Innovation EU Achilles heel
EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger has stated that everypercentage of biofuel higher than five percent should only beachieved by using second-generation products like agriculturalwaste and leftovers, instead of food crops. The rest of the worldworks on third generation biofuels, the EU seems to be stuck in thesame discussion as 5 years ago. EP-Member Bas Eickhout analyzes whyEurope is lagging behind and sets out policy-ideas to generatedynamism in both science, innovation and energy.
Why is the agenda on biofuels not integrated with theinnovation agenda?
“That’s putting it a little too negatively, but I agree that notenough has been done. Biofuels based on crops were presented as analternative for oil in the 2000s. Biofuels were consideredthe key to a more sustainable transport sector.
Europe took big steps at that time and suddenly became suddenlya frontrunner, something which rarely happens. At that time it wasagreed to mix normal gas with biofuels. Scientific research onlyrecently changed the discussion from ‘greening’ the transportsector to the food shortage and land use discussion”.
Can you explain why Japan and the United States are moresuccessful in innovation in the biofuel sector?
“In Europe there is less interaction between science andpolitics. Steven Chu, for instance, is currently United StatesSecretary of Energy and would be able to resume as a professor. Onthe other hand the Dutch former minister Ronald Plasterk will notbe able to return to his post of genetics professor. The gapbetween science and politics is smaller in the United States.
This gap is not the only reason that Europe lost its frontrunnerposition. The EU policy on biofuels also created an industry offirst generation biofuels, which developed into a major force withits own powerful lobby.”
Where is this interaction between science and politics thebest?
“In Anglo-Saxon countries they are ahead of the rest of theworld, especially in the United States, but also in Britain. Europeoften copies ‘best practices’ from the United States. For examplethe European Institute for Technology is based on the MIT, butdefinitely not as successful. Institutes like the EIT wouldfunction better as an integrated part of Europe’s policy oninnovation, technology and science.
How do you analyze the state of the art of Europe’sinnovation policy?
“Europe’s innovation policy is too fragmented. Innovation policyis Europe’s Achilles’ heel. It needs better coordination, otherwisewe will be no match for Japan, the United States and the BRICScountries.
This might be achieved through the co-financing of memberstates. This is also proposed in ‘Horizon 2020’ as it facilitatesthe priority setting for all EU countries”.
What is your personal goal in Europe?
“One of the biggest challenges is to integrate ‘Resource UseEfficiency’ in the European vision. Resources are scarce, but inEurope in particular, this applies not only to energy but also tofood and metals, for example. We have the same problem as Japan; wecannot rely on resources from within our own borders.
Many vision documents have been written about this but it neverfound its way into the needed legal framework. ‘Resource UseEfficiency’ should be an integrated part of all innovation andagricultural policy. We finally have to take into account that ourresources and land are limited.”