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Leading European energy research institutes have joined together to found the European Energy Research Alliance (EERA), with the aim of speeding up the development of the new energy technologies that Europe needs if it is to address the triple challenge of climate change, energy security and competitiveness.
Between them, the 10 institutes have an annual budget for energy research and development (R&D) activities of over EUR 1,300 million. Through the EERA, the institutes will design and implement joint, pan-European research programmes and promote the sharing of world-class national research facilities. The first joint programmes are scheduled for launch in 2009.
The creation of the EERA is one of a number of actions set out in the EU's Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET-Plan). Launched in November 2007, the SET-Plan is designed to help Europe meet its ambitious climate change goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2020 and around 80% by 2050. The SET-Plan will also enhance European competitiveness by ensuring that Europe takes the lead in developing the innovative technologies needed in the low carbon economy of the future.
'The development of cutting-edge energy technologies requires the pooling of the best brains and resources beyond national borders. The creation of the European Energy Research Alliance that will coordinate national and European energy research programmes is a crucial step forward,' stated European Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potocnik. 'This test case of joint programming will enable us to leverage on a more efficient use of national and European resources and compete successfully on the international level.'
The 10 research institutes, along with the European University Association (EUA) and European Heads of Research Councils (EUROHORCS), which are supporting the initiative, signed a declaration of intent outlining their commitment to the EERA on 27 October.
'The primary focus of the EERA will be on the strategic and targeted development of next generations of energy technologies drawing on results from fundamental research and maturing technologies to the point where it can be embedded in industry-driven research,' they write.
Among other things, the EERA will promote research into key areas such as wind, solar energy, second-generation biofuels, carbon capture and storage, smart grids and fuel cells.
In addition to setting up joint research programmes in line with SET-Plan priorities and sharing research infrastructures, the partners commit themselves to strengthening links with industry; enhancing Europe's capacity to carry out large, high-risk, high-gain R&D programmes; and developing training, education and outreach activities.
Once the fledgling organisation has been fully established, membership will be open to all research organisations that can contribute to its objectives.
Other activities foreseen under the SET-Plan include the establishment of European Industrial Initiatives, which will boost industrial research and innovation in six key sectors; the creation of a strategic information system on energy R&D activities; regular conferences and summits on energy research; and increasing the funds available for energy R&D in Europe.
'The SET-Plan offers a blueprint for Europe to develop a world-class portfolio of affordable, clean, efficient and low-emission energy technologies,' said Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs. 'The opportunity to be global leaders in low carbon technologies lies in front of us.'
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