Materials Manifesto at the European parliament


A recent event, organised by the Alliance for Materials (A4M) with the European Parliament’s Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) Committee examined the role of materials research and innovation for European growth and competitiveness. It also looked at the potential for a materials driven ‘mission’ in the forthcoming FP9 European research programme. A4M is a European stakeholder initiative to promote research and innovation in the field of advanced materials involving six European Technology Platforms including SusChem.

The meeting was organised as part of A4M’s MATCH (Materials Common House) post project activity, to provide a forum for debate between the European Materials Community and representatives from the European institutions concerning the future role of Materials Research and Innovation in the next Framework Programme.

Patrizia Toia, MEP and Vice-Chair of the ITRE Committee of the European Parliament welcomed participants declaring that “Materials play a key role in all aspects of innovation” and that MATCH and A4M had definitely “leveraged effort for advanced materials in Europe.” She welcomed the “mission orientation for FP9”, as recommended by the Lamy report.

Paul Rübig MEP and ITRE member agreed saying he hoped the Parliament would succeed in doubling the budget for FP9. “The EU should give priority to this,” he said.

Opening the meeting itself Marco Falzetti, the Chair of A4M, introduced the alliance as an “advocate for material technologies”. He said that the aim of the session was to “think about FP9” and one emerging element of FP9: the concept of missions. He hoped that the meeting would help “take materials to the future” and show just how essential materials are for modern life.

Materials as enablers

Advanced materials and other key enabling technologies (KETs) are essential to enable development in Europe. Lars Montelius, director of the International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory (INL), advocated in his talk that KETs were best deployed through a horizontal programme as this enabled more research activities on generic technologies providing wider opportunities for innovation and more rapid diffusion towards industry and the market.

Fabrice Stassin of the Energy Materials Industrial Research Initiative (EMIRI) outlined the case for materials research for clean energy. He saw investment in materials research as vital to maintaining and improving European competitiveness in clean energy. Materials represent huge market opportunities as the world moves to low carbon energy sources.

“Materials are becoming a competitive weapon,” he stated and underlined the need to “Make in EU to sell to the EU” and as the cost advantages of manufacturing in East Asia reduced he saw an opportunity in materials to support reindustrialisation of Europe.

In terms of the research road map for materials in FP9 he thought there was a need to leverage and integrate the existing Strategic Innovation and Research Agendas (SIRAs) from EMIRI and the other technology platforms in A4M to form a coherent materials agenda. In terms of funding he called for a doubling of funding for advanced materials projects in FP9 compared to Horizon 2020.

The “Materials’ Manifesto” beyond Horizon 2020

Prof Rodrigo Martins from the New University of Lisbon presented the A4M Materials Manifesto  a document endorsed by SusChem and the other A4M stakeholder communities.

“A robust and credible EU growth based on technology will never be achieved without attention to a systematic investment in advanced materials,” he claimed.

The evolution of materials research in the EU framework programmes and some insights on the FP9 mission concept was articulated by Martyn Chamberlain from the European Commission’s DG RTD. He outlined the review of KETs by the High-level Group on Industrial technologies, this was considering the future for KETs and required input from stakeholders.

For the 2018-2020 programme, he highlighted the Open Innovation Test Bed concept that looked to help bridge the gap between research and the market and looked to improve industrial productivity, accelerate innovation in specific domains and increase access to finance, especially for SMEs. Some EUR 259 million is available to invest in physical facilities offering technology access and services to advance research from the “lab to fab”.

FP9 Missions

What might a FP9 mission look like? A mission should have a clear research and innovation focus, display a high but realistic ambition, while showing a breakthrough or transformative potential for science, technology, industry or society. A mission should set the direction or co-define the EU’s policy agenda in response to global societal challenges and be open to all actors in research and innovation – in particular new actors. It should be understandable by anyone from the Society.

What could be potential missions for Materials? Martyn Chamberlain indicated some areas to think about. Materials innovation supporting major EU polices such as the circular economy and/ or the Energy Union could be a target. Improving the innovation ecosystem for discovering, assessing and testing new materials, their functionality and integrating materials and their production and use was another. A final idea was materials matching citizen’s needs such as new materials for medical technologies.

The materials community need to brainstorm ideas, he said. Around Easter 2018 the Commission will open a public consultation on missions and in the meantime, it would publish ideas for ten possible ‘model’ missions.

Invent in Europe, exploit in Europe

What a ‘Materials Mission’ might look like was the subject of the closing part of the meeting with a roundtable discussion moderated by Fabrice Stassin.

Patrizia Toia, MEP, said she was persuaded that “we must be equipped for the future in advanced materials. Using public money so must demonstrate benefit for citizens, so our continent can be a champion.”

Lieve Wierinck, MEP and ITRE member, also called for more cohesion between the regions on research and innovation and especially towards the EU-13. “Better use of Structural funds for research and innovation is crucial especially in the context of jobs and growth,” she stated.

Marco Falzetti concluded by saying that we “must continue to advocate for materials and their importance for future innovation for jobs and growth”.

The meeting was wrapped by Walter Lutz from the ETP FTC (Fibres Textiles Clothing) who stressed two aspects: first that as the relative value of materials goes up, other elements become relatively less important. This was due to industrial efficiencies and meant that jobs were coming back to Europe as materials became more important than labour costs. This meant that retaining a leadership in materials is critical to future growth and jobs.

Secondly this meant that the EU must be at the forefront on fundamental research in materials, but the EU should not be the laboratory for the world. It was essential that we “Invent in Europe and exploit in Europe.”