Showcasing raw materials innovation and best practice in sustainability and circular economy made in Europe

On 17 June, RawMaterials Summit 2021 gathered Europe’s foremost industry leaders, entrepreneurs, policymakers and academics from across the raw materials value chain to showcase innovation enabling the EU Green Deal goal for a carbon-neutral future. The event received great recognition from the European Commission as Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, opened the event and Thierry Breton, Commissioner for Internal Market, and Maroš Šefčovič, Vice President for Interinstitutional Relations and Foresight, gave a keynote speech to start the session dedicated to the European Raw Materials Alliance (ERMA). The presence of EU stakeholders highlights the pressing need for sustainable access to resources as fundamental for the industry and the twin transition of the EU economy. 

Raw materials are a fundamental component of our recovery, as well as of the green and digital transitions.

Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth

Commissioner Gabriel presented key steps from the Commission supporting EIT RawMaterials Innovation Community developing raw materials into a major strength for Europe, including the support to bring more actors to the community working on the European Raw Materials Alliance (ERMA). “If we are investing in the innovation ecosystem, we need to make sure it isn’t fragmented. Only by building a well-integrated pan-European innovation ecosystem with a strong focus on deep tech start-ups, fostering women representation, and increasing territorial innovation cohesion, we’ll be able to succeed on our challenges for a green and digital recovery.” – stressed Commissioner Gabriel.

Every ecosystem needs an inflow of talent, as well as the development of the talent already present in the community. This is why the EIT’s education activities are so crucial. We need you to continue bringing together higher education, industry and research infrastructure. 

Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth

Bernd Schäfer, CEO and Managing Director of EIT RawMaterials, pointed out that the timing of the RawMaterials Summit 2021 could not be better. Raw materials and their importance for the EU Green Deal and the European economic agenda are top of mind for many and are getting broad media attention. We structured this event to give an update on the most relevant issues around raw materials right now.

Raw materials are the nucleus for strategic technologies and a transition towards a green and circular economy in the EU. Today, only a fraction of the most relevant raw materials is produced in Europe. This can be changed through a circular economy approach, through innovation in exploration, mining, recycling, substitution, processing, and product design.

Bernd Schäfer, CEO and Managing Director of EIT RawMaterials

“By 2030, the main industrial ecosystems that matter for the EU Green Deal will have a combined added value of over EUR 2 trillion and provide employment for more than 30 million Europeans – if the raw materials needed are available. To be clear: the high economic importance of relevant raw materials and the supply risks for those same materials cannot be viewed independently from each other.” – highlighted Bernd Schäfer.

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Educating future changemakers who will help solve our greatest societal challenges

The first session of the RawMaterials Summit 2021 showcased the EIT RawMaterials education portfolio. Didier Zimmermann, Education and Innovation Director at EIT RawMaterials, presented the programmes supporting the lifecycle of learners to uncover entrepreneurial skills and innovate. Elisabeth Clausen, Director at Institute for Advanced Mining Technologies (AMT) at RWTH Aachen University, shared how RWTH Aachen is fostering an entrepreneurial mindset in the mining sector. The entrepreneurial mindset is no longer about business skillset; it’s a more comprehensive approach to developing creativity, action orientation and impact creation needed to develop state-of-the-art solutions for responsible mining in Europe.

The presentations were followed by innovation journeys from the EIT RawMaterials supported start-ups and scale-ups. We want to thank Mari Tenhunen, CEO at TimeGate Instruments, Martyna Szydlowska, CEO at Fractuscan, Frank Jackel, CEO at Metalshub, Iakovos Yakoumis, CEO at Monolithos Catalysts & Recycling, Frédéric Goettmann, President and CTO at Extracthive, for sharing their stories to inspire the next generation of changemakers to turn their ideas into new sustainable solutions for the raw materials sector. 

Securing access to raw materials, advanced materials, and processing know-how for EU industrial ecosystems

The European Raw Materials Alliance (ERMA) was launched during the RawMaterials Summit 2020. This time, Thierry Breton, Commissioner for Internal Market, and Maroš Šefčovič, Vice President for Interinstitutional Relations and Foresight, and Bernd Schäfer, CEO and Managing Director of EIT RawMaterials, joined the RM Summit 2021 to highlight the pressing challenges ahead of the new Alliance and showcase the latest achievements securing access to critical and strategic raw materials, advanced materials, and processing know-how for EU industrial ecosystems. 

