Six areas selected for ‘lead market’ initiative

eHealth, protective textiles, sustainable construction, recycling, bio-based products and renewable energy: These are the six areas with high growth and innovation potential identified by the Commission for its lead market initiative.

The Commission adopted a Communication on the lead market initiative for Europe on 21 December 2007, but this adoption was not announced until 7 January 2008.  

The first six lead markets in which innovative solutions will be supported are: 

  • eHealth, as ICT solutions for patients, medical services and payment institutions can help deliver better care for less money; 
  • Sustainable construction, as buildings account for the largest share (42%) of the total EU final energy consumption and produce about 35% of all greenhouse emissions;
  • Technical textiles for intelligent personal protective clothing and equipment, as the EU market has a growth potential of 50% over the next few years and can generate important spillover effects to other market segments of the textile sector; 
  • Bio-based products, as Europe is currently well placed in this market, but perceived uncertainty about product properties and weak market transparency hinder the fast take-up of products; 
  • Recycling, as the sector has a significant market potential and plays a key role in the move towards sustainable consumption and production;
  • Renewable energy, as the development of renewable resources is held back by high costs, low demand, market fragmentation as well as administrative and market barriers. 

An action plan for the coming years is set out for each of the six markets in an annex to the Communication. 

The action plans detail how legislation will be improved in each area to foster innovation and how public procurement, standardisation, labelling and certification will be encouraged. 

The action plans also include complementary instruments, such as business and innovation support services and financial support and incentives.

The impact assessment annexed to the communication estimates that “supported by the focused approach of the lead market initiatives, the combined market volume of the six markets could more than double by 2020 and some 1 million new jobs could be created”.

The Commission will, in the future, consider lead market initiatives for other market areas if “the identified criteria appears to be ripe for a similar initiative” and co-operation between member states and other stakeholders on the first six initiatives proves successful. 


This initiative is "the first step in the process of active political support and incentives that will help Europe reap the full benefits of the knowledge based bio-economy. We are pleased that the Commission has adopted an integrated approach bringing together all the major policy areas - such as research and innovation, environment, agriculture, industry, transport and energy - to develop a common action plan in this area," said Ian Hudson, president of DuPont Europe, Middle East & Africa and Chair of EuropaBio's Industrial Biotech Council. 

"We need to make sure that we develop a coherent, coordinated and comprehensive overall policy framework supporting the development of bio-based product markets. If policy makers get it right, bio-based products and biotechnology can be the key which unlocks the door to an environmental and economical sustainable future for Europe," said Johan Vanhemelrijck, Secretary General of EuropaBio.


Lead markets are high-growth potential markets for research and innovation-rich goods and services. The concept was introduced into EU terminology by the 'Aho report' on Creating an innovative Europe (January 2006). 

The report was the outcome of a small expert group chaired by the former Finnish prime minister, Esko Aho, and appointed by the October 2005 Hampton Court European Council to consider what new efforts are needed in the field of research and innovation to achieve the Lisbon goals. 

Lead market initiatives will focus on areas where public authorities can facilitate industry-led innovation by creating favourable legal and regulatory frameworks, setting standards, improving access to risk capital, providing support for research and acting as a launch customer.


  • 29-30 May 2008: Competitiveness Council will examine the initiative.
  • 2009: A mid-term progress report on the progress in implementing the action plans and the commitment of public and private stakeholders. 
  • 2011: A final report on the first round of the lead market initiatives will be presented. 

Further Reading