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Investing in eco-innovation to reduce climate change



The EU Sustainable Energy Week 2009 highlighted the role of the CIP in the fight against climate change by its funding of eco-innovative SMEs through the eco-innovation programme.

By offering a solution to the challenges to be overcome, eco-innovation represents the path to a more sustainable future. Reliance on eco-innovation will dramatically reduce the ecological footprint of our economy. Likewise, it will increase resource and energy efficiency, and encourage positive changes in consumption. And embracing eco-innovation turns an environmental challenge into an economic opportunity.

Eco-innovation is at the heart of ETAP, which has striven to increase market access for eco-innovation since the very beginning. Through the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP), ETAP supports the first application and further market uptake of some of the best eco-innovative products and services in Europe, and helps overcome those critical barriers that still hamper their commercial success.

The CIP eco-innovation initiative itself puts a strong emphasis on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Launched in 2008, it is starting to fund SMEs trying to bring eco-innovation from the research and development stage to the market. The Executive Agency for Competitiveness and Innovation (EACI) was tasked with the management of the €195 million allocated to developing eco-enterprises through the Eco-innovation Call for First Application and Market Replication project proposals.

A conference on ‘Climate change: the potential of eco-innovation for SMEs’ held in Brussels during the EUSEW in February 2009 was the opportunity to learn about the eco-innovation project proposals submitted in response to the 2008 call and about future funding.

The 2008 call for proposals prioritised four key areas: materials recycling; buildings; food and drink sectors; and greening business and smart purchases. Of 134 applications submitted, about 40 projects were approved with the Commission providing an initial fund of €28 million. Three quarters of the projects selected involve SMEs, with 25 different countries represented. There was a strong focus on recycling.

A number of the successful projects were featured in the conference, highlighting the variety of areas where eco-innovation can make a real difference. These included:

  • The Fertilandia project, which has patented an organic fertiliser produced by recycling by-products from tannery wastewater plants;
  • The Natstocer project, which has developed a sludge-free process for producing ceramic tiles;
  • The Ecometre project, which is pioneering a metal-recovery system for use in construction;
  • The InsulTFH project, which is producing pre-insulated timber frames;
  • The EU-wide EU Certplast initiative, which is increasing confidence in recycled plastics’; and finally
  • The international WINENVIRONMENT scheme, which has patented a process to reduce wastewater production in the wine industry.