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Brussels, 12 February 2013
Reducing the EU's dependency on raw materials: European Innovation Partnership launched
European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani, responsible for Industry and Entrepreneurship, launched today, together with his colleagues Maire Geoghegan Quinn European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, and Janez Potočnik European Commissioner for the Environment, the European Innovation Partnership (EIP) on raw materials, bringing together Member States and other stakeholders to help make Europe a world leader in raw materials exploration, extraction, processing, recycling and substitution by 2020. To this end, the Commission proposes concrete targets to be achieved by 2020 to reduce Europe's dependency on imported raw materials, to replace rare materials with substitutes and to set up innovative pilot actions, e.g. pilot plants for exploration, mining, processing, collecting and recycling. Raw materials are the lifeblood of EU industry: at least 30 million jobs in the EU depend upon access to them. But much of Europe’s industry is heavily dependent on international markets to secure the raw materials it requires. To turn this trend and to reduce cost for raw materials, today's initiative is part of the European Commission industry strategy launched in autumn 2012 to make Europe an attractive place for industry investment.
Why do we need an EIP? What are the EIP's objectives?
The aim is to address weaknesses, bottlenecks and obstacles in the European research and innovation system that prevent or slow down good ideas being developed and brought to market. The European Innovation Partnership brings together Member States and other stakeholders (companies, NGOs, researchers etc) to develop joint strategies, pull together capital and human resources and ensure the implementation and dissemination of innovative solutions to our challenges in the field of raw materials.
The key objectives of the EIP on raw materials are:
The scope of the Partnership covers non-energy, non-agricultural raw materials - metals and minerals, as well as other industrial raw materials such as natural rubber, paper and wood. It will target innovation in both technology-focused and non-technology policy areas, as well as international cooperation.
The EIP will help to ensure more sustainable access for European industry to raw materials by creating better linkages between existing policy instruments, reinforcing Member State co-ordination in the field of raw materials and promoting the development of integrated value chains in the private sector.
What does the EIP propose?
The Commission has proposed concrete targets to be achieved by 2020 for each area of focus:
Importance of raw materials to EU industry
Raw material supply difficulties have a negative impact on Europe’s industrial performance and its overall economic performance. In order to strengthen European industry, it is vital that industry is able to access raw material inputs on time and at a reasonable market price. Significant increases in the prices of non-EU sourced raw materials are of concern to European policy-makers and manufacturers alike, as they make European manufacturing less competitive vis-à-vis to manufacturing in emerging countries. For example, the prices of Rare earths - dysprosium and neodymium rapidly increased between 2010 and 2011, respectively from $229/kg in 2010 to $1454/kg in 2011, and from $48/kg in 2010 to $233/kg in 2011.
Current sources of Europe's raw materials
Much of Europe’s industry is heavily dependent on international markets to secure the raw materials it requires. The table below (figure 1) highlights the key world producers for the metals and minerals identified as being critical to the EU’s economy.
100% of the primary platinum, cobalt, rare earths and natural rubber used by European industry currently imported from outside the EU. China is an importance supplier of many materials, as well as countries such as Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa and Brazil. Natural rubber is primarily dependent on supply from South East Asia.
Figure 1: Global Production Sources of EU Critical Raw Materials1
The picture for some bulk metals and industrial minerals is not quite as acute, but the EU is still a large net importer for these materials (Table 1). For wood and paper, EU industry is largely self-sufficient; however, there is growing demand for these materials from other industries, including bio-energy.
Table 1: Metrics for EU Import Dependency of Raw Materials (%)2
* As defined by the EU. These 14 raw materials include a combination of high-tech metals, bulk metals, as well as industrial minerals
EU policies to reduce dependence on externally sourced raw materials
To reduce European industry’s dependence on non-EU virgin raw materials, the European Commission promotes the following policies:
Figure 2: End-of-life recycling rates for sixty metals3
Europe is a world leader in technological Research and Development (R&D) in the field of substitution of critical raw materials. This means replacing one industrial component with a more readily raw material in the EU, whether it is a rare metal or an import dependent material such as natural rubber.
What next for the EIP?
The EIP's 2013 agenda is dense and contains several key milestones and deliverables.
Plans for 2013 also include activities involving relevant external initiatives, such as the Resource efficiency panel, European technology platforms, European Public Private Partnerships, EU or national initiatives and research and development projects, and public events including the Annual EIP Conference in November. "Minerals Days" scheduled for 24th-26th May and "Universities Day" on raw materials aim at reaching students across Europe.
European Commission (2010) , Critical Raw Materials for the EU
European Commission (2010), Critical Raw Materials for the EU & some additional references
Source: UNEP (2011), Recycling Rates of Metals: A Status Report