Wednesday, 29 June 2011

KETs key to EU innovation

The final report of the High Level Group (HLG) on Key Enabling Technologies (KETs) was published late on Wednesday (28 June). This expert group was set up by the European Commission to examine how European industry can maintain or gain a competitive edge through deploying these industrial technologies of the future: micro- and nanoelectronics, advanced materials, industrial biotechnology, photonics, nanotechnology and advanced manufacturing systems.

SusChem co-founders Cefic and EuropaBio both had considerable input to the HLG discussions, support the report’s conclusions and will help bring to reality the recommendations. The report clearly highlights the vital role of sustainable chemistry and industrial biotechnology in furthering competitiveness and addressing the grand challenges facing the EU.

The main conclusions call on decision-makers to adopt radical policy objectives to retain critical capability and capacity in Europe through a single and comprehensive approach to KETs. In particular, the group recommends that the vital importance of KETs should be reflected in the structure and funding balance in the upcoming Horizon 2020 framework for research and innovation and in the priorities of the EU's future regional policy.

Innovation first
Launching the report EC Vice-President Tajani said: "Europe's innovation depends on the development and growth of Key Enabling Technologies. We need to focus our policies better and align them to create more synergies between our instruments to boost Europe's capabilities in the area of KETs."

Technological research and product demonstration projects should be given a high priority. Further recommendations cover the combination of funding mechanisms at EU and national level and a set of actions to enhance technological skills in Europe. An "in Europe first" Intellectual Property policy is called for and a monitoring mechanism to analyse market developments on KETs is also proposed.

The Commission will report back on the policy recommendations in the report in a communication scheduled for the end of 2011.

Gernot Klotz, SusChem board member and executive director of Cefic’s Research & Innovation group, commented: “The report gives a solid blueprint [on] how the entire value chain can be activated simultaneously, which includes not only end-user industries like cars and computer chip producers, but also considers value chain process and materials industries like chemicals.” This value chain approach is a key element in SusChem’s work on innovation issues.

Sustainable chemistry is at the root of the future manufacturing value chain. The report is also an important step towards EU 2020 policy goals for sustainable growth, including efficient use of water, energy storage, resource efficiency and health.

Klotz added: “Putting through these recommendations keeps industry on the front foot to exploit KETs quickly. The end game is a strengthened EU manufacturing base, including chemicals, that will produce lighter cars with longer lasting batteries, better medical products, and smarter ways to achieve the EU’s ambitious goals for more energy efficiency and lower CO2 emissions.”

Cefic, EuropaBio and SusChem are already working with Commission officials to ensure the role of sustainable chemistry in emerging technologies. Concrete proposals have been developed that provide solutions for resource industries, raw materials, water efficiency and smart cities involving the full value chain.

Launched in 2010 by European Commissioners Kroes, Geoghegan-Quinn and Tajani, the KET HLG (members pictured above) had three main objectives:
  • To assess the competitive situation of the relevant technologies in the EU and their contribution to address major societal challenges.

  • To analyse the available public and private research and development and innovation (R&D&I) capacities for KETs in the EU.

  • To propose specific policy recommendations for more effective industrial development and deployment of KETs in the EU.
The final report outlines the need for an integrated approach for all six KETs from ideas to marketable products, the need to establish combined funding mechanisms to promote KET R&D&I projects and finally a three pillar bridge model and strategy to enable KETs to pass over the so-called ‘valley of death’ from research to achieve marketable products and technologies.

Recommendations include the need for three separate stages to overcome this issue:
  • Technological research, consisting of taking advantage of European scientific excellence in transforming ideals from research into technologies competitive at a global level.

  • Product demonstration, in which exploitation of the KETs occurs to create innovative European product prototypes competitive at a global level.

  • Competitive manufacturing, allowing product prototypes duly validated during the demonstration phase to create and maintain in Europe attractive economic environments and globally competitive industries.
Combinations of KETs are embedded at the core of most advanced products, such as electric cars, mobile phones or a advanced medical analysis technology. For example, an electric car is a combination of advanced materials for batteries, microelectronics components for power electronics in order to reduce the weight of the car, photonics for low consumption lighting, industrial biotechnologies for low friction tyres and finally advanced manufacturing systems to produce electrical vehicles at a competitive cost.

Download the full report here.

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