The EU Competitiveness and Innovation programme is offering €28 million funding in 2008 to stimulate take up of the best environmental products, processes and services in Europe, contributing to implementation of ETAP.
Europe is a strong player in eco-innovation with a turnover of €227 billion in this sector, representing 2.2% of GDP and some 3.4 million jobs. The EU has around 30% of the world turnover in eco-industry products and services, and around half the turnover in global water and waste management. However with greenhouse-gas emissions set to increase threefold by 2050 and metals and minerals consumption forecast to grow by up to 40% in the coming decade, action is essential now to increase the market share of eco-innovation.
Eco-innovation is part of the Competitiveness and Information Framework Programme (CIP) running from 2007 to 2013 with a total budget of €3 621 million. The new programme is intended to support pilot and replication projects to encourage market uptake of innovative eco-technologies and practices by bridging the gap between research & development and commercialisation. It covers market-oriented activities with a strong emphasis on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
The first call for proposals for Eco-innovation was published on 21 April 2008 with a deadline of 11 September for proposal submissions. Evaluation will take place in December, with first projects starting in February/March 2009. An initial information day was organised in Brussels on 8 May 2008 by the Executive Agency for Competitiveness and Innovation (EACI) – see Box, which is managing the new programme in co-operation with the European Commission.
“There has been a contradiction between business and the environment in the past,” said EACI Director Patrick Lambert. “This programme is set to relieve the tensions.” Funding is aimed at eco-innovators in Europe struggling to market new products, processes or services that show clear environmental benefits. Innovation has a key role in developing new sustainable solutions that reduce the ecological footprint of existing industrial processes and enable a more rational use of natural resources in a wide range of areas – from waste treatment and materials recycling to clean construction and green management.
Funding will cover 40 to 60% of eligible project costs. There are four priority areas for 2008: materials recycling; sustainable buildings; food and drink industrial processes; and green business and smart purchasing. However, projects are by no means limited to these sectors. “Our programme is covering the whole of Europe but does not have a huge budget, so we need to choose the best projects – probably about 40 in all,” said Beatriz Yordi, head of the EACI eco-innovation unit.
The Brussels-based EACI was as set up in 2003 as the Intelligent Energy Executive Agency (IEEA) to implement the ‘Intelligent Energy – Europe’ (IEE) programme. It manages the projects and events funded under the IEE programme and disseminates the resulting know-how and best practices. Since 2007, the EACI has also managed the European Commission's Eco-innovation initiative and the Enterprise Europe Network as part of the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP), which absorbed the IEE programme, as well the Marco Polo programme. It was the first of a number of new executive agencies established by the Commission to put policies into action more efficiently and effectively with improved results.
EACI is looking for external experts to assist in evaluation of the implementation of the CIP and specifically the Intelligent Energy-Europe, Eco-innovation and Marco Polo programmes. Experts will assisting in evaluating responses to calls for proposals, evaluating finished or on-going activities or projects under these programmes, and evaluating the programmes themselves to assess their impact.