ETRERA_2020 addresses future energy needs by creating a renewable energy research alliance to foster the uptake of renewable energy technologies and improve cooperation between research and industry in the Mediterranean.
© Massimo Cavallo - fotolia.com
In response to increasing human pressure on natural resources and the global climate and environment, renewable energy sources (RES) technologies must be improved and rolled out across sectors and regions worldwide. Although the Mediterranean region in particular suffers from mounting pressure on its resources, it also offers opportunities for development in several RES sectors. To promote such capacity-building, the EU-funded ETRERA_2020 project has developed a trans-regional research alliance on renewable energy technologies among EU and Mediterranean Partner Countries (MPC).
By stimulating business development in renewable energy and linking up companies and research centres, ETRERA has improved the entrepreneurial relationship between EU Member States, including Italy, Belgium, Greece, France, Spain and Turkey, and MPCs such as Tunisia, Morocco and Palestine1.
Capacity-building, cataloguing and clustering
This research alliance focused on capacity-building in energy production, distribution and storage in the MPCs, specifically in five areas of RES technology: wind, photovoltaic, solar thermal, hydrogen and fuel cells, and the smart grid. The project aimed to bridge the existing gap between research and innovation by training researchers and entrepreneurs, supporting the creation of new infrastructure, and developing joint research and entrepreneurial activities to reinforce research and industrial capabilities in these specific technologies.
However, building capacity in these areas in the Mediterranean proved to be complex. The ETRERA_2020 project set out to overcome the challenges identified in the RES sector by improving human resources and know-how, and cataloguing the competences within partner research centres. The outcome was complemented by one of ETRERA's most notable achievements: the successful set up of a meta-cluster entitled 'NET-RERA2020' to promote networking opportunities among actors in the RES value chain and establish public-private partnerships in RES technology.
Project coordinator Alberto Soraci says the meta-cluster concept allows members to "join forces to unlock the innovative potential of the group and to create innovation and business opportunities in Mediterranean countries". It also helps them to identify R&D innovation activities to be developed competitively in the region, and "implement the policies necessary to pursue the meta-cluster's energy vision and mission".
However, the meta-cluster was just one of the long-lasting concrete results achieved by the ETRERA_2020 consortium.
The project introduced several other successful concepts, including a mobility programme for researchers and business partners to learn from each other and exchange ideas for new problem-solving tools. This helped to forge new connections between scientific and industrial networks across Europe and further afield. Technical assistance on market intelligence, business development and research services were also provided to help research centres bring their results to market and support innovators.
All of these elements contributed to a joint action plan covering five priority energy themes with mapped innovation and financial strategies in participating regions. This was accompanied by the ETRERA_2020 Strategic Plan, which set out the direction of the meta-cluster for the next seven years, including how to achieve the wider goals of sustainable energy production and regional self-sufficiency. This plan was then sent to the European Commission as a proposed basis for its future policies.
Finally, the project led to the drawing up of a specific patent relating to a solar water heater, which demonstrated the benefits of the ETRERA_2020 project.