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Monday, 21 March 2016

Sustainable Circular Economy: an idea to steal

Following the increasing interest and discussion about the Circular Economy Strategy that was recently launched by the European Commission a workshop entitled “The Sustainable Circular Economy – new opportunities for raw materials, chemicals and water?" was organised by Cefic, ERRIN and the East & North Finland region on Tuesday 15 March 2016. The event took place in Brussels and brought together different contributions to answer questions relating to the new opportunities provided by raw materials and industrial symbiosis, and regional support for innovation and competitiveness. The workshop also focused on EU policy and the role of research and innovation to enable a more sustainable circular economy. 

According to Grwegorz Radziejewski from Commissioner Jyrki Katainen’s cabinet: “The circular economy brings a win-win scenario, as it reduces waste and the use of the resources.  It represents an opportunity to the European economy to modernise itself and to enhance competitiveness.”

The proposed EU package will stimulate Europe's transition towards a circular economy, which will bring benefits for both the environment and the economy, providing sustainable solutions for (and from) the chemicals sector. The European proposal carries profound changes for innovation and investments, especially on waste management and recycling. Radziejewski also emphasised that the circular economy strategy will change the way products are designed, produced and consumed, bringing empowerment and knowledge to consumers.

“Diversification of chemical feedstock and better sustainability are essential to bring ecological alternatives to the chemicals sector,” highlighted Reinhard Buescher from the European Commission’s DG GROWTH. This means a better and wide use of sustainable oil and natural gas, sustainable minerals and biomass, recycled plastics, and the re-use of sustainable CO2. In terms of chemical production, it is important to invest in better worker security measures, environmental protection, resource efficiency, CO2 reduction, and innovation. “We need to achieve innovation thought new forms of symbioses, production and use of resources, for example, by replacing some substances for others that reduce the impact on water, air and soil,” explained Buescher. Once again, the importance of consumer information was reinforced, as well as the need to define quality standards for recycling plastics, better waste collection and sorting criteria, and the creation of new markets for secondary raw materials.

For 2016-2017, Europe can expect the launch of the European Sustainable Chemicals Service Centre, the adoption of the Fertilizer Regulation, a mapping of standards in support of sustainable chemicals, the adoption of a new Plastic Strategy (with DG ENV), among other initiatives.

Industry perspective
From the chemical industry perspective, the integration of sustainability, innovation and technology are fundamental to the development of a circular economy, which cannot be achieved only through regulations and business standards. Advanced technologies are fundamental to ensure better use of resources, new methods of production and recycling alternatives, in order to increase competitiveness in the global market. The role of Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs), such as SPIRE, can be emphasised here in the creation of new synergies and solutions along the various value chains, innovation networks, industrial and geographical sectors of the European economy.

Taking in consideration the growing world demand for chemicals and also the increasing volume of production and exports of chemicals and plastics by the United States and China, as competitors and leading countries in trade and innovation, Hartwing Wendt, Cefic’s Executive Director of Sustainability (pictured speaking above), stressed some of the key drivers impacting the relative decline of Europe’s chemical industry.

The European sector suffers from a feedstock disadvantage, reduced local demand from EU manufacturing industry, and changes in specific sectors that have effectively moved out of Europe (textiles and electronics, for example). In general, these drivers require the development of new products and business models. Besides that, there is a societal pressure to reduce the carbon intensity of feedstock and commodities. In this scenario, the circular economy seems the best option to deal with these challenges, and one good example could be the use of CO2 as an alternative carbon source.

Water not waste
A general consensus from the workshop related to the need to reduce waste and transform it into a source of raw material. Several Horizon 2020 projects were cited as answers, for example, to waste in the water sector and to energy efficiency demand including: Resyntex, Maslowaten, and Cyto-water.

For Violeta Kuzmickaite, from the WssTP technology platform, water is the most commonly used solvent on this planet. “Water is not a waste, but a raw material. Water is already circular,” she claimed showing its importance to establishing a sustainable circular economy.

An Urban Water Agenda 2030, presented by Pieter de Jong, on behalf of Wetsus – the European Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Water Technology, is based on four main challenges:
  • Water quality
  • Scarcity
  • Floods, and
  • Financing of infrastructure.
The agenda covers water efficiency, nutrient recovery, and water reuse, and has inspired the development of some projects: Hydrowashr, for the minimum water use for hand washing, and Value from Urine, for ammonia recovery.

