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Systemic Eco-Innovation

The challenge

Current patterns of growth lead to the irreversible damage of our planet’s natural environment and resources are over-consumed. Furthermore, prices of raw materials are becoming more and more volatile while Europe is almost entirely dependent on imports. The traditional linear model of production and consumption, where resources are extracted processed used and disposed of, needs to be changed. Single eco-innovative solutions have already been developed but they are often too local and sector-related. To achieve an absolute decoupling of growth from use of resources, society needs to adopt a different way of thinking. One solution is to move to a systemic eco-innovation approach, where society generates and shares economic and environmental benefits, where waste becomes a resource, consumers become users and sharing replaces owning.

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Research history and policy relevance

The strategic importance of eco-innovation has been highlighted by the Eco-innovation Action Plan (EcoAP) launched in 2011 by both DG Environment and DG Research and Innovation. The EcoAP is one of the commitments of the EU's Innovation Union Flagship Initiative, building on the 2004 Environmental Technologies Action Plan (ETAP). It expands the focus from green technologies to the broader concept of eco-innovation, targeting specific bottlenecks, challenges and opportunities for achieving environmental objectives through innovation. The EcoAP includes actions both on the demand and supply side, on research and industry and on policy and financial instruments. The plan recognises the key role of environmental regulation as a driver of eco-innovation and foresees a review of environmental legislation. It also stresses the importance of research and innovation to produce more innovative technologies and bring them to the market. The EcoAP also puts emphasis on the international aspect of eco-innovation, and on better coordination of policies with international partners.

 

Systemic Eco-Innovation in FP7

During the past EU Framework Programme for Research (FP7) and more and more in the current one (Horizon 2020) eco-innovation research has been adopting a systemic approach, looking at innovative technologies for water and waste management but also at new business models and new patterns of production and consumption.

 

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