2022 RawMaterials Summit Look-Back
The EIT RawMaterials Summit is our flagship event. It draws together the European raw materials industry, the European Commission, EU Parliament, United Nations Economic Commission, and NGOs. The 4th EIT RawMaterials Summit was held in Berlin from 23-25 May 2022. There was a clear demonstration of the leadership and vigour across the European raw materials sector to make the green and digital transition a reality.
Important Raw Materials Issues and Challenges
From across the European raw materials industry, we welcomed leaders and investors. They came from a range of relevant sectors including mining, batteries, substitution, recycling, circular economy, education, and innovation. In addition to industry leaders, keynote speakers included EU Commissioners, NGO representatives, and innovators.
Maroš Šefčovič, EU Vice-President for Interinstitutional Relations and Foresight opened the Summit. In his speech, he commented on the imperative to step up Europe’s efforts to secure a stable and sustainable supply of critical raw materials. He said the political climate is ripe for action.
The Commission was given a strong mandate from Europe’s leaders at the Versailles Declaration, 11 March to take action… (and) also has the full support of the European Parliament, our agile industry, environmental groups, and thinktanks – which share our assessment of the importance of critical raw materials for achieving our climate change goals.
Maroš Šefčovič, EU Vice-President
EU Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth Mariya Gabriel also spoke. She highlighted the crucial importance of holding such a significant event to discuss raw materials:
…..raw materials are inextricably linked to our sovereignty, to our ability to be masters of our own fate, to contribute to society, and to recover from the pandemic.
Mariya Gabriel, EU Commissioner
Following the Summit, EIT RawMaterials CEO Bernd Schäfer commented on the key themes and challenges emerging from the event. He said ”The industry’s business models are undergoing a gradual shift from linear to circular. As the urgency for raw materials rises, the need for some key challenges to be addressed at a Commission and Member State level was felt across the Summit, from the recycling bottlenecks to mining regulatory obstacles.” He also spoke about what he saw as the common thread connecting all stakeholders.
In addition to the urgent need to mobilise finance, there was one core theme that was a common thread from all stakeholders that connected many challenges. This was the need to gain widespread social acceptance of what a strong, technology-driven, and sustainable European mining industry can bring to escalate Europe’s competitiveness, security, health, and prosperity. Simply put, raw materials are the one element that will affect everything.
Bernd Schäfer, CEO EIT RawMaterials
Below is additional information on just some of the most pressing issues discussed at the Summit.
European Mining - Critical for Green Energy Transition
The need to grow domestic mining in Europe, to facilitate the green and digital transition, was unsurprisingly a recurring topic of discussion. Speakers expressed confidence on the strides that have been made in innovation and education. However, there was clear frustration about the obstacles halting Europe’s progress. The most notable of these obstacles was the lengthy permitting process. Mikael Staffas, CEO of Boliden, said that permits are what are preventing mining projects from really progressing in Europe.
What we really need is action. At the end of the day, we need to get the mines on our own ground.
Mikael Staffas, CEO of Boliden
The issue of social awareness was another key topic. Expert speakers noted that Europe has one of the highest standards of mining. They said communicating this to the public can go a long way toward social acceptance. Julia Poliscanova, Senior Director of Transport & Environment, a leading Europe NGO, was a keynote speaker on this topic. She stressed the importance of transparent and respectful communications on domestic sourcing.
The raw materials sector will only be acceptable to Europeans if companies apply the highest environmental standards, if social and HR due diligence is transparently and consistently adhered to, and if it’s done in cooperation with and in full respect of the local communities.
Julia Poliscanova, Senior Director of Transport & Environment
Education is Crucial for a Carbon-Neutral Raw Materials Industry
There was universal agreement that education will play a decisive role in the success of Europe’s climate-neutral goals. In the coming years, hundreds of thousands of skilled workers will be needed to power the EU’s green transition. There is a challenge, however, in attracting talent to raw materials-related industries. This challenge was acknowledged and discussed by mining, refining, and battery industry representatives, as well as European policy-makers.
Speakers cited the EIT Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) as an example of a practical approach to combatting this challenge. The KICs deliver high-quality education, train a new generation of entrepreneurs, and provide an environment for them to develop the innovations needed.
Sol Villar, Senior VP of Organisation and HR at Atlantic Copper, also made the point that the industry should be also bolder in how it presents itself to young talent.
We should tell them that we are the ones that are going to save the world. We are the key, and without us, we are not going to achieve decarbonisation.
Sol Villar, Senior VP of Organisation and HR at Atlantic Copper
Attracting and promoting disruptive and deep innovation by start-ups and SMEs was another core theme. This is critical to achieving the objectives of the European Green Deal. Speakers and attendees agreed that urgency of innovation and framework conditions is needed for start-ups and SMEs. Speaker Victoire de Margerie, Founder & Vice Chairman of the World Materials Forum (WMF) summed up the challenge perfectly:
As a result of demographic and environmental causes, materials to be extracted in the next 30 years are in equal amount to the materials extracted in the past 4 billion years. We have to develop recycling technologies that will bring high-purity secondary materials, but they are not yet ready.
Victoire de Margerie, WMF Founder & Vice Chairman
She also spoke about the need for a ‘usage revolution’ to go hand in hand with innovation. Victoire de Margerie outlined the model of ‘using smarter, less, and longer’ that the WMF has established to propel the usage revolution. The aim is to counter the high demand for raw materials.
Martin Spitznagel, the CEO of Bind-X, suggested the industry should be more open to communicating the problems they face. This could lead to entrepreneurs coming up with solutions to solve them. Start-ups and SMEs demonstrating their innovation early to the industry is also important, he said.
Don’t wait for years to address the industry to see whether your technology is applicable or not to the industry. Do it quickly!
Martin Spitznagel, the CEO of Bind-X
Action on Raw Materials
Closing the Summit, EU Commissioner for Internal Market, Thierry Breton spoke about the upcoming EU Raw Materials Act. Commissioner Breton said:
(The EU Raw Materials Act will be) the end of naivety and embedding political priorities in legislation.
Thierry Breton, EU Commissioner for Internal Market
Action on Innovation
In the weeks following the Summit, Commissioner Gabriel announced the new EU Innovation Agenda at the EU Parliament, along with a host of experts, including EIT RawMaterials CEO Bernd Schäfer. EIT RawMaterials is actively supporting and promoting the Agenda. Using our expertise, and collaborating with Commissioner Gabriel using knowledge gained from our leading innovative and education programmes, we are working to progress the vision of making Europe a deep-tech innovation powerhouse.
The RawMaterials Summit 2023 will take place in Brussels from 15-17 May 2023. Follow us on social media, or sign up for our newsletter, to stay up to date on news and information.