What's happening in Europe?
The European Union is active in a number of initiatives which will give a boost to the bio-based economy. Actions include:
European Technology Platforms, the Environmental Technology Action Plan (ETAP) and the strategy for Europe on life sciences and biotechnology
The most recent initiatives are the Lead Market Initiative for bio-based products and the Directive on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources.
The Lead Market Initiative for Europe
Lead markets are high-growth potential markets for research and, innovation-rich goods and services. Lead market initiatives will focus on areas where public authorities can facilitate industry-led innovation by creating favorable legal and regulatory frameworks, setting standards, improving access to risk capital, providing support for research and acting as a launch customer. The Commission adopted a Communication on the Lead Market Initiative for Europe on 21 December 2007 which gives important support to lead market initiatives in six areas (eHealth, protective textiles, sustainable construction, recycling, bio-based products and renewable energies). An action plan is accompanying each lead market deploying a core set of policy instruments: legislation, public procurement, standardisation, labelling and certification, as well as complementary instruments.
One of these areas is bio-based products, such as enzymes, bio-chemicals (e.g. bio-plastics). By developing support policies and measures that will stimulate the demand for these products, this new policy will encourage innovation for bio-based products by transforming knowledge into new bio-based products and bioprocesses.
The Commission's action plan for this lead market integrates all necessary actions in a synchronised way to favour the innovation of the new products and services. The actions range from improving the implementation of the present targets for bio-based products over standardisation, labelling and certification to ensure the quality and consumer information on the new products to harnessing the purchases of public authorities to show the way to the future.
Strategy for Europe on life sciences and biotechnology
The EU's Life Science and Biotechnology Strategy, published in January 2002, set out 30 action points for the development of biotechnology in Europe. The Action Plan is a follow-up to the Lisbon and Stockholm summits where biotechnology was acknowledged as the backbone of a knowledge-based economy. The 30 actions are closely inter-related and cover a variety of areas: legislation, public perception, financing, research, workforce education, and international aspects through a process that involves cooperation by industry, regulators, science and society. The EU Competitiveness in Biotechnology Advisory Group (CBAG) provides input into the Commission’s annual report on the implementation of the Strategy for Life sciences and Biotechnology. In these reports, the EU reviews the progress that has been made towards the strategy goals, the remaining or new barriers to be tackled, and makes recommendations on how to more effectively implement the EU Strategy and include a collection of measures needed to be implemented for the biotechnology industry to play its role in the knowledge economy.
On 5 July 2006, the European Commission opened a Consultation on the Mid-Term Review of the Life Sciences and Biotechnology Strategy 2002-2010. The review also took account of the recommendations made during successive Presidency Roundtables on Biotechnology. The official Commission Communication was endorsed by the full college of European Commissioners and was published on 11 April 2007. Furthermore, the results of the socio-economic impact study of biotechnology, the Bio4EU study, which was undertaken by the Joint Research Centre, are included in this Review. The study shows that life sciences and biotechnology have grown to be central to certain sectors of the EU economy and, in a study published 20 April 2007, it is estimated that modern biotechnology has generated almost 1.56% of EU gross value added already, indicating that its importance is comparable to Europe’s largest industry sectors.
Directive for the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources
The EU leaders adopted the Directive on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable resources as part of the climate change and energy "package" legislation during the 11-12 December summit in Brussels. This decision was overwhelmingly backed by the European Parliament on the 17 December. The deal translates into detail a political commitment by the 27-member bloc to reach three objectives for the year 2020: a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, a 20% improvement in energy efficiency and a 20% share for renewables in the bloc's energy mix.
Furthermore, the mandatory 10% target for road transport fuels coming from renewable energies by 2020 is a clear opportunity for industry to develop a strong biofuels sector in Europe and invest in innovation for advanced biofuels.
Following the opinion of the European Council and the European Parliament, the Directive recognises the importance of developing and fulfilling effective sustainability criteria for biofuels and second generation biofuels. In this sense, in 2014 at the latest, the Commission shall present a report addressing a review of the minimum greenhouse gas emission saving thresholds to apply on the basis of an impact assessment taking into account in particular technological developments, available technologies and the availability of first and second generation bio-fuels with a high level of greenhouse gas savings.
European Technology Platforms
The European Commission has established a helpful mechanism for fostering important areas where research, technology and development are key to addressing major economic, technological or societal challenges: the Technology Platform (TP). This enables the formation of strategic alliances to foster public-private partnerships between the research community, industry and policy makers. The intention is to stimulate effective investment in R & D, accelerate innovation and remove barriers to growth. At the same time, it provides an important output to national and EU policy makers.
Participation in a Technology Platform includes the research community, industry (including small- and medium-sized enterprises, or SMEs, and private research and technology transfer firms), public authorities (e.g., policy makers, regulators, purchasers), the financial community, consumers, civil society groups, and other relevant stakeholders.
Technology platforms follow a three-stage process of development:
- Stakeholders, led by industry, come together to agree a common vision for the technology.
- Then, they define a Strategic Research Agenda setting out the necessary medium to long-term objectives for the technology.
- Finally, Stakeholders implement the Strategic Research Agenda with the mobilisation of signifi cant human and fi nancial resources.
Several Technology Platforms, important to develop the bio-based economy, have been developed in Europe, such as the Sustainable Chemistry Technology Platform (SusChem), Plants for the Future and the Biofuels TP.
7th Framework Programme for Research and Development
The Seventh Framework Programme for research and technological development (FP7) is the European Unionīs chief instrument for funding research over the period 2007 to 2013.
The broad objectives of FP7 have been grouped into four categories: Cooperation, Ideas, People and Capacities. For each type of objective, there is a specific programme corresponding to the main areas of EU research policy. All specific programmes work together to promote and encourage the creation of European poles of (scientific) excellence.
FP7 identifies major fields in the progress of knowledge and technology, where research must be supported and strengthened to address European social, economic, environmental and industrial challenges.
One of these themes is “Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, and Biotechnology”. The EU Member States have earmarked more than € 1.9 billion for funding this theme over the duration of FP7.
Environmental Technology Action Plan (ETAP)
Environmentally-friendly technologies are less polluting, use less resources, and recycle more wastes and products than their alternatives. They can therefore act as a bridge between the EU's sustainable development strategy (as defined by the Gothenburg European Council) and the Lisbon objectives to make Europe the "most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy" in the world by 2010. However, the development of these technologies is being hampered by market barriers and other obstacles. In order to remove those obstacles and with the intention of making the EU the world leader in developing and applying environmental technologies, the Commission decided to develop an Action Plan for Environmental Technologies (ETAP).
The Environmental Technologies Action Plan (ETAP) is a co-operative initiative between the European Commission, Member States and industry adopted in 2004 and intended to overcome the barriers that hinder the development of environmental technologies. This is being achieved through a series of measures to promote eco-innovation and the take-up of environmental technologies.
ETAP aims to overcome the many barriers – such as the complexity of switching from traditional to new technologies and insufficient access to capital – that hinder the development of environmental technologies.
ETAP’s priorities are
- To help make the transition from research to markets (by increasing and focusing research, establishing technology platforms and networks for technology testing);
- To improve market conditions (by setting performance targets, leveraging investment, creating incentives and removing economic barriers, promoting environmental technologies via public procurement, building support for environmental technologies in civil society);
- To act globally (by promoting environmental technologies in developing countries, and promoting responsible foreign direct investment).