Raw materials are vital for the EU economy, the green transition and a sustainable future

The EU Green Deal was adopted on 11 December 2019. It includes a package of legislative and policy initiatives towards 2050 climate neutrality and increasing climate ambition for 2030. European policies will be framed by the objective of becoming the first climate-neutral continent by 2050.

The Green Deal recognizes access to resources as a strategic security question to fulfil its ambition. Ensuring the sustainable supply of raw materials, in particular of critical raw materials needed for clean technologies, digital, space and defence applications, by diversifying supply from both primary and secondary sources, is therefore one of the pre-requisites to make this transition happen. 

Raw materials are critically important for implementing the United Nations Agenda 2030 for the Sustainable Development Goals, and for achieving the goals outlined in the European Green Deal. Minerals, metals and advanced materials are the key enablers for the transition in the clean energy and mobility sector. The sustainable management of natural resources and the shift to a green economy, securing sustainable supply of raw materials, including promoting innovation and mobilising funding under Horizon Europe, including strengthening resilience of strategic EU value chains are essential in achieving a resource-efficient and competitive economy in Europe. 

Mobilising industry for a clean and circular economy – Closing material loops, powering a shift from linear to a circular economy 

Raw materials challenges are often treated in a segmented manner and with a short-term horizon. To implement more sustainable solutions requires multiple actors along the value chain to act and invest simultaneously. Therefore, a paradigm shift is required towards systemic thinking aiming at the long-term availability and sustainability of raw materials. 

Europe is in a good position to base its resource supply on closed material loops developing new business models fostering a circular economy. EIT RawMaterials pushes new advances in the recycling of high-tech metals such as copper, nickel, lithium and cobalt, which are vital to the European industry and its transition from a linear to a circular economy by integrating key European industry players.

Accelerating the shift to sustainable and smart mobility – Securing sustainable supply of raw materials 

Europe depends on importing most raw materials that are critical for new applications in the green economy such as in e-mobility and renewable energy. Important raw materials include lithium, cobalt and nickel for batteries of electric cars and rare earth elements for permanent magnets in e-drives used in a myriad of applications and devices ranging from mobile phones to drone technology, robotics and wind turbines. 

Digital technologies are a critical enabler in the raw materials sector. EIT RawMaterials takes on these challenges and supports the upscaling of new technologies for the flexible use of raw materials with a focus on entirely new methods for sustainable extraction, recovery and production of raw and advanced materials to meet the highest environmental and social standards while at the same time maintaining market competitiveness. EIT RawMaterials supports start-up entrepreneurs that develop digital solutions for the raw materials sector, pioneering metals trading B2B digital marketplaces, new AI and machine learning solutions for the world leading European machinery and equipment manufacturers. 

EU as a Global Leader – Facilitating industrial collaboration and strategic alliances 

Setting environmental standards and certification of raw materials 

Europe is home to world-market leaders in the metals and minerals sector and to leaders of excellence in raw and advanced materials innovation and entrepreneurial education. They work together at EIT RawMaterials and develop new technologies, products, services and skills for the future. For example, ‘CERA’ offers a new certification scheme for the sustainable supply of raw materials based on blockchain technology. EIT RawMaterials is bringing together key industry actors from the up- and down-stream to develop new diversified sourcing strategies for raw materials that are critical for new applications in the green economy. 

For more please read the EIT RawMaterials Position Paper on the EU Green Deal