Yesterday, Tuesday 09.12., the European Institute of Innovation and Technology EIT has asked two consortia to establish 'Knowledge and Innovation Communities' KICs focusing on innovation in the sector 'healthy living', 'active ageing' and in the field of 'raw materials'. In the latter field the EIT selected the consortium 'RawMatTERS', a pan-European partnership with more than 100 partners from 21 countries of the European Union, including Fraunhofer, which is present with more than a dozen Fraunhofer Institutes and Fraunhofer Academy - representing leading partners from industry, research and academia.
Prof. Jens Gutzmer from Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf, the key coordinating partner said: 'The EIT will enable our partnership to make a real societal change and to turn the challenge of raw materials dependence into a strategic strength for Europe. Our goal is to boost the competitiveness, growth and attractiveness of the European raw materials sector via radical innovation and entrepreneurship. We want to focus on sustainable growth and job creation by boosting start-ups, SMEs and education; and we are the strongest consortium ever created in the raw materials field. By 2022, we are aiming to create, among others, 64 start-ups and 5 new primary and secondary sources of critical raw materials (CRM)'.
'With the support of the EIT and funds from Horizon 2020, these partnerships have a great opportunity to attract the best researchers, students and entrepreneurs. This will be crucial to ensure that they contribute to our efforts to improve Europe's innovation capacity and competitiveness,' said Commissioner Navracsics.
The RawMatTERS KIC is expected to turn investment into tangible economic and social impact, including new businesses and business opportunities, risk taking and entrepreneurial people contributing to sustainable economic growth. This, in turn, will boost the competitiveness of the European raw materials sector and generate new, high quality jobs. The KIC will have its headquarters in Berlin jointly hosted by Fraunhofer and Helmholz institutes. In addition there are six transnational co-location centres in Wroclaw, Poland, Espoo, Finnland, Leuven Belgium, Lulea, Sweden, Metz, France, and Rome, Italy. The winning consortium has a broad coverage across the materials chain and is considered the strongest partnership that has ever been assembled in the raw materials sector. It aims at strengthening innovation in the sector by introducing new solutions, products and services for sustainable exploration, extraction, processing, recycling and substitution. The KIC wants to make the sector more attractive to young people by developing Master and PhD programmes in close collaboration with world-class partners from education, research and industry.
It takes more than two years to establish such a large consortium. Helmholtz and Fraunhofer have finally coordinated the application process of the proposal to EIT, which a core-team of more than 40 specialists from industry, education and research worked hard for. 'In the beginning it was a challenge, to understand each other, as we are from very different disciplines, not linked to each other, and it was a big task to convince industrial key partners and end-users, as the return of invest cannot be calculated directly -- it is a mix of education, knowledge, innovation and networking', says Dr. Michael Popall from the Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC, who had been one of the initiators and co-coordinator of the KIC and is in the team since the early days. With its partners Fraunhofer also joined and established the transnational French-German co-location Centre in Metz, France. Here the research will focus on substitution of critical and toxic materials in products and on optimized performance. The region is home to various materials suppliers and end-users in the area of mobility and machinery. The German hub, one of the local contact bureaus of the co-location Centre, will be at the Fraunhofer Project Group Materials Recycling and Resource Strategies IWKS in Alzenau/Hanau, Germany.