Members of the European Parliament, senior European Commission officials and a packed meeting room of stakeholders, supporters and the public participated in an inspirational lunch debate on the proposed SPIRE PPP on Thursday 24 January. The potential value of SPIRE to lead a new industrial revolution in Europe for sustainable growth, jobs and competitiveness was outlined. Through its ambitious, but achievable, research and innovation agenda to improve resource and energy efficiency in the process industries, SPIRE can make a huge difference to Europe. And it is ready to run now!
The lunch time debate was hosted by Amalia Sartori, MEP chairwoman of the ITRE (Industry, Research and Energy) Committee of Parliament in association with A.SPIRE (the European Association for Sustainable Process Industry through Resource and Energy Efficiency) the organisation that is managing and coordinating the Public Private Partnership (PPP) proposal.
Revolution The debate was entitled a ‘New industrial (R)evolution through the SPIRE Public Private Partnership’. Opening the debate Madame Sartori (below, left) outlined the EU’s priorities to regain high rates of employment, boost competitiveness and ensure greater social cohesion. Within this strategy a rejuvenated industrial policy was essential.
“We need to have a new industrial revolution that gives voice to the manufacturing system that is the real economy of Europe,” said Mme Sartori. “We need the will and resources to bet on the sectors that can make the difference [to competitiveness].”
“We must fill the gap between the market and research and the creation of a PPP is one way to fill this gap,” she added. “We need instruments that can increase our competitiveness and allow us to address the great challenges that face our continent: we need industry - and industry needs us. SPIRE is perfectly aligned with Europe's needs – the European Parliament will pay strong attention to the outcomes of this debate.”
Reduce, reuse, replace, reinvent A.SPIRE President Klaus Sommer of Bayer (above, right) responded by outlining the ambitions and objectives for SPIRE. He suggested that SPIRE’s coherent and integrated vision could help “close the circle” of the various European policy proposals in research, innovation and competitiveness.
The eight industrial sectors involved in SPIRE all have a clear commitment and track record in innovation: the essential bridge from research to the market. The SPIRE proposal exploits the synergies and commonalities between sectors that represent 20% of the EU’s economy with a focus on innovation for resource and energy efficiency.
“SPIRE is also a partnership involving industry, academics and research and technology organisation as stakeholders,” said Dr. Sommer. “The PPP is the glue.”
“Reduce, reuse, replace, reinvent are the four words that summarise SPIRE’s research and innovation road map,” stated Dr. Sommer. “Our aim is to decouple economic growth from use of resources.”
Summarising the SPIRE PPP Dr Sommer stated” “SPIRE is a broad commitment from eight industrial sectors in Europe representing a combined turnover of some € 1.6 trillion. SPIRE will help Europe's competitiveness through its focus on societal needs. If the policy environment is also prepared then SPIRE is ready to go!”
Future trend Enrico Gibellieri, Member of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) described how SPIRE resonated with the opinions of the Consultative Commission on Industrial Change (CCMI) within EESC.
He stated: “The SPIRE PPP is the most important initiative in this field. It is changing the approach to research and innovation policy in Europe and showing the future trend.”
Mr. Gibellieri (above, left) commended this bottom-up approach – initiated by the establishment of technology platforms, such as SusChem, in 2003-4 – as the way to ensure that the real needs of industry and society were at the heart of research and innovation policy.
“These initiatives are important to re-establish industry at its rightful place in Europe,” he concluded.
Research efficiency The final speaker was Waldemar Kutt (below), Deputy Head of Cabinet with Research Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn. He described the value of SPIRE with respect to another limited resource: public finance. “Research efficiency and resource efficiency are important for all areas,” he said. “We have to do more with less.”
He agreed that SPIRE is fully in line with a range of European policy initiatives. “Only through working closer with industry will we manage to bridge the innovation gap in Europe,” he said.
He praised the ability of SPIRE to coordinate a single voice for whole industry and articulate clearly what is needed for industry to successfully innovate – this was very constructive. Clear measurable objectives were needed to demonstrate the success of the PPP and other policy requirements outside research and innovation, such as standards, were needed to make sure the road to market was clear.
“Co-operation with SPIRE is on a good track,” he concluded and he looked forward to a successful outcome for the PPP.
Consensus A lively question and answer session followed that reinforced the compelling arguments for the SPIRE approach and the remarkable consensus that has developed between policy makers and industry about the need to improve the way we manage resources and energy, especially when these are rare or finite.
Industry has a responsibility and a unique ability to respond to these challenges facing society. This lunch debate showed that it is responding in an innovative, open and transparent way.
A number of MEPs contributed to the discussion. Lambert van Nistelrooij was very supportive and congratulated all those involved on the SPIRE initiative. He described the PPP as: “Absolutely necessary and a first for industrial leadership to bring sectors together in such a way for innovation along the value chain.”
Van Nistelrooij also reminded participants that regional funding for smart specialisation and innovation should also be a key element in an integrated approach to industrial innovation. “The SPIRE PPP can do a lot but in a comprehensive, European way,” he concluded.
Maria Da Graça Carvalho also praised the initiative and applauded the increased prominence of essential industrial priorities into the research and innovation agenda. She approved of improving existing industrial processes but asked if new processes were envisaged?
Klaus Sommer replied that initially cross sector communication would bring transfer processes across sectors but new, disruptive processes were also envisaged. Gernot Klotz of Cefic added that SPIRE would also take the first steps to achieve a “negative CO2 economy” – one in which carbon dioxide was used as a feedstock.
SPIRE’s high ambitions are matched by strong industrial commitment on an unprecedented scale and, through it, Europe can make a giant leap to enhance its competitiveness and sustainability and achieve its goals for smart, inclusive and sustainable growth.