More than 1 500 delegates, including more than 50 MEPs, attended 2015’s European Innovation Summit (7EIS), offering a unique opportunity for stakeholders across the spectrum to get together and discuss the key challenges and opportunities for Europe to capitalise on its innovation potential, increase its competitiveness and help solve global problems.
Alongside the cross-sector, cross-disciplinary themes discussed throughout 7EIS’s plenary sessions and coffee breaks, a number of more targeted debates took place at the event. These offered the chance to hear sector-specific challenges and opportunities from leading stakeholders in each field. Critical topics including industry, environment, agriculture, bio-economy, health, transport, safety and security, quantum computing, the role of regions and cities, and energy were all debated through dedicated sessions.
Advanced materials, competitive economy
The latter – energy – was the focus of Cefic’s co-organised Breakfast debate entitled ‘Advanced materials and breakthrough opportunities for the energy transition’ on 8 December. Dedicated to how the chemical industry can contribute to enabling Europe make the transition to a competitive, sustainable low-carbon economy through innovation, the session was hosted by MEP Professor Jerzy Buzek with presentations from key policy makers and industry representatives including Cefic Executive Director for Research and Innovation Pierre Barthélemy.
Introducing the debate Prof. Buzek stressed the need for an innovative leap, in which development of advanced material would be very important, to enable change in the way we make and use energy. Rudolph Strohmeier, Deputy Director General at the European Commission’s DG for Research and Innovation (below) agreed describing the Commission’s “two-sided approach with the Energy Union and SET plan and the Key Enabling Technologies (KETs) initiative - that includes advanced materials - to achieve a real energy revolution.”
Pierre Barthélemy highlighted the chemical industry’s responsibility to contribute to energy issues along the entire value chain and called for further EU support for technology development activities but also for the deployment of novel technologies. For example, central talking points included the chemical industry’s role in providing lightweight materials offering improved energy efficiency for the transport, construction and industry sectors described by Christian Collette of Arkema. While advanced materials for key energy technologies, such as energy storage, solar cells and wind turbines, and new materials for carbon capture and use as fuels or chemical energy storage were highlighted by Peter Nagler of Evonik.
The debate went well beyond advanced materials, turning to wider energy-related concerns, as Cefic Innovation Manager and SusChem Secretary Jacques Kormorniki illuminates: “There were excellent statements and discussions around the topic of energy during the Breakfast debate. This aligns with what we try to do in the SET-Plan and SusChem’s Strategic Innovation and Research Agenda – to have a global view of the energy issues.”
For example Martin Winter from Clariant claimed that advances in chemical catalysis to 2050, particularly for the synthesis of ammonia, could save energy equivalent to the current consumption of Germany and boost the global fight against hunger.
A Pact for Innovation
Although highly diverse, all the sessions and subjects were linked by the common goal of providing an environment in which Europe’s young innovators can be creative, expand their businesses and compete in the global economy. And nowhere was this theme more evident than in the official launch of the Pact for Innovation (INPACT) during the Summit’s opening ceremony on 7 December.
INPACT aims to create a space for innovation stakeholders and European institutions to meet and collaborate, in order to tackle key issues at the local, national and regional levels that hinder excellence in innovation. In essence, it will provide platforms for Europe’s innovators in all sectors to communicate with policy makers in a meaningful way.
Further, the Pact will focus on introducing and optimising favourable conditions for innovators to operate in and will lay the foundations for the next generation to be able to take risks. “A stronger EU-wide commitment is needed, and that’s why we’ve come forward with this Pact for Innovation, not just another reformulation of the overall [innovation] strategy between the key European institutions – we strive for a stronger, less institution-centric and firmer dialogue with all stakeholders,” stated Lambert van Nistelrooij, Chair, K4I Forum Governing Board, during his address.
The launch of INPACT was warmly welcomed by European Commissioner for Research Carlos Moedas at the opening ceremony (see box below).
Open Innovation 2.0
Offering a basis for INPACT to succeed, another strong theme pervading the conference was Open Innovation 2.0. Based on a Quadruple Helix Model, involving government, industry, academia and civil stakeholders, Open Innovation 2.0 calls for all actors to co-create the future through networking, collaboration, corporate entrepreneurship, proactive intellectual property management and R&D.
“Innovation is not a linear process any more, it is not science-based excellence, it’s about creating a lot of collisions, igniting new ideas that can be prototyped in a real-world setting very quickly, with the end-user there to say what is working and not,” Salmelin concludes.
Enabling innovators to innovate
Key to a meaningful dialogue between Europe’s innovators and policy makers, and introducing Open Innovation 2.0 to the current and next generation of innovators, will be engaging youth.
A number of young innovators were in attendance at 7EIS to offer their perspective of the innovation environment in Europe. During the parallel session ‘The next generation: mobility, jobs and entrepreneurship’, policy makers, academics and entrepreneurs shared their experiences with an eclectic crowd, including Govinda Upadhyay, 2015 EIT CHANGE award winner and founder of educational solar LED lamp startup LED safari. “It’s really good to see how people are working in the innovation direction at the European Union level, but I wish that this could be on a much more grand scale,” he explained after the session. “I am sure that if the policy makers took more initiative for young entrepreneurs in terms of market, funding, really encouraging them, it would be very beneficial.”
Another speaker at the session Tobias Bahnemann, co-founder of groundbreaking 3D sensor startup Toposens, shared Upadhyay’s tentatively positive sentiment: “The policy makers are listening to the problems and wishes of young entrepreneurs here definitely, but we will have to wait a few years to see if any changes have been made as a result.”