Monday, 18 February 2013

Chemical industry committed to Raw Materials EIP

On 12 February, the High Level Steering Group (HLSG) of the new European Innovation Partnership(EIP) on Raw Materials held its first meeting in the European Commission’s Berlaymont building, Brussels. The EIP on Raw Materials is a major EU initiative that will work to ensure a sustainable supply of the critical raw materials that enable our modern efficient society as well as work to improve European industry's competitiveness and reduce European dependency on external supply of these materials. All these are critical elements for the continuing success of Europe’s industrial base – and an area where sustainable chemistry can make a big impact.

Three European commissioners (Vice-president and Commissioner for Enterprise Antonio Tajani, Commissioner for Research Marie Geoghegan-Quinn and Commissioner for the Environment Janez Potocnik) launched the EIP and stated the importance of this EIP for Europe’s long term competitiveness.

The partnership brings together stakeholders coming from industries, research centers, NGOs, political institutions and Member States representatives to help make Europe a world leader in raw materials exploration, extraction, processing, recycling and substitution by 2020. The EIP has some firm targets to be achieved by 2020 that will reduce Europe's dependency on imported raw materials, replace rare materials with substitutes and set up innovative pilot actions, such as pilot plants for exploration, mining, processing, collecting and recycling.

Raw materials are the lifeblood of EU industry and at least 30 million jobs in Europe depend on access to them.

Scope enlargement
Representing the Chemical industry in the High Level Steering group is Werner Furhmann, member of the Executive Board of AkzoNobel, Integrated Supply Chain, Specialty Chemicals. He is supported by Peter J. Nieuwenhuizen, Director of Future-proof Supply Chains, AkzoNobel, who acts in a sherpa role.

During this first meeting, Werner Furhmann proposed a broadening of the EIP’s scope to include materials such as ethylene-propylene, phosphates and titanium dioxide – all crucial for the competitiveness of European chemical production. Today, EU import dependency is around 90% for these materials (see Table below for comparable import dependencies for a range of materials).

Plan for action
A Strategic Implementation Plan (SIP) prepared by the EIP will be endorsed in mid-July by the HLSG. This plan will include the definition of priority areas on technology-focused policy areas in exploration, extraction, recycling and substitution; and non-technology policy areas such as regulatory framework, knowledge base, promotion of excellence in resource efficiency and public procurement. 

To ensure the outcomes of this European initiative have an international impact, the EIP will also engage in discussion with the USA, Japan, Canada and Australia.

Chemical Industry: EIP driver
Through a comprehensive and well-organized collaboration between its partners, the EIP aims to:
  • Reduce Europe’s import dependency on raw materials
  • Push Europe to the forefront of the raw materials sectors by 2020 (in exploration, extraction, processing, recycling and substitution
  • Provide alternatives for supply, and
  • Decrease negative environmental impacts.
To enable these objectives, the chemical sector will play a key role in developing innovative solutions in raw materials across the whole value chain. The chemical contribution will include:
  • New technologies replacing those relying on critical raw materials
  • New products design incorporating more efficient use of raw materials, easier recyclability and recovery (see Figure below for current recycle rates for 60 metals) or substitution for alternative products
  • New processes enabling efficient use of raw materials and recovery and raw materials re-use
  • More sustainable products for extraction and recycling of minerals, metals and other materials
  • Developing synergies and ensuring efficiency by bridging with other promising initiatives such as the proposed SPIRE Public PrivatePartnership, the EIP on Water to tackle water reuse and recycling, the CRM_InnoNet FP7 project on Critical Raw Materials Substitution, and the EU policy initiative on Key Enabling Technologies (KETs)
  • Engaging the networks of the European and Nationals Technology Platforms for Sustainable Chemistry (SusChem).
 Clearly chemistry has a critical role to play in the success of the Critical Raw Material EIP!

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