The Eco-Innovation Challenge

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The Eco-Innovation Challenge

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Eco-innovation good practice 17

Network Resource Efficiency, Germany

The "Network Resource Efficiency" (NeRess) pools

knowledge about the efficient use of resources to intensify

communication between business, research and politics.

It builds on the MaRess project (Material Efficiency and

Resource Conservation) and intends to foster eco-efficient innovations while at the same time

providing a permanent base for technological progress. Designed as a cross-sector, open “learning”

platform, it aims at bundling know-how and experience regarding resource efficient production,

products and management, as well as successful applications. It provides possibilities for the

mutual exchange of information to intensify communication and cooperation between actors from

enterprise, industry associations, advisory and educational institutions, academia, politics and the

media to mobilise their central competencies and create a broad awareness of the issue resource

efficiency. Furthermore, it develops proposals for the design of framework requirements that provide

incentives and reduce barriers. For more information visit the NeRess website, Wuppertal Institute

and the EIO online repository of good practices.

Company performance

6. According to the 2011 EU-wide Eurobarometer survey, 45% of European companies in

manufacturing, construction, agriculture, water and food services have implemented at least

one eco-innovation over last 2 years.

7. The manufacturing sector has the highest share of companies implementing eco-innovations

to reduce material use while the electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply sector has

the highest share of companies eco-innovating to reduce the use of energy. It should also be

noted that these recent figures by far exceed the numbers of previous analyses – indicating

a landslide shift towards energy and material efficiency among companies.

8. However, only about 4% of eco-innovating companies declared that the eco-innovation

they have introduced led to a more than 40% reduction of material use per unit output.

The results suggest that the intensity of the recent eco-innovation activity of companies

is not sufficient to achieve a Factor 2, let alone Factor 5, resource-efficiency target. The

overwhelming majority of companies report incremental improvements. Clearly, incremental

innovations can also be of key relevance toward achieving goals, but only if they are

introduced continuously and if they are part of a wider strategic objective of the company.

Drivers and barriers

9. According to the Eurobarometer (2011) survey, a majority of companies expect raw

material prices to increase in the future and realise the opportunities of saving material

costs. The strongest drivers for eco-innovation are the current and expected high prices of

energy as well as expected future scarcity of materials. Existing regulations and taxes are

another key driver: nearly every fourth innovating firm in the EU introduced environmental

innovation in response to those policy instruments.

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