The Eco-Innovation Challenge

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The Eco-Innovation Challenge

eco-innovation

observatory

In regard to wind turbines, installed capacity would have to increase by a factor of 250 to

supply 15% of primary energy demand. This would entail more than 50 million tons of copper,

3 billion tons of iron & steel and 3.6 million of neodymium, which would imply expanding

current copper mine production by around 4 times, current iron & steel production by around

3 times, and current neodymium mine production by around 180 times.

Resource constraints related to fuel cells and electric cars are also significant. If all 2 billion

cars assumed to be on the roads in 2050 were equipped with fuel cells, 6,000 tonnes of

platinum would be needed, which is 30 times the mine production of 2008. If these cars were

equipped with electric motors instead, 2 to 4 million tonnes of neodymium would be needed,

which is about 100 to 200 times current annual mine production. In this case, alternatives

are available, such as the induction motor, which may represent an opportunity for ecoinnovation.

As these scenarios illustrate, it would be very difficult to significantly scale-up renewable energy

technologies due to resource constrains. The scenarios emphasise both the importance

of increasing energy efficiency and reducing absolute levels of energy consumption for a

transition toward a more sustainable development path, as well as the potential for ecoinnovation

to perhaps provide solutions not yet thought of.

Nevertheless, it is a question of scale: a transition to a renewable fuel mix may still increase

resource efficiency at certain levels. Assessments on the basis of the MIPS methodology

made in recent studies show that all renewable energy sources induce a lower material

consumption than conventional ones in terms of water, air, biotic and abiotic materials –

except for biomass which induces increased biotic materials and air consumption (see Rohn

et al. 2010)

4.2 | Eco-innovation activity in sectors:

an overview

Which sectors are the most eco-innovative? Based on the CIS 2008 we examine which

sectors have a higher tendency toward implementing eco-innovations – here: to reduce

material or energy use10 , as well as pointing to the differences between service sectors and

industry in different EU countries.

Section 4.2.2 takes a deeper look into the eco-innovation activities of 5 EU sectors:

manufacturing, construction, agriculture, water and food services.

4.2.1 | Eco-innovation activity in sectors (CIS)

The CIS is an EU-wide comprehensive survey focused on innovation performance in

companies. It has been used since 1990 to gain insight on innovation and its determinants

in companies, sectors and countries (see for example Cainelli et al. (2011) or Evangelista

Annual Report 2010

10. CIS 2008 offers

information on innovations

with environmental benefits as

well as specific information on

innovations leading to reduced

material / energy use per unit

output. Though this is very much

in line with the EIO’s definition

of eco-innovation one may

note that the CIS reference

to environmental benefits is

somewhat broader than EIO’s

definition and respondents may

also interpret it in different ways.

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