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Developing an EU environmental technology verification scheme

28/07/2011

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The LIFE TRITECH environmental technology verification (ETV) project provided a base for a voluntary EU ETV scheme. The Advance ETV project is co-ordinating further action in FP7.

Environmental technologies represent Europe’s path to a more sustainable economy and the means to tackle urgent environmental challenges. However, such technologies face barriers preventing them from breaking into the market and gaining potential users. The dearth of reliable information and inaccurate risk assessments frequently discourage investors and hamper technology developers – particularly small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

SMEs are often the catalyst for the next generation of eco-innovations, playing a vital role in developing the environmental technologies needed to address resource scarcity and loss of biodiversity. However, they often lack the capital, influence and pedigree to convince investors and customers of the merits of their innovations. By failing to penetrate the market, SMEs – both technology developers and small-scale vendors – find it difficult to further the uptake of their green products. The result is that policymakers cannot tap into the eco-innovation solutions necessary to achieve their environmental policy goals.

Evidence shows consumers favour established technologies with proven track records. By validating a developer’s claims, environmental technology verification schemes offer independent and credible confirmation of a technology’s potential. ETVs can motivate investors and end users to take up a particular eco-innovation.

Part of a global ETV effort

The first ETV schemes were put into practice in Canada in 1993 and the USA in 1995. Other ETV systems are being established in for example South Korea, the Philippines and Japan. Since 2004, the European Commission has initiated several projects in both the Framework and LIFE programmes that support the development of an EU ETV system.

The Commission is now in the process of establishing a voluntary scheme focused on ETV in the context of the Environmental Technologies Action Plan (ETAP). A co-ordination action in FP7 – AdvanceETV – is taking this forward with the objective of bringing together EU ETV activities and linking them with outcomes of existing ETV systems worldwide. The objective is to support international harmonisation and mutual recognition.

Voluntary scheme being established

The EU ETV pre-programme – which aims to provide objective and reliable evidence on the performance of eco-innovations – follows in the wake of the TRITECH ETV pilot project which tested potential mechanisms for such a scheme. Part funded under the EU LIFE Programme, TRITECH engaged with 15 companies as test cases for the verification process.

Co-ordinated by Beta Technology in the UK, the project – which started in September 2006 and finished in August 2009 – was implemented in partnership with the UK One North East Regional Development Agency, the Technical Research Centre of Finland, the Swedish Environmental Research Institute and the Latvian Pollution Prevention Centre.

The project tested operational settings for verification on real cases in three areas: wastewater treatment, soil remediation and energy. The main components of the project involved: setting-up a stakeholder group; developing ETV mechanisms; testing and validating; project evaluation; and, finally, reporting to the European Commission.

Best practice review

Methodology was based on a best practice review from existing ETV schemes around the world. Overall, TRITECH increased public knowledge of ETV while strengthening links between European and Canadian ETV schemes. It also produced case-study examples from the 15 companies contacted of technologies that have been through the verification process.

One such example, Magnatech – a magnetic fuel conditioning unit – was successfully verified by TRITECH. “As a technology that is ‘off the wall’ and not a well-known solution to energy reduction, any external endorsement from an independent source is extremely valuable,” says Ian Gander of Magnatech. “We would anticipate that entry into EU markets would be eased by having verification from TRITECH.”

The outcome of TRITECH was a series of recommendations:

  • Verify products not technologies;
  • Make the EU ETV scheme voluntary;
  • Undertake a legislative process to ensure Europe-wide acceptance of the scheme;
  • Combine verification with demonstration where possible to make the process more cost effective and efficient;
  • Establish national contact points to avoid language and access barriers in the EU ETV scheme;
  • Develop a clear, well-recognised and credible ETV logo; and
  • Work towards global acceptance of the EU ETV scheme so that the policy of ‘verified once, accepted everywhere’ becomes a reality.

Series of FP6 ETV projects

Four other research projects dealing with the issue of ETV received funding under the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6):

  • ‘European co-ordination action for demonstration for efficient soil and groundwater remediation’ (EURODEMO);
  • ‘Towards European sectorial testing networks for environmental technologies’ (TESTNET);
  • ‘Efficiency control and performance verification of improved approaches for soil-groundwater protection and rehabilitation’ (PROMOTE); and
  • ‘Testing network for verification of air emissions abatement technologies’ (AIRTV).

These five projects together provided a basis for the establishment of the EU ETV pre-programme. Through the refining of environmental technology verification mechanisms Europe can help developers gain market access for their products, and at the same time allay the fears of potential investors and purchasers. By doing so, the emergence of the next generation of eco-innovations will be accelerated.

More information

Related information on the EcoAP Website