EuropeINNOVA: eco-innovation not just a sector

In 2006, e5 was invited by the European Commission (DG Enterprise) to let Sebastian Gallehr participate in the eco innovations expert panel of Europe Innova. Europe Innova was the most ambitious Framework for Innovation of the European Commission. It presents a broad based innovation strategy for Europe stipulating the key priorities for the European Union to become a truly knowledge-based and innovation friendly society.

Europe Innova uses sector-based approach designed to identify and analyse the drivers and barriers to innovation in specific industries. This approach is resulting out of the Lisbon Strategy and the Aho Report. It intends to lead to sound and targeted policy measures in the future.
Sebastian Gallehr has been part of the panel two times in 2006 and has been selected as interim chairman for the eco innovations panel in Valencia. In addition he chaired a Europe Innova workshop in Munich.

In 2007 e5’s Chief Executive, Sebastian Gallehr, acted once again as chairman of the eco-innovation panels (Vienna and Athens sessions). Thus, e5 was able to contribute to the establishment of an innovation model based on the experiences of the pharmaceutical industry which depends on permanent innovation. This innovation model is based on interplay between large-scale, medium and small companies which is perceived as beneficial for all companies concerned and will, therefore, have an influence on European innovative politics.

In contrast to established branches of industry, eco-innovations show a different pattern of requirements. Whereas regulation is seen as hampering innovation by other panels, eco-innovations become feasible based on ambitious, transparent and long-term binding regulations and, thus, depend on them. Standardisation is a maxim for innovation capability in established sectors. In contrast to this, within the eco-innovation discussion open interchange, modelled on Open Source Development within the software sector, is subject to debate and seen as a chance by many.

Furthermore, in other sectors innovation tends to be reduced to improvement of existent technology, whereas within the eco-innovation discussion reassembling of existent technologies is described as the most interesting way to provide new opportunities. The view on the issue of technology transfer is much brighter within the eco-innovation discussion than the one usually shared by other panels. The eco-innovation panel perceives technological cooperation with Third World and threshold states, like China, as a guarantor for new markets and increasing turnovers.

In cooperation with Dr. Schmidt-Bleek (factor 10 institute, France) and Dr. Friedrich Hinterberger (SERI Austria) e5 published a general statement paper to the other expert committees of the automotive, energy, biotech, ICT, Gazelles, textiles and space innovation panels. This paper states clearly that “eco-innovation” is no longer a synonym for those who clean up the mess that industry leaves behind. Upon request we will be happy to oblige and send you this paper. Eco-innovation of the next generation means and must mean the comprehensive conversion of all production and consumption processes in order to achieve a maximum of resource protection. If this concept of innovation is accepted by all sectors of European industry, Europe will be able to face global competition unperturbedly. The paper went down well with almost all groups as well as with DG enterprises.

On April 7 – 8 in Brussels, the fifth and final meeting of Europe Innova’s Sectoral Innovation Watch took place. The participants formulated the conclusions of the group’s work over the previous two and a half years. Sebastian Gallehr chaired the Eco-Innovation Expert panel. The conference was an opportunity to present, and then discuss the group’s findings and policy recommendations. The Sectoral Innovation Watch provides policy-makers and stakeholders with a better understanding of sectoral drivers, barriers and challenges for innovation across the EU.

Core conclusions centred on the belief that Eco-Innovation should not be considered merely a sector, and applied in reference to eco-technology. Rather the concept should be viewed as ‚an over arching theme‘ or ‚driving force‘ for the future, one which will shape how the EU will view future markets. The Eco-Innovation panel emphasised how this in itself represents a golden opportunity for the EU. Eco-Innovation, originally intended to be one of several sectors of interest in the context of the Lisbon strategy to make the EU the most competitive global economy, proves to be an indispensable core element of this agenda and, indeed, the future of Europe.

At the conference, it was clearly stated that, in order to reach what is perceived as Eco-Innovation, there is a need for a clear message to policy-makers, because fundamentally political decisions would be the determining factor. In terms of policy recommendations, public policies should support Eco-Innovation taking into account its integrated cost, while recognising that it can become more profitable if the external costs – institutional and transaction costs – are internalised. It also called for regulations to set more ambitious technology enforcing standards. Above all, the group emphasised the important role public procurement would play in the process, while also highlighting the role of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as sources for Eco-Innovation solutions.

Apart from a clear message from the conference concerning the vital role of climate-friendly businesses for the future of Europe and policy recommendations based upon this finding, from e5’s point of view there was another highly interesting issue: “Our analyses indicate that the development of sectoral policies should be a high priority for ICT,” said Andreas Reinstaller of the Austrian Institute for Economic Research. “While many policy measures target ICT, they are not specifically designed for the ICT industry.” Moreover, this sector has been loosing momentum vis-à-vis the USA and Japan, the conference concluded. For a number of years, e5 has been pointing out the importance of the ICT sector regarding Eco-Innovation. In fact, ICT, like Eco-Innovation, is not just a sector but an important core element of any innovation strategy which transcends sectors and spheres of action. Furthermore, ICT and Eco-Innovation are significantly interrelated, as the study “Impacts of Information and Communication Technologies on Energy Efficiency”, commissioned by the European Commission, elaborated by Bio Intelligence Service S.A.S. in collaboration with e5 and the Fraunhofer Institute and published in October 2008, points out. (The study was presented at the international climate negotiations in Poznan at a Side Event organised by e5 and GeSI). The Brussels conference was, thus, an important stepstone on the road towards comprehensive European policy packets which strengthen and support those European businesses which have the potential to bring about a green and prosperous European future.

The 2nd Europe INNOVA conference on 20 – 24 October in Lyon attracted more than 550 delegates from 30 different countries. This conference, which takes place every two years, is considered the main event concerning European innovation strategies and policies. Prominent speakers underlined the fact that not only was the EU competing with traditional rivals like China and the US but also developing countries would shortly become part of the equation, as they were spending increasing percentages of their resources on R&D. The speaker who perhaps attracted most attention was Eric Von Hippel from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He focussed on the impact Open Development has on R&D and, thus, on the economy. Von Hippel’s proposals included the creation of more open licensing instruments and government support for low-cost, neutral internet because it was this communications platform that enabled users to cooperate in product design and improvement. Thus, he did not only point out yet again the importance of the IT sector for innovation processes in Europe, but also the increasingly crucial role of collaborative models of creativity. From e5’s point of view, the positive feedback Van Hippel received at the conference once again confirmed that e5’s own examination and assessment of collaborative models of creativity – focussing, however, on global climate protection and knowledge dividends for climate-friendly business – is exactly on the right track.

Sebastian Gallehr participated in a parallel session with Francoise Le Bail, Deputy Director General at the EC Directorate General for Enterprise, and several delegates. This event was dedicated to assessing and discussing present and future strategies for an innovative Europe.

One common thread that emerged from the discussions at the conference was the importance of human factors in innovation. It appeared that they could be just as vital to the success of any initiative as the technological dimensions. e5, by its elaboration of the new Humboldtean approach and its subsequent presentation at the CEDEFOP conferences already participates vigorously in bringing forth approaches which mobilise this human factor.