Energy union set to help boost innovation

Written by Maroš Šefčovič on 7 December 2015 in Opinion

The European Commission’s new energy union strategy for research and innovation will help boost research efforts against climate change, says Maroš Šefčovič.


The current team of European Commissioners took office with a clear set of political priorities; deemed most important, urgent, and appropriate issues to be tackled at EU level. 

Among those is the immediate need to fundamentally transition Europe’s energy market into one which is secure, competitive, and equally important: sustainable.

Meeting this ambition will require that we use technologies which do not yet exist; it requires that we consume less energy by becoming more efficient, that we switch to renewable sources of energy, and that we learn how to best store them, among other things.


But how can Europe rely on technologies which do not yet exist? By inventing them. This is why research and innovation cuts across all elements of the energy union strategy. 

By supporting researchers and companies at key stages in the development of innovative products and services, we can enable them to realise their full potential.

The energy union strategy for research and innovation is explicitly linked with competiveness and encompasses energy, transport and industry policies.

For example, the new market design, currently being developed, will allow innovative companies with new business models to emerge and compete on the market. Heating and cooling in homes and workplaces and transport - both private and public - will benefit from innovation just as much as electricity markets. New technology and innovation entering quickly into the market through new business models are key to achieve the transformation of EU energy system.

The aim is to avoid working in silos. Therefore, the three strands of the energy union’s strategy for research and innovation mentioned above (energy, transport, and industrial policy) will be brought together in the Commission’s integrated innovation and competitiveness strategy to be adopted by the end of 2016.

A first step in the building up of the energy union’s strategy for research and innovation is the adoption of the strategic energy technology plan (SET plan). 

Since 2007, the SET plan has shown success on several fronts; creating a vibrant open innovation ecosystem which capitalises on the results of research. It has contributed to open science by making many of its results accessible to all. 

While maintaining these building blocks of success, we must now identify the strategic priorities and actions to accelerate this EU energy system transformation.

We need greater prioritisation, integration, coordination and ownership in order to better identify gaps, duplication and synergies at EU and national level. We must also take advantage of opportunities to blend the digital and physical worlds in the energy domain. 

At the same time, this endeavour must be open to the world by addressing international cooperation for global challenges.

To conclude, the innovations to be developed in Europe as part of our energy transformation will place European consumers in the centre-stage and support the competiveness of European industry. 

These innovations will also help meet the energy needs of other parts of the world - creating a potentially very important export sector which can support jobs and growth, while meeting the global climate challenge.

About the author

Maroš Šefčovič is European Commission Vice-President for energy union


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