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Eco-innovation Action Plan sets agenda for jobs and growth

28/07/2011

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The European Commission has launched a new Eco-innovation Action Plan as part of Europe 2020. Building on the lessons-learnt of ETAP, the plan complements the EU policies on innovation, resource efficiency, industry and skills to support the transition towards smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.

Eco-innovation Action Plan sets agenda for jobs and growth

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The potential to create new business opportunities for growth and jobs in Europe is clear from the emergence of vibrant green businesses. Targeted action is required to provide a clearer way forward with optimised use of existing instruments and mobilisation of new resources. But it is important to underline that eco-innovation is not just a lucrative niche, all firms and all customers can become eco-innovators, and the new Action Plan aims to reflect that.The Eco-innovation Action Plan complements the ambitions of the Europe 2020 Innovation Union and Resource Efficiency Flagship initiatives. It targets the specific barriers and drivers to eco-innovation that are not addressed by the broad horizontal actions of the Europe 2020 Flagships and provides value added beyond the existing policy framework. It proposes ambitious new actions to help achieve the Europe 2020 goals and sets out a framework for eco-innovation. Eco-innovation will be key for the European economy to adjust to environmental and resource constraints, regain competitiveness and create new jobs.European policies have enabled the emergence of a significant and competitive environmental goods and services sector. Eco-industries have an annual turnover of €319 billion – 2.5 % of EU gross domestic product – and are growing by 8 % a year. The sector employs 3.4 million people, with 600 000 additional jobs created between 2004 and 2008. Business recognises the potential of eco-innovation. European venture capital investment in this sector has increased greatly – with some € 1.3 billion in 2010.The new plan builds on the Environmental Technologies Action Plan (ETAP) launched in 2004. ETAP harnessed the potential of environmental technologies to contribute to competitiveness and growth.Efforts focused on:Getting from research to market with actions at both EU and Member-State levels – however better coordination is still needed between EU, national and regional efforts and instruments with advanced governance structures to build on national strengths and best practice.Improving market conditions with environmental policy driving rapid development and market take up of eco-innovation. The Lead Market Initiative, the Key Enabling Technologies (KETs) initiative, LIFE+ and the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme have helped but stronger support for SMEs, also through Cohesion Funds, would accelerate eco-innovation.Opening up global markets – eco-innovation policies are now key items on the global green growth agenda in the run-up to the next UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) and in bilateral environmental dialogues with the EU’s partners.Enhancing governance – since ETAP was launched, efforts have been made to coordinate EU and Member States’ policies and action more closely to harness the potential of environmental technologies and eco-innovation. However, insufficient networking and weak links across policy areas remain key obstacles.The new Eco-innovation Action Plan provides a clear outline of the actions now needed at EU and Member State levels to meet the challenges for jobs and economic growth in a resource- and environmentally-constrained world.

Key elements of the Eco-innovation Action Plan

  • Using environmental policy and legislation to promote eco-innovation;
  • Supporting demonstration projects and partnering to bring promising, smart and ambitious operational technologies to market;
  • Developing new standards to boost eco-innovation;
  • Mobilising financial instruments and support services for SMEs;
  • Promoting international co-operation;
  • Supporting the development of emerging skills and jobs and related training programmes to match labour market needs; and
  • Promoting eco-innovation through European Innovation Partnerships

Policy background:

Europe 2020 Strategy:
Strategy

A resource-efficient Europe - flagship initiative of the Europe 2020 Strategy:
Resource Efficient Europe/

Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe:
Com2011_571.pdf [181 KB]

Innovation Union - turning ideas into jobs, green growth and social progress:
Innovation Union