The European Commission has published the report of the H2020 expert group “From Niche to Norm: A systemic approach to Eco – Innovation to achieve a low-carbon, Circular Economy“.
According to recent analysis and future scenarios, the world will face several challenges: a severe food and water crises, geopolitical conflicts and alarming climate change effects. The European Union’s dependency on resources and raw materials from countries outside of the EU is growing.
In order to prepare Europe for these challenges, the expert group recommends promoting activities which will foster the transition from a linear to a circular economy in the EU. Adapted legal frameworks, active involvement of society and the creation of a “single market for resources” have to follow.
The expert group considers “Systemic Eco – Innovation” as an important vehicle for the circular economy and works with the following definition:
“a series of connected changes improving or creating novel functional systems that reduce use of natural resources and decreases the release of harmful substances across the whole life cycle”.
“Systemic Eco – Innovation” is supposed to reduce the use of resources and production costs. Furthermore, it promotes the competitiveness of European enterprises and new business models like e.g. the leasing of equipment or the sharing of resources.
Research and Innovation have a key role to play to implement this new approach. Therefore the report recommends for the H2020 funding priorities more integrated, cross cutting programmes, more synergies and a “bundling of funding sources”, rapid dissemination of results and the set-up of a database e.g. for resource foresight and modelling tools.
Furthermore, the expert group proposes a “roadmap for a systemic approach to eco-innovation” which includes activities for Horizon 2020 and other EU policy areas. The five pillar roadmap is explained in detail and proposes concrete actions like the following:
- the promotion of specific transition plans for resource-intensive industry sectors through “European Innovation Partnerships” or “Public Private Partnerships” in Horizon 2020,
- a standing steering group to monitor the transition to a circular economy
- new education and training programmes for European Universities on topics like “sustainable resource management”
- A stronger “loan based” funding through the “EU Finance for Innovators Instrument” (Innov-Fin)
- “Inducement Prizes” for resource-efficient products or inventions for the circular economy
- More incentives for the use of recycled materials and better support for the consumer
- A new “EU circular design” methodology developed via H2020 Research and Innovation Actions
The annex of the report presents some case studies, for example the system of “industrial symbiosis” which allows industries to produce more cost-efficient and environmental-friendly by exchanging or sharing resources and by-products.
Source: KoWi, press release, 2015-04-27.