Raw Materials and Circular Societies Lighthouse

Lighthouse innovation programmes (Lighthouses) are large-scale and long-term coordinated innovation initiatives that address critical and specific raw materials challenges for Europe. They are mission approaches to innovation and education challenges, directly steering EIT RawMaterials KIC (Knowledge and Innovation Community) activities towards the achievement of its strategic objectives and impact KPIs. Lighthouses will generate tangible solutions for societal challenges that have raw materials at their core. In doing so, they will enable the KIC to raise awareness about the role and importance of raw materials in the sustainable society, and create a positive perception about raw materials and their associated industries.

The concept of a circular economy has recently gained traction in Europe as a positive, solution-based perspective for achieving economic development within increasing environmental constraints. Raw, processed and advanced materials from primary and secondary sources are the backbone of the economy. A radical shift is required from linear to circular thinking. End-of-life products must be considered as a resource for another cycle, while losses and stocks of unused materials must be minimized and valorized along the value chain. In addition, the interactions between materials must be considered to define the best circular solution from a systemic standpoint. Awareness of the benefits of closing material loops must be raised in society. The successful transition to the circular economy at the global scale depends on the reliable and sustainable supply and management of raw materials.

To address these challenges, EIT RawMaterials will facilitate and coordinate various initiatives and strategic actions. These include, among others, the optimization of the efficient discovery, characterization, processing and flow of materials across the urban environment in a move towards ‘zero waste’, a core concept of the circular economy.

This Lighthouse is aligned with the EU Circular Economy Package and the EU Zero Waste strategy to achieve a circular society.

In 2018, the implementation of this Lighthouse Programme was carried out by Operational Actions (Innovation Project (KAVA) calls) and Strategic Actions and initiatives aimed at increasing visibility and relevance of raw materials in the European context. The main actions carried out during 2018 were the following:

  • In April, EIT RawMaterials coordinated a meeting with all EIT Innovation Communities as well as DG RTD, DG Environment, DG Grow, EASME and EESC (European Economic and Social Committee) to discuss possible ways of collaboration in the field of Circular economy. A working group was established to exchange knowledge, best practices and various initiatives.
  • In July, EIT RawMaterials organized a meeting with DG Environment, EIT and all EIT Innovation Communities on the European ETV program (Environmental Technologies Verification program). As an outcome of this meeting, DG Environment developed a document that prompted a discussion on possible leadership of EIT and/or KICs in the management of this European Programme.
  • In September, EIT RawMaterials and EIT Climate KIC jointly organized a successful workshop on Circular Cities at the EIT House in Brussels. The workshop included a number of high-level technical presentations on resource efficiency in Cities, also with consideration for new business model development and implementation and citizen and consumer consumption behaviour.
  • In November, EIT RawMaterials coordinated a meeting with DG Environment, JRC, The European Innovation Observatory, EIT and all interested Innovation Communities (with DG Grow participating as an observer) to discuss possible inputs from innovation projects to the Emerging Technologies chapter of the BREFs (Best Available Techniques Reference documents). EIT RawMaterials was nominated as the coordinator of this initiative by all the Innovation Communities.
  • Also in November, EIT RawMaterials organized a meeting with DG RTD (units dealing with resources and circular economy, financing mechanisms, energy, mobility, climate, health, social innovation), EASME, EIT and all EIT Innovation Communities to discuss Innovation in Cities and coordination actions in this specific field. One of the outcomes was the participation of EIT RawMaterials in the Circular Partnership of the European Urban Agenda and input to EU cities SRIA.
  • In December, EIT RawMaterials chaired a meeting between ICLEI (Local Governments for Sustainability), SPIRE (Sustainable Process Industry Through Resources and Energy Efficiency), ECERA (European Circular economy Research Alliance) to define ways of collaboration through the possible signature of a MoU defining specific collaboration strategies/actions.

If you are interested in learning more about this Lighthouse Innovation Programme, please reach out to Ignacio Calleja, Senior Advisor for Circular Economy at EIT RawMaterials.