Industry calls for breakthrough technologies to be at the heart of the 2030 climate and energy package.
The European pulp and paper industry has searched for, and now found, breakthrough technology concepts which can enable a competitive future in Europe. The example is a fascinating case study from one of Europe’s energy intensive industries.
The European paper industry supplies a quarter of the global market, employs 185,000 people in 520 companies with a turnover of 75 billion per year.
At this year’s European Paper Week gathering in Brussels, the Confederation of European Paper Industries (CEPI), unveiled eight concepts for breakthrough technologies that provide solutions which can enable the future of the industry in Europe. Each solution offers opportunity to create value, reduce costs, improve margins, radically change sector operations and allow massive decarbonisation.
In March 2011 the European Commission set a challenging target of -80% CO2 reductions by 2050. In November 2011 the paper industry launched its own 2050 Roadmap that analysed how to achieve this decarbonisation target while increasing value in the sector by 50%. One year later, the industry followed up by launching the Two Team Project which brought together the teams who have developed the eight concepts announced today.
In this year-long competition, two teams comprising of scientists, companies, suppliers and outsiders worked to identify viable concepts that would help the industry achieve its objectives. Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard announced the winning team and winning concept from among the eight finalists. She praised the efforts of the sector:
“Global markets for resource and energy efficient solutions will grow. CEPI Roadmap 2050 and the ideas prepared in the Two Team Project show that the European pulp and paper industry is ‘technology conscious’ and ready for the future challenges. It’s an example to be followed by other sectors.”
The winning concept is known as “deep eutectic solvents”. It is a brand new technology which, at low temperatures, breaks biomass down into constituent parts which can then be used in the paper and pulp industries. If utilised at scale this technology could radically change pulp and paper production around the world and replace some of the most energy intensive parts of the current process. Deep eutectic solvents have seen remarkable results at the laboratory scale. In the coming months and years, they will need to be further studied and developed.
Commenting on the outcome of the competition, Teresa Presas, CEPI Director General, said: “The results are beyond expectations. While we have announced a winner, we are confident that all the shortlisted concepts have an important role to play. We believe the teams have found the key to the largest industrial breakthroughs in decades in our industry. Now policy must be developed to support the development of these technologies.”
Teresa Presas, CEPI Director General, went on to say: “Policymakers once thought targets could be met with existing technology and behavioural change. That is wrong. Breakthrough technologies are needed to meet low carbon targets. Investments in innovation need to focus on breakthroughs, not on incremental growth. CEPI’s Two Team Project perfectly illustrates this”
Little effort is given to developing breakthrough innovations for the manufacturing sectors of tomorrow and industrial and climate policy have left this area untouched.
The Two Team Project went as far as any industry sector can go in organising an open innovation process and providing pre-competitive leads. It is now up to individual companies to take the next step and develop the concepts. This will need new forms of cooperation, and the support of European and national policy makers. The right conditions must be put in place to enable research, pilot, demonstration and investments.
Read the official CEPI Press release
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Read The Economist article (30 November edition)
Watch The Economist video blog