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Speakers corner 26 June 2024

EU strategic priorities: Shedding light on the unique role of research and innovation for a competitive energy transition

EERA's June 2024 newsletter main article

In the past five years, the European Union has charted a course towards a climate-neutral, green, fair, and social Europe through the European Green Deal, a flagship initiative designed to profoundly transform the EU economy. This ambitious strategy is now supported by key legislation, including the European Climate Law, which enshrines the 2050 climate-neutrality objective into law, and the Fit for 55 package, a set of policies aiming at keeping pace by reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 55 per cent by 2030 compared to 1990 levels.

However, major systemic crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the repercussions of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, have subjected the European Green Deal to increased scrutiny against the backdrop of the EU’s deteriorating economic fundamentals compared to other major global players like the US and China. As a consequence, the debate around it over the last months has increasingly shifted towards the need to preserve and boost the EU’s competitiveness, cater to the needs of a fragile European industrial base, and place greater emphasis on policy implementation over policy formulation.

The results of the European elections from 6 to 9 June are likely to confirm and strengthen this line of thinking. While the basic orientation of the European Green Deal seems set to hold, predictions suggesting it will now be interpreted and acted upon in a more pragmatic manner are expected to prove true with the new balance of power emerging at the EU level.

In this context, EERA is calling for the European Green Deal to stay true to its fundamentals and for clean energy research and innovation (R&I) to be at the core of the debate surrounding its unfolding, implementation, and future. It is becoming increasingly relevant to emphasise both the close-to-market technologies (high TRL) in the context of the need for accelerated deployment but also the lower TRL research. In the case of the latter, gaining a competitive advantage in emerging technologies will be crucial for predicting the EU’s future industrial competitiveness as these technologies become critical for the next phases of decarbonisation beyond 2030 and towards 2050.

Recent advocacy efforts include the publication of the EERA position paper on Framework Programme 10 (FP10), a strong plea to significantly increase funding for clean energy R&I efforts, accompanied by a comprehensive analysis of how this instrument can enhance its overall effectiveness. Additionally, and in line with previous efforts, EERA has recently joined the Research Matters campaign, an initiative supported by over twenty international research organisations, urging EU member states and institutions to allocate over 3% of their GDP to R&I and fence research budgets.

Furthermore, the EERA community is currently working on the flagship report "Increasing EU Competitiveness and Strategic Autonomy: The central role of clean energy research & innovation", which is scheduled to be unveiled at the annual EERA High-Level Policy Conference on 16 October in Brussels. Against the backdrop of the imminent finalisation of the EU Strategic Agenda 2024-2029, a plan aimed at guiding the EU’s work including the green and digital transitions, and the release of the much-awaited Draghi’s report on the future of EU competitiveness, this endeavour is aimed at emphasising once more that leveraging the full potential of clean energy R&I is crucial for the future of the EU economy. It will indeed call for policymakers to support bold investments into research and innovation as a prime and invaluable opportunity to transform the EU into a competitive and decarbonised economy.