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Economic crisis: European Commission pledges swift implementation of ‘Green Cars’ initiative

In a joint statement, the European Commission and industry representatives have said the car industry is too big to let die, but it needs to develop something better than the gas-guzzlers currently on their production lines.

Road traffic © Peter Gutierrez
Greener cars for a cleaner
© Peter Gutierrez

The ‘Green Cars’ Initiative entails funding for research into sustainable road transport. "Making smart investments in research and innovation now is the recipe for tomorrow's success,” says EU Research Commissioner Janez Potočnik. “The EU's sustainable growth and its leadership position on the global scene are at stake. By moving together in the same direction, we can make it. This is no time for a break in research investment!"

Public private partnerships

Potočnik met with high-level representatives of industry in Brussels on 30 March 2009 to review progress and discuss priorities for the implementation of the research elements of the Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) in the November 2008 European Economic Recovery Plan. These include the ‘Factories of the Future’, ‘Energy-efficient Buildings’ and ‘Green Cars’ initiatives.

The agreed joint statement says, “We believe that it is important to combine the short-term economic and fiscal measures in the Recovery Plan with longer-term ‘smart investments’ in research and development to lay down a strong base for the future competitiveness of European industry, once we have passed through the current crisis. We need strong co-operation between stakeholders and a coordinated approach at European level to develop the sustainable technologies that will allow Europe to move forward towards a low-carbon, knowledge-based economy.”

The statement was agreed by:

European Commission

  • Janez Potočnik, EU Commissioner for Science and Research.

Industrial representatives

Janez Potočnik © Peter Gutierrez
Janez Potočnik
© Peter Gutierrez
  • European ‘Manufuture’ (Future Manufacturing Technologies) Technology Platform: Hans Jørgen Pedersen, Danfoss; Iñaki Larrañaga, Mondragon; Andreas Tegge, SAP.
  • European Construction Technology Platform: Michel Cote, Bouygues; Juan Manuel Mieres, Acciona.
  • ERTRAC (European Road Transport Research Advisory Council) and EPoSS (European Technology Platform on Smart System Integration): Wofgang Steiger, Volkswagen; Günter Lugert, Siemens.

Officials say the three PPPs represent a powerful means of boosting research efforts in three large industrial sectors – automotive, construction and manufacturing – which have been particularly affected by the economic downturn and where innovation can significantly contribute towards a more green and sustainable economy.

The first steps for the partnerships will be the publication of joint cross-thematic calls for research projects by the end of July, funded by the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Development.

Background: The recovery package

The recovery package, adopted by the European Commission on 26 November 2008 and endorsed by the European Council on 11-12 December 2008, has as its goal “to support innovation in manufacturing, construction and in the automobile sector, which have recently seen demand plummet as a result of the crisis and which face significant challenges in the transition to the green economy.”

New ‘Green Car’ measures

The European Green Cars Initiative entails three specific streams of action:

  • EIB loans in support of industrial innovation. Budget: €4 billion (in addition to existing loans).
  • Demand side measures and public procurement, such as reduction of circulation and registration taxes for low-CO 2 cars.
  • FP7 grants for research on the greening of road transport. Budget: €1 billion, of which €500 million from the Commission, matched by €500 million from industry.