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Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Raw Materials EIP Launched

Today (29 February) the European Commission has launched a proposal for a new European Innovation Partnership (EIP) on Raw Materials. SusChem welcomes this initiative and is well placed to play a leading role in its development and implementation. The supply of raw materials is the lifeblood of today's high-tech industries and is increasingly under pressure. Our modern society is dependant on a range of raw materials, including industrial minerals and metals, that support our lifestyle and infrastructures. But many of these raw materials are not easily available or only found in geographically remote areas. All are an essentially finite elemental resource.

Commenting on the EIP Vice-President Antonio Tajani, European Commissioner responsible for Industry and Entrepreneurship, highlighted the need for improved access to minerals to enhance the development of low carbon products, such as thin photovoltaic layers, energy-efficient lighting, and electric cars. He said: "We need to join forces to tap Europe's enormous own potential of raw materials. Intensified action is required to make Europe the world leader in the capabilities related to exploration, extraction, processing, recycling and substitution by 2020. It will be the key to Europe’s ability to develop today the technologies of tomorrow. Such innovation is decisive for Europe's competitiveness, sustainable growth and new jobs."

Innovation for material solutions
Four sustainable solution strategies can contribute to improving the future security of supply for these raw materials. The activities are collectively known as the ‘4Rs’:
  • Reduce – use less of the material to deliver the same product effect
  • Reuse – enable the recovery of a material to deliver the same effect repeatedly
  • Recycle – enable the recovery if a material to be reprocessed with no loss in value
  • Replace – substitute with a material, process, technology or business model that delivers the same (or better) effect.
Any new solution should also reduce the overall environmental impact and be safe to users and consumers.

“All these solutions will require sustainable chemistry to achieve them and will contribute to the medium to long term security of supply for raw materials in Europe,” commented Ger Spork, Innovation Manager at Cefic. “They will also boost resource efficiency and develop new business areas such as advanced recycling processes.”

“The chemical industry is developing new technologies for more efficient extraction of raw materials and works for the most efficient use and recycling of materials. It will also develop substitute materials and alternative technologies for its own and other industrial sectors.” He continued.

SusChem role
The new EIP on Raw Materials aims to provide Europe with enough flexibility and alternatives in the supply of important raw materials, whilst taking into account the importance of mitigating the negative environmental impacts of some materials during their life cycle. Its objective will be to make Europe the world leader in the capabilities related to exploration, extraction, processing, recycling and substitution by 2020.

The main areas covered by the EIP will tackle the entire value chain of raw materials regardless of whether they are of primary (virgin materials) or secondary (recycled materials) origin and of whether they are hosted on land or on the seabed. As such the EIP addresses all aspects including exploration, extraction, refining and processing, sorting, collecting and recycling, as well as substitution.

The Partnership will help develop technologically driven solutions as well as non-technological options including the use of demand-side instruments including public procurement, standards etc.

Raw materials is one of SusChem's priorities and the platform has been part of a consortium developing proposals for an EIP in this areas. In particular SusChem is leading development of the work on substitution of raw materials and has a clear interest in the extraction and recycling activities.

SusChem is also a member of the Alliance 4 Materials (A4M) organisation that brings together a number of European Technology Platforms with a strong materials agenda to collaborate and coordinate activities in this area.

EIP material priorities
In preparing the proposal to launch this Partnership, the Commission has organised several workshops and a public consultation. This provided valuable input to the drafting process.

Once the Partnership becomes operational, a Strategic Implementation Plan will be developed. This plan is foreseen to be adopted by early 2013.

For more information visit the European Commission Raw Materials website. The EC Communication on the new EIP (COM(2012) 82 Final) can be accessed here.

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