Sustainability and Decarbonisation: how can the EU’s industrial policy support industry’s efforts?
As Europump concludes its Annual Meetings and Joint Conference with CEIR and Pneurop in Brussels, Vanni Vignoli, President of Europump, the European Pump Association, looks at the EU’s roadmap for industrial support.
Following its announcements of 5 May 2021 updating the New Industrial Strategy proposed in 2020, the European Commission has further indicated that it will rely quite heavily on industry to deliver on the major challenges faced by our economies and societies in Europe. This is particularly the case in relation to sustainability, digital transformation, and global competitiveness, as well as the need to overcome the crisis provoked by the COVID-19 pandemic. The EU Recovery and Resilience Plan launched in Spring 2021 is largely building on the capability of European industry to design and produce the building blocks of the twin green and digital transition. At the same time, the EU is shaping a dense regulatory framework that does not always support the freedom and flexibility needed for companies to grow and compete globally.
The European technology industries, and in particular our pumps, compressors, taps and valves sectors, have for a long time considered the enhancement of their global competitiveness within the challenges of societal and environmental challenges, notably by contributing to the preparation of energy efficiency and ecolabel regulations. In parallel, digitalisation has provided increased opportunities and brought new challenges, including debates on the appropriate regulatory level (sharing of industrial data, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, etc).
These developments, amidst ever more fierce international competition, require that public authorities and industry in the EU work increasingly more closely to design and deploy strategies that reinforce our competitiveness and our contribution to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This will be the subject of the initial debate kicking off our Joint EU Policy Conference, which will bring together key policy makers from the three EU policy institutions in charge of the Industrial Strategy and three Executives representing and illustrating the achievements enjoyed, and challenges still faced, by these three key sectors of industry.
Specific Technical and Policy Issues
As the regulatory landscape across Europe, and indeed the whole World, becomes ever more complex, the burden on industry only increases. It therefore falls to sector specific trade organisations, such as Europump, CEIR and Pneurop, to identify and advise on those technical and policy issues most relevant to their respective sectors. In our particular arena, that relates, of course, to the manufacture, distribution and use of pumps and all pump related equipment – a huge and important subset of industry, given the width and breadth of pump applications.
Against this backdrop, one of the main considerations when determining the core themes for the joint conference was to maintain a direct reference to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). Within this focus, the three associations intend to highlight how, together with the importance for companies to address technical aspects impacting their daily business operations, they consider the positive role of industry in addressing societal challenges. Indeed, all the sessions will have a technical theme matching the most appropriate UN SDG, and with representation from the European Commission along with technical experts from industry and/or research institutes, they will each be reflective of the current legislative terrain, as it relates to pumps and pumping systems in the following key areas: -
Circular Economy & Eco-design
(Relevant UN Sustainable Development Goal no. 12: Responsible Consumption and Production)
Eco-design has been a topic of high relevance over the past few years. The high demand and new legislative requirements, particularly at EU level, for more efficient products to reduce energy and resource consumption has driven our industries to carefully consider the environmental and business opportunities for improving the energy efficiency of products.
The new eco-design requirements will keep considering the energy efficiency of the products as well as their interconnection with circular economy.
Indeed, the EC is now promoting the reparability, upgradability, durability, and recyclability of products by extending the scope of eco-design requirements beyond energy efficiency. With the eco-design and circular economy intricately connected to each other, the session will address their main EU legal framework, as well as case studies highlighting the direct impact for the industry. Within the framework of circular economy, industry representatives will present successful case studies on how circular economy is positively impacting their businesses.
Industry’s Digital Transformation and Innovation
(Relevant UN Sustainable Development Goal no. 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure)
How to manage and fully embrace the on-going, and massive, digitalisation of our engineering industries, enabled by recent advancements in three areas: increase of computing power, availability of data and of new algorithms.
Industry has primarily started by developing its own international standards in the machine-to-machine area, particularly the OPC, the interoperability standard for the exchange of data in the industrial automation space and in other industries, and then the OPC Unified Architecture, a platform independent service-oriented architecture that integrates all the functionality of the existing OPC specifications.
This session will discuss whether standardisation is enough for our industries to cope with an increasingly rapid international race and if an additional support of public authorities is necessary. The EU is developing a comprehensive legislative framework in key areas such as data (GDPR and non-personal data), artificial intelligence (AI), and revising current safety legislation (machinery, general product safety directives) which have an impact on our industries’ capability to design and deploy any digital transformation. But is this helpful? Additionally, a comprehensive EU cybersecurity scheme requiring a strong involvement of companies is being implemented within the framework of the EU Cybersecurity Act and other EU policy tools.
Also, specific EU programmes are being crafted to support both R&D and Innovation and Investments in digital transformation. How can our companies, and notably the SMEs benefit from this? Understanding and discussing positive aspects and potential obstacles of the policy framework put together by the EU to support European industries digital transformation will be the key objective of this session.
The restriction of use of materials and substances of concern
(Relevant UN Sustainable Development Goal no. 6: Clean Water and Sanitation)
The regulatory and technical working environment related to the materials and substances allowed to be used in the production value chain of our sectors is constantly evolving and will further evolve with the tabling by the European Commission of a new Chemicals Strategy. A comprehensive understanding of how authorisations work is therefore needed to ensure that companies fulfil the legal and technical requirements impacting their business.
The session will be aimed at providing some concrete examples of substances and materials currently regulated or under revision at EU level that are extensively used in our industries. In particular, the use of lead has been raised in the policy discussion leading to its inclusion in the REACH candidate list, meaning a possible procedure for the authorisation of this substance. Lead is also a substance currently under discussion within the revision of the Drinking Water Directive, notably as regards to materials and substances in contact with water intended for human consumption. Within the framework of use of materials and substances, the newly established ECHA Waste Database will be addressed by this session.
As stated previously, the regulatory and legislative landscape across Europe, is becoming increasingly complex, and industry, in all its guises needs to be aware and prepared for what is coming. By engaging with those trade organisations that represent your best interests, you can keep abreast of all the compliance developments as they affect your business and the areas in which you operate.