Circular regions
The workshop also presented case studies on new businesses and opportunities provided by raw materials and industrial symbiosis.  Lapland region, for example, has potential to become one of the leading regions in the world in the sustainable exploitation of natural resources. This part of Finland has benefited from large investment in mining and it is focused on refining Arctic natural resources in a socially and ecologically sustainable manner, combined with high value added.

Castilla y Leon, in Spain, is another god example of regional strategy for circular economy and green jobs, involving government, universities, social agents and clusters. The region has introduced alternatives and new sustainable extraction and process technologies for mining bringing new markets, growth and jobs.

Finally, the Dutch region of Fryslân is another case of biobased and circular economy development: an example of what has been done in this region comes from the concrete industry, which now employs down-cycling rather than recycling.

All the presentations made at the workshop can be accessed here.

Monday, 14 March 2016

Back to back BBI and SPIRE events in April

Both the BioBased Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI) and the Sustainable Process Industry through Resource and Energy Efficiency (SPIRE) PPP are organising public events in April that will be of interest to SusChem stakeholders.

BBI Brokerage
Registration is now open for the BBI Open Info Day and brokerage event taking place on 21 April 2016 in the European Commission’s Charlemagne Building in Brussels. Registration for the event is free but mandatory with places offered on a ‘first-come, first-served’ basis so to guarantee a place register as soon as possible.

The aim of the 21 April event is to bring together potential participants interested in the BBI JU 2016 Calls for proposals. All potential applicants are welcome including SMEs, large industry and academic and research organisations.

The morning sessions will provide information about the BBI JU initiative and on all aspects of the BBI JU Call process. Details of the 2016 Call topics, more information about the event and an agenda for the day is available on the BBI JU website.

The sessions will give participants useful information about how to participate in BBI JU’s 2016 Call for proposals, including how to apply, tips and tricks on writing a proposal, BBI Call rules, and how to submit a proposal. More information on the 2016 Call topics can be found in the BBI's 2016 Annual Work Plan.

The afternoon will provide an opportunity for participants to hold face-to-face introductory meetings using the BBI JU Partnering Platform. To take advantage of this opportunity delegates will first need to create or update a professional/corporate profile on the BBI JU partnering platform. More information on, and access to, the BBI JU Partnering platform can be accessed here.

In parallel with the brokerage event, participants will also have the opportunity to find out more about the Bio-based Industries Consortium (BIC), how synergies with other programmes (including SPIRE) are being realised and to meet national representatives from a number of member states. BBI JU programme office staff will also be on hand to answer specific questions about the BBI JU Call process and procedure.

SPIRE projects
The day before the BBI event SPIRE is organising a conference to introduce its current project portfolio. This continues last year’s event “Introducing SPIRE-2014 projects” that attracted a large audience from the SPIRE community and beyond. The event on 20 April will feature SPIRE projects granted funding in 2014 and 2015 and will take place at the Silken Berlaymont Hotel on Boulevard Charlemagne in Brussels.

The SPIRE projects conference will aim to:

  • Disseminate the objectives and targets of the current SPIRE projects to the broad audience of SPIRE members, the European Commission, supporters, partners and other stakeholders
  • Discuss possible synergies and actions that can support the projects deliver on their objectives as well as future uptake of their deliverables

The meeting agenda will be organised around specific technological areas allowing representatives of various projects to learn about approaches and innovations in other projects, to exchange experiences on common issues and discuss new ideas.

The agenda for the 20 April event can be accessed here and information on current SPIRE projects can be accessed hereRegistration for this event is open now, but closes on 31 March.

The fourth SPIRE Brokerage event looking at SPIRE 2017 calls will take place on 15 June 2016.

Thursday, 3 March 2016

New Commission guide combines Strategic and Structural funding

The European Commission has issued a new guide on how European Funds for Strategic Investments (EFSI - a key element of the Juncker Investment Plan) and European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) can be combined at project and financial instrument level, for example as an investment platform, to support risky and innovation-driven European projects.

The 24-page guide entitled ‘European Structural and Investment Funds and European Fund for Strategic Investments complementarities – Ensuring coordination, synergies and complementarity’ will be of great interest to all SusChem stakeholders developing large scale investment projects under EFSI.

Through a number of illustrative examples, the Guide describes how combining funds is possible for projects supported either under the EFSI 'Infrastructure and Innovation Window' or under the 'SME Window'. In addition an in-depth example of a 'layered fund' is provided in one of the annexes of the guide combining ESIF and EFSI in the case of investment platforms.

In the next few years, EFSI and ESI Funds will be able to finance significant levels of investment in Member States and their regions. They are both set to play an essential role in the delivery of European policy objectives. While rationale, design, legislative framework and timeframe for implementation are different, there is considerable scope for ensuring coordination, synergies and complementarity for additional investments. This guide provides an overview of these possibilities so that stakeholders are well informed.

The funds
The European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) was established by the European Commission in partnership with the European Investment Bank and the European Investment Fund (EIB and EIF – the 'EIB Group') to mobilise at least EUR 315 billion of additional finance for investment in higher-risk projects over three years.

Member States are also now starting the implementation of multiannual programmes co-financed by the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) for the 2014- 2020 programming period. In total, more than EUR 450 billion will be invested in Europe through ESIF in this period.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Consultation on shape of future Horizon 2020 SC5 calls launched

The European Commission has launched an external stakeholder consultation to help shape the Work Programme for 2018-2020 of Horizon 2020 Societal Challenge 5 – 'Climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials'. SusChem stakeholders are invited to participate in this consultation and express your views. Of particular interest is the topic: "Sustainable supply of non-energy and non-agricultural raw materials". The consultation is open until Friday 8 April 2016. 

The European Commission is starting to prepare the next Horizon 2020 Work Programme and calls for proposals that will cover the period 2018-2020. Within Societal Challenge 5, research and innovation aims to "achieve a resource – and water – efficient and climate change resilient economy and society, the protection and sustainable management of natural resources and ecosystems, and a sustainable supply and use of raw materials, in order to meet the needs of a growing global population within the sustainable limits of the planet's natural resources and eco-system."

Since Horizon 2020 was adopted the socio-economic and policy context has changed. For Societal Challenge 5, the budget to be allocated for 2018-2020 will be of the order of EUR 1 billion and to ensure relevance a new consultation of stakeholders is required for this final programming period.

Consultation questions
The consultation seeks answers to the following questions:
  • What are the challenges in the areas of Societal Challenge 5 that require action under the Work Programme 2018-2020? Would they require an integrated approach across the Horizon 2020 Societal Challenges and Leadership in Enabling and Industrial Technologies?
  • What is the output/impact that could be foreseen? Which innovation aspects could reach (market) deployment within 5-7 years?
  • Which gaps (in science and technology, innovation, markets, policy, financing and governance, regulation etc.) and potential game changers, including the role of the public sector in accelerating changes, need to be taken into account?
  • Which areas could benefit from integration of horizontal aspects such as social sciences and humanities, responsible research and innovation, gender aspects, international cooperation?
  • In view of the recent evolution of the socio-economic and policy context, what are the emerging priorities for Societal Challenge 5? 
Responses should cite any available supporting evidence such as foresight and other assessments of research and innovation trends and market opportunities, across the six sub-challenges of Societal Challenge 5.

These are: Fighting and adapting to climate change; Protecting the environment, sustainably managing natural resources, water, biodiversity and ecosystems; Ensuring the sustainable supply of non-energy and non-agricultural raw materials; Enabling the transition towards a green economy and society through ecoinnovation; Developing comprehensive and sustained global environmental observation and information systems; and Cultural heritage.

The consultation document is available here and background information on the whole Societal Challenge 5 programme is here.

All responses to the consultation should be send by email to the European Commission.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Indo-European Water Partnership to highlight Opportunities 7 March

As part of the Indo-European Water Partnership, the Indian Ministry for Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation and the European Union are organising a meeting with EU businesses in New Delhi on 7 March 2016. The meeting takes place at 14h00 local time (09h30 Central European Time) in New Dehli at the Lalit New Delhi hotel and will be relayed via a video conference to enable wider participation by EU businesses.

The meeting will be attended by Shri Shashi Shekhar, Indian Secretary of the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation and the EU’s Ambassador to India Tomasz Kozlowski.

The meeting will examine a number of key water challenges for which the Government of India is seeking solutions. These include:
  • Municipal Sewage 
  • Industrial Effluents – in particular for Tanneries, Pulp and Paper, Distilleries and Textiles sectors 
  • Water Quality Monitoring (WQM) for Industrial effluent monitoring (on discharge) and River Health (Over 113 WQM sites are to be established along the river Ganga)
  • Geographical Information System (GIS) based Ganga river basin mapping 
  • Micro-irrigation 
More information
More information on the event can be found here and you can register here.

Registration for the meeting and the video conference is free and will require provision of additional optional information for dissemination at the meeting and/or via the EIP Water website and the European Business and Technology Centre (EBTC) portal. If you have any comments or questions they should be sent to the Support facility to the Indo-European Water Partnership by 4 March 2016 at the latest.