Europe Needs More Eco-Innovation


Creativity is vital to the green economy but some critics claim Europe needs to do more to encourage it

Eco-innovation and creativity are fundamental to helping Europe achieve cuts in emission targets and establishing a green economy, according to the European Commission.

The EC is planning on Wednesday 10 June to discuss how to foster innovation in green technologies – which include so-called smart grids and other systems such as emissions monitoring IT – at a debate in Brussels entitled “Greener, better, and cheaper: Innovation and creativity as key drivers for sustainable development”.

The debate is part of ongoing work under the framework of the European Year of Creativity and Innovation 2009. “The “greening” of the economy offers a huge potential – already today about 21 million jobs in Europe are linked to the environment and there are many emerging opportunities for further growth in this sector,” the EC said in a statement. “But to achieve a steep drop in our carbon emissions and to be at the cutting edge of the production and trade of green products and services, eco-innovation and creativity are essential.”

The keynote speech at the even will be delivered by Karl Falkenberg, director general for Environment, European Commission, and will also feature Dörte Fouquet, director of the European Renewable Energies Federation, Duncan Botting, CEO, Scottish European Green Energy Centre and Stephen Boucher, programme director – EU Climate Policies, European Climate Foundation.

In a speech last month, European Commissioner Viviane Reding identified the Internet and communications technologies as areas of innovation that need funding despite th downturn.

Improved Internet infrastructure has benefits beyond the realms of IT and business and could help tackle issues such as climate change and public health said Reding.

“It is our intention to closely couple our Future Internet technology research with applications of high societal value such as health, urban mobility, energy grids or smart cities,” she said.

Commenting on the issue of innovation in Europe, Dr. Wolfgang Plischke, a board member at Bayer AG said Europe has all the ingredients for a coherent innovation policy, but these need to be tied together into a single framework. “Innovation needs a champion at the highest level. The next Commission president should guide innovation policy and encourage national governments to work together,” he said.

Plischke said the EU has plenty of research initiatives but lacks joined-up thinking across member states. “Having 27 different approaches does not help. Getting innovative solutions doesn’t always mean starting with research,” he said.

Last week, UK business secretary Lord Mandelson said the global market for “low carbon goods and services” is worth around £3 trillion a year, and could grow by around 50 percent again by 2015. Around 900,000 people are employed in the sector work in the sector which is predicted to continue growing throughout the downturn, he added.

The technical infrastructure to support the low carbon economy is key, the business secretary said. “It is also going to mean public sector interventions to ensure that Britain has the necessary infrastructure to support low carbon technologies. That can mean the grid, which is up for serious renewal over the next five years.”

Also, the Aldersgate Group – a coalition of business and environmental groups – has pushed for more green investment in its response to the Stern Review of the economic impact of global warming.