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Innovative approach to technology transfer in the renewable energy sector

A dozen promising research results in the field of renewable energy have been selected for support in commercialisation by a new initiative to promote technology transfer. This initiative is the first of its kind to adopt an EU-wide and sectorial approach to technological innovation based on public research results.

Europe suffers from an innovation gap that separates it from its global competitors. While the European research base is solid and produces excellent scientific output, the rather low levels of exploitation of these research findings hamper the innovation performance of many industry sectors. Especially publicly funded projects tend to fail to commercialise their results. Looking at the strong growth of the European renewable energy industry, which increased its annual turnover tenfold from 1.5 bn EUR to 15 bn EUR between 1990 and 2004, one cannot deny that innovation is happening successfully on a broad scale: The renewable energy sector is mostly made up of technology-focused small and medium-sized companies most of which were inexistent 20 years ago. Yet, there is still room for improvement as commercialisation needs to follