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EIT Raw Materials Summit: Practical Plan for a Greener EU

On 29-30 September 2020, the second annual EIT Raw Materials Summit discussed a wide variety of issues that will impact industries and stakeholders dealing with critical raw materials as a result of the EU Green Deal goals. Over the course of 2 days, the primary focus of the summit was to establish real solutions to meet the EU Green Deal’s ambitious goals regarding sustainability, digitalisation, a circular economy, and investment in rare earths within Europe to produce green technology (such as lithium-ion batteries).

Going forward, the EU will need to find secure and sustainable sources for rare earths, and diversify its supply chain so as not to remain dependent on a few countries – such as China, which currently provides 98% of the EU’s rare earths. This will make the EU more resilient and competitive.

The aim of the Summit was to help industry leaders understand the practical solutions needed to develop the new direction of raw materials in Europe. The programme overview incudes innovation and new technologies to cover the entire EU raw materials value chain, future EU innovation programmes and their impact on the raw material sectors, a start-up and venture forum that will allow start-ups to pitch to investors, as well as access to EIT education and an alumni network.

A particular highlight on 29 September was the launch of the EU Raw Material Alliance (ERMA), announced by EU Commissioner Thierry Breton and Vice-President of the EU Commission Maroš Šefčovič. Commissioner Breton stated that, as displayed by the recent pandemic, there are major flaws in the supply chains and their ability to adapt. The EU, along with this Alliance, will create a new strategy to anticipate possible future disruptions.

ERMA will boost the EU’s capacity for raw materials, enhance its circular economy, diversify access to global markets and raw materials, look for loop holes in the value chain and develop processing facilities in Europe that can develop its own raw materials. ERMA will also seek to identify bottlenecks and come up with solutions, identify problems with any other critical raw materials, and will have a flexible governance framework with principles of openness, transparency, diversity, and inclusiveness.

Vice President Maroš Šefčovič mirrored Commissioner Breton, stating that the launch of ERMA is the number one action under the recently adopted CRM Action Plan, and stressed that only with collective efforts can the Alliance be successful. CRM’s are vital for renewable energy, digitalisation, electronics, mobility, construction, aerospace and defence, and other industries involving new technology. Therefore, the supply for these materials is likely to rise substantially in the coming decades.

Following the launch of ERMA, the EIT Summit hosted an array of presentations given by experts in the field and companies hoping to provide solutions and business relationships in the upcoming years. The following presentations were of particular importance to CRM Alliance:

1.) Circular Economy: Policies and Innovation

Speakers discussed climate neutrality as the new driver for a circular economy, and as the biggest driver for innovation and competitiveness, a just transition and social equity. Some key points included redefining incentives to create such an economy, such as material rewards, producer ownership, absolute scarcity, material penalties and clarify sanctionable objectives.

2.) Towards Resilient Battery Materials Supply Chains

Speakers want to establish Europe as a standard for an innovation ecosystem to boost a competitive, sustainable, and circular European battery value chain and drive transformation towards a carbon-neutral society. Additional speakers proposed partnerships to handle specific materials, such as VDI Innovation and Technik GmBH, Eramet, Euro Lithium Inc, and Euro Manganese Inc.

3.) Digitalisation in Exploration and Mining

Speakers discussed new solutions for the sustainable production of raw materials. The European Economic and Social Committee stated that the “digitalisation of EU raw materials sector is a unique opportunity to enhance the resilience of supply chains, address radically different input, economics and boost the operational, social and environmental excellence of the sector, advancing the concept of digital mining.”

4.) The Secure European Critical Rare Earth Elements Policy Council on Materialising the Green Deal

The SecREEts Policy Council discussed materialising the Green Deal to make a successful transition to a greener economy. They discussed what raw materials certain important sectors, such as transport, energy, and mining, would need. The primary affected industries mentioned were e-mobility, wind turbines, renewables, defence, and aerospace. Speakers additionally suggested to move mining projects to European countries such as Sweden, which can provide more than half of the materials on the new CRM List.

5.) EASME Innovation and Innovators along the Raw Materials Value Chain

Speakers discussed Horizon 2020, which funds research and innovation to the tune of €92 million in 2020. They emphasised the importance of the raw materials projects value chain: exploration, extraction processing, manufacturing, and ‘reuse, recycle and recovery’. Speakers from different industries regarding the entire value chain, such as X-Mine, IMPaCT, ITERAMS, CROCODILE, and SecREEts, UNEXMIN, UNEXUP, Blue Nodules and Blue Harvesting addressed specific interests and solutions that these industries can provide to meet the Green Deal.


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