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The challenge

Environmental technologies are those tools and applications that can decrease material inputs, reduce energy consumption and emissions, recover valuable by-products and minimise waste. In general they are lean and resource-efficient technologies that can help to reduce the impact on the environment. Environmental technologies are about greening the economy and as such are the missing link between raising competitiveness in the European economy and making sure that our development is sustainable.

Research history and policy relevance

The strategic importance of environmental technologies has been highlighted by the Eco-innovation Action Plan (EcoAP) launched in 2011 by both DG Environment and DG Research&Innovation. The EcoAP is one of the commitments of the 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 recognizes 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 Plan also puts emphasis on the international aspect of eco-innovation, and on better coordination of policies with international partners.

Environmental technologies in FP7

Environmental technologies research in FP7 has adopted a systems approach, integrating all components of the process together with external factors. This will help decoupling growth from resource depletion. The environment of technological creation is also taken into account, from eco-efficiency assessments to considerations about life cycle management and market barriers. Environmental technologies research is looking at technologies for water, soil, waste, clean, built and marine environments and, more in general, to technologies for adapting and mitigating the impact of climate and environmental change (not in the energy and transport sectors) and ensuring a more sustainable development. Another relevant area of research looks at the technologies for the protection of cultural heritage and human habitats.