A network of engineers and other professionals has been launched to address Europe’s dependence on ‘critical raw materials’.
The network aims to bring together scientists, engineers, academics, industry bodies and policy makers to identify and develop substitutes for these materials.
Major industrial sectors such as chemicals, construction, automotive, aerospace, and machinery all depend on access to these materials - for example rare earth elements are essential for clean energy technologies such as wind turbines, solar cells, electric vehicles and energy-efficient lighting.
The EU has defined 14 such Critical Raw Materials, and warned that if Europe does not increase supply or reduce demand it will have adverse economic impacts.
The EC set up the project CRM_InnoNet, to explore finding and developing substitutes.
It is being coordinated by the Chemistry Innovation Knowledge Transfer Network, with project partners PNO Consultants being responsible for the new Innovation Network.
"The issue of critical raw materials affects a very diverse community," said Catherine Joce, project coordinator at Chemistry Innovation.
"The Innovation Network will provide an identity and focus for researchers and businesses with an interest in substitution, drawing together a community which contains representatives from different disciplines and sectors together with a focus on substitution for the first time.
"Creating a network to bring these people together in a constructive environment will play a vital part in shaping the research and innovation environment to enable future development of substitutes to help address the problem of materials scarcity."
The CRM_InnoNet project will identify substitution challenges and opportunities through a series of workshops and an online portal, to be fed into a set of policy recommendations which will be developed from October and presented to the European Commission, with a view to setting the future policy.
The new Innovation Network aims to support this by bringing together all industries facing this problem, as well as those in academia working on potential solutions and other interested parties.
It will raise awareness of Critical Raw Materials issues, create opportunities for collaboration on substitution, and provide improved access to funding.
It will also give members a place to feed in their concerns about Critical Raw Materials to the CRM_InnoNet roadmap and policy recommendations.
The Innovation Network was launched in Brussels this week at an event attended by over a hundred interested parties.
It is looking for participants on all sides of the issue, including technical people from industry, materials scientists, chemists, physicists, academics, professional bodies and policy makers.
Register your interest in the network