasers identify innovations that fit their needs. This approach has proven very successful in several countries including the US and South Korea, where it has enlarged market uptake and investment in eco-innovation.

We are also planning measures to mobilise additional risk capital and assistance for SMEs. Schemes will be developed to reinforce eco-innovation skills and expertise, and to help launch public-private innovation partnerships. We will also work to create links between European businesses and businesses in major markets and in emerging economies.

What financial instruments will be put in place to support the Action Plan? What about eco-innovation in Horizon 2020?

Funding for eco-innovation will continue under the current EU multiannual financial framework 2007-2013, for instance through the Competitiveness and Innovation Programmes (CIP) and the LIFE Programme. For the next EU financial cycle (2014 – 2020) eco-innovation will be supported under two specific Horizon 2020 Programmes – "Tackling Societal Challenges" and "Creating industrial leadership and competitive frameworks". From 2014 the Commission aims to increase various kinds of assistance and support for eco-innovation.

How will the EU and the Member States work together to achieve the aims of the new plan?

Member States will have a crucial role in implementing the new Action Plan, because policies for supporting eco-innovation are implemented at national level, through public procurement, for example. We are quite well advance here, as we already have a wealth of information about Member State approaches to eco-innovation from the ETAP National Roadmaps. Now we need to coordinate EU and national actions to make sure that they are mutually supportive, to ensure that businesses in all EU Member States can benefit from eco-innovation.

 

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