Topic / Target
> Raw materials KIC
Modern society is totally dependent upon access to raw materials. Access to rawmaterials is essential for the effective functioning of the Union economy. However, the triptych of decreasing finite natural resources, an ever increasing human population, and rapidly increasing levels of consumption in the developing world are putting increasing demands on the planets' raw materials and natural resources. These factors are some of those responsible for the predicted increase in natural resource consumption during the next decades.
As highlighted by the Resource-Efficiency Roadmap and Horizon 2020, we should aim to ensure accessibility, availability and sustainable use of raw materials that is needed for the European economy and for the satisfaction of our well being, whilst achieving a resource efficient economy that meets the needs of a growing population within the ecological limits of a finite planet.
RELEVANCE AND IMPACT
This thematic field is highly relevant in terms of economic and societal impact. Raw materials are crucial for the world economy and quality of life; increasing resource efficiency will be key to securing growth and jobs for Europe.
It will bring major economic opportunities, improve productivity, drive down costs and boost competitiveness. Whilst the Union does have an excellent research pedigree and various centres of excellence exist, much more could be done to capitalise on this within this priority area. A KIC would be particularly suited to this.
Aligning with other Union activities, a KIC in this area should concentrate on fostering a knowledge hub and centre of expertise on academic, technical and practical education and research in sustainable surface, subsurface, deep-sea, urban and landfill mining, material management, recycling technologies, end of life management, material substitution and open trade, as well as global governance in raw materials. This would act as a broker and clearing house for European centres of excellence on these related topics and manage a research programme of strategic importance to Union industry. For this reason and in order to maximise the impact of the actions and avoid any duplication with Union activities, including the EIP on Raw Materials, the KIC will provide the necessary complement in the areas of human capital (i.e. training, education) for the technology innovative pilot actions (e.g. demonstration plants) for sustainable land and marine exploration, extraction and processing, resource efficient use, collection, recycling, re-use and substitution.
At the same time it could include targets around becoming a technology pioneer by creating pilot schemes and demonstrators of innovative processes and solutions, involving for example the use of economically attractive and sustainable alternative materials, including bio-based materials of strategic importance to the Union. It can consequently trigger the expansion of existing markets and creation of new ones, namely in the areas of sustainable exploration, extraction and processing, resource efficient materials management, recycling technologies, and materials substitution. It will be necessary to assess impacts and develop innovative, cost-effective adaptation and risk prevention measures for particularly sensitive habitats, such as the Arctic.
A KIC in this area will be very important to overcome the barrier which lack of technology constitutes. Technical innovation is required to develop a host of complementary technologies that could change the shape of traditional mineral and raw material value chains. This is an area that requires further work to develop new processes and in order to optimise and commercialise existing knowledge in this area. The entrepreneurial approach of a KIC would be particularly suited to addressing this issue.
Another added value element of a KIC on raw materials is its contribution to addressing the sector's limited networking opportunities. In fact, the disparate nature of the various involved research areas means that there are limited opportunities to meet researchers within different subject areas and benefit from the cross pollination of ideas and collaboration that will be required to foster cost effective low carbon, environmentally sound solutions.
Networking within a KIC, bringing together stakeholders from the three strands of the knowledge triangle across the whole value chain would contribute to overcome this weakness. It will give the possibility for enhancing both technology, knowledge and know-how transfer, as well as to provide researchers, students and entrepreneurs the knowledge and skills necessary to deliver innovative solutions and to turn them into new business opportunities.
SYNERGIES AND COMPLEMENTARITIES WITH EXISTING INITIATIVES
The Union has identified this priority field as one of the grand challenges. A KIC would contribute to Horizon 2020, namely to the societal challenge related to the sustainable supply of raw materials and resource efficiency. It would contribute to the proposed EIP on Raw Materials. The EIP on Raw Materials will provide overarching frameworks to facilitate alignment and synergies among existing supply and demand-driven research and innovation instruments and policies in the field. This will cover technology-focused activities, but also the identification of framework conditions and best practise on policy, regulatory or standardisation issues having an impact on innovation in a given sector or challenge. A KIC in this area would create complementarity in educating key actors, but also in providing unique structured network of practitioners. It would provide a solid basis for supporting other innovation-related actions which will be carried out in the framework of the EIP, and for the success of which human resources are an absolute necessity.
It will also be well placed to support the EIP in the identification of framework conditions and best practise on policy, regulatory or standardisation issues having an impact on the sector. A KIC would also strongly build on and capitalise the results of the numerous research projects of the 7th Framework Programme addressing the topic, in particular those funded in the framework of the nanosciences, nanotechnologies, materials & new production technologies, and environment themes.
Similarly, it would build on eco-innovation market replication projects, under the CIP (Competitiveness and Innovation Programme), where material recycling has been one of the priority areas. Such experience will continue with Horizon 2020, namely in the context of the climate action, environment, resource efficiency, and raw materials societal challenges In addition, synergies with the European Rare Earth Competency Network, set-up for the critical raw materials called rare earths, shall be sought.
A KIC in this area would seek complementarities and synergies with those activities and should focus on trans-disciplinary activities within the knowledge triangle with a strong focus on innovative products and services and entrepreneurial education.
A KIC in this area is most suited to address the challenges outlined above. It also meets the criteria put forward for the selection of KIC themes in the SIA:
- It addresses a major economic and societal relevant challenge Europe is facing (the need to develop innovative solutions for the cost-effective, low carbon and environmentally friendly exploration, extraction, processing, use, re-use, recycling and end of life management of raw materials), and contribute to the delivery of the Europe 2020 agenda and its objectives on climate and energy, employment, innovation and education.
- This KIC focus is aligned with priorities defined in Horizon 2020 and complementary with other Union activities in the raw materials area, in particular with the EIP on Raw Materials.
- It is able to mobilise investment from the businesses sector and offers possibilities for various emerging products and services – namely, in the areas of sustainable extraction and processing, materials management, recycling technologies, and materials substitution.
- It creates sustainable and systemic impact, measured in terms of new educated entrepreneurial people, new technologies and new business. It offers, in particular, opportunities for social value creation by making efforts towards addressing the goal of sustainability of the whole product lifecycle: using raw material more efficiently and improving effectively the recycling and recovering of raw materials.
- It includes a strong education component which is lacking in other initiatives, and will bring together a critical mass of excellent research and innovation stakeholders.
- It requires transdisciplinary work involving different areas of knowledge, such as geology, economics, environmental sciences, chemistry, mechanics and multiple industrial areas (construction, automotive, aerospace, machinery and equipment, and renewable energies).
- It will address the European paradox, since Europe counts with a strong research base and a weak innovation performance on this area. It offers opportunities for innovation in sustainable mining and materials management. Substitution and recycling can promote further sector change and enhance investment activities through the creation of new products, services and supply chain approaches.