EU scientists team up on clean energy research

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Ten leading European research institutes have joined forces to expedite the development of new cleaner technologies to steer the EU towards achieving its ambitious energy and climate change agenda.

Launching the European Energy Research Alliance (EERA) on 27 October, the institutes committed to using their combined annual R&D budget of more than €1.3 billion to “strengthen, expand and optimise EU energy research capabilities”. 

The initiative was conceived in close cooperation with the European Commission and is a key part of the EU’s Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET-Plan), proposed in November 2007 to help the bloc meet its target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2020.

The EERA will focus “on the strategic and targeted development of next generations of energy technologies, drawing on results from fundamental research and maturing technologies to the point where it can be embedded in industry driven research”. Key research areas promoted include wind, solar energy, second-generation biofuels, smart grids and carbon capture and storage.

It is hoped that the EERA will provide EU leadership in energy by building Europe’s research capacity to conduct large, high-risk and high-gain R&D programmes.

EU Commissioner for Science and Research Janez Poto?nik welcomed the initiative, stating: “The development of cutting-edge energy technologies requires the pooling of the best brains and resources beyond national borders. This test case of joint programming will enable us to leverage more efficient use of national and European resources and compete successfully on the international level.”

The SET-Plan seeks to address the problem of insufficient European R&D budgets in low carbon technologies. While the US energy set aside $4.4 billion for 2007 alone, the EU has earmarked a comparatively meagre €168 million each year until 2013 (see EURACTIV LinksDossier).

In addition to promoting joint research efforts, it proposes European Industrial Initiatives in several priority areas: promoting industry cooperation in research and innovation, establishing a high-level Steering Group on Strategic Energy Technologies and creating a new Energy Technology Information System. 

The first joint EERA programmes are expected to be launched in 2009. Cooperation will expand and intensify, as other research organisations are welcome to join once the project is properly up and running.

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