“In the EU action plan, we call on the Member States and regions to identify critical raw material mining, processing and waste valorisation projects that can be operational by 2025. This includes critical raw materials, rare earths, battery anode materials like natural graphite well as cathode materials such as lithium. As our very first action, we set up the European Raw Materials Alliance (ERMA) to deal with the rare earths magnets and motors value chain as a priority. Rare earth elements are essential to produce permanent magnets used in key industrial ecosystems such as renewable energy, e-mobility, space and defence. 95% of electric vehicles use permanent magnets, and the sale of electric vehicles is soaring. Wind turbines contain on average 600 kg permanent magnets per megawatt. The EU relies 98% on one single country for the supply of rare earth elements, refining of rare earths and recycling of magnets: China.” – highlighted Commissioner Breton in his speech

Despite all these efforts, our growing demand for critical raw materials cannot be met without considering domestic sourcing. Domestic sourcing, as well as boosting circularity and recycling and increasing the use of secondary raw materials, are key parts of the puzzle.

Thierry Breton, Commissioner for Internal Market

Christel Bories, CEO of ERAMET, Jan Moström, CEO of LKAB, Javier Targhetta, President of Atlantic Copper; Senior Vice President Marketing & Sales at Freeport-McMoRan, An Steegen, CTO at Umicore, joined the session as members of the ERMA network. We want to thank our speakers who highlighted their efforts to secure sustainable access to raw materials critical for Europe’s green and digital transition. The highlight of the session was a need to foster collaboration, improve traceability of value chains, invest in research and innovation, and adopt the legal framework to support industry transition to a circular economy. The work of the two Clusters of the European Raw Materials Alliance (ERMA) developing action plans and the investment pipeline will be crucial to make this happen. 

Raw materials are an important enabler of the twin green and digital transitions. They will be essential for preserving the global competitiveness of the EU’s most strategic economic sectors through the development of clean and low-carbon technologies such as batteries, photovoltaics and windmills. But the scale of the challenge ahead is immense.

Maroš Šefčovič, Vice President for Interinstitutional Relations and Foresight

In his speech, Maroš Šefčovič, Vice President for Interinstitutional Relations and Foresight, highlighted: “We should invest not only in primary raw materials extraction but also in the development of refining facilities, as well as recycling, critical for a secure supply of secondary raw materials.”

Creating a Circular Economy is vital to the success of the EU Green Deal

Moderated by Karl Vrancken, Research Manager Sustainable Materials at VITO, we had a great lineup of experts in adopting the circular business model, including Janez Potočnik, Co-Chair of UN International Resource Panel, Carlos Rich, Strategy Officer and Director International Division at Atlantic Copper, Sven Saura, VP Recycling at Veolia, Erwin Coolen, Director at ECHT, Frédéric Carencotte, Founder of CARESTER. 

Sven Saura, Veolia, pointed out that innovation is not only about developing new technology but also about the need to adopt a sustainable business model. There is a pressing need for a legal framework to set recycling target and consider repairability in the design process for the industry. End-of-life products must be considered as a resource for another cycle to bring valuable materials back in the loop.

In order to create societal, ecological and economic impact and strengthening European competitiveness, we need the engagement of a highly dedicated network of people, talents and teams, which together build the core of our competency and experience. Luckily we have built such a catalyst for the raw materials ecosystem. We can create impact! If we continue to join forces, we can move Europe from a brown, linear economy to a green, circular economy. Let’s continue doing this together!

Bernd Schäfer, CEO and Managing Director of EIT RawMaterials

We want to extend our thanks to our Media Partners for their support in raising awareness about the importance of raw materials and bringing experts from their network to the RawMaterials Summit 2021! Our Media Partners: ADACI, Cobalt Institute, EMIRI, Euromines, FAB, Impact Hub Leipzig, Nickel Institute. 

On this note, we encourage you to reach out to EIT RawMaterials and ERMA for potential collaboration in developing raw materials into a major strength for Europe! And of course, save the date for the next RawMaterials Summit, which will be held in Berlin on 23-25 May 2022!

About RawMaterials Summit 2021