Industrialists fight funding cut to eco-innovation

Environmentalists and industrialists are pleading with the European Commission not to slash funding for eco-innovation as it prepares to set its annual budget.

As the horse-trading that takes place prior to the final decisions continues, three business and environmental federations are in the thick of it, arguing the case for eco-based innovation over other kinds of research and design.

The European Association of Craft, Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (UEAPME), The European Environmental Bureau and the European Committee of Environmental Technology Suppliers Associations (EUCETSA) have written to commissioners in an attempt to stave off a massive reduction in cash available for eco-innovation.

In December the European Council set a broad budget, which calls for a 30% reduction to innovation support.

"The council has taken the decision but on very broad budgets," the EEB's John Hontelez told edie.

"The commission must now decide where it will cut more and where it will cut less."

He said existing venture capital programmes were likely to remain intact but there were serious fears for future support of SMEs and schemes that encouraged vital networking between local and national organisations.

The specific budget for eco-innovation was set at 520 million Euros for the seven year period from 2007-2013 but overall innovation budgets look set to be reduced by as much as 30%.

The associations fear eco-innovation could be hit harder than other areas and suffer an even larger cut.

Tom Vereijken, a spokesman for EUCETSA, told edie such a blow could be disastrous to the European economy and would undermine considerable progress made in recent years.

"One of the major drivers behind eco-innovation efforts will disappear and all the effort that has been spent on this over the years will be wasted."

"The innovation cycle will be disrupted and the process of integration between economy and ecology will stop."

He said innovation was one of Europe's key strengths in the global market and the continent would have difficulties competing with emerging economies like China if it tried to base its economic foundations purely on manufacturing.

At the moment Europe was a world leader in terms of marketable knowledge, but that edge could be lost if funding dried up.

"Europe can only compete on know-how, not on products alone," he said.

"The newest technology can be used to improve our competitiveness and we're in the middle of a very important process that shouldn't be interrupted.

"It has cost us an enormous amount of money to get to where we are and if we stop now that investment will have been wasted."

While conceding the cuts would not spell and end to eco-innovation, Mr Vereijken saidthat the perceived lack of interest in Brussels would send out the wrong message and while research would continue in isolated pockets, existing networks would likely fragment and there would be less of a large-scale vision.

Sam Bond



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