The network will bring together scientists, engineers and policy makers developing substitutes for materials in short supply.

Major industrial sectors such as construction, automotive, aerospace, chemicals, and machinery depend on access to metals such as cobalt, gallium and magnesium.

One example is the clean energy sector where technologies including wind turbines, solar cells, electric vehicles and energy-efficient lighting rely on rare earth elements.

The EU has defined 14 such critical raw materials and warns that if Europe does not increase supply or reduce demand, it will suffer adverse economic impacts.

In 2007, the EU set up a project, known as the FP7, CRM_InnoNet, to find and develop substitute materials. The project is coordinated by the Chemistry Innovation Knowledge Transfer Network, while independent grants consultancy PNO are responsible for the new Innovation Network.

The network aims to support CRM_InnoNet by bringing together all industries facing the problem, as well as those in academia working on potential solutions.

It also aims to create opportunities for collaboration on substitutions and provide improved access to funding.

Chemistry Innovation project coordinator Catherine Joce said: “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.”

Conor McGlone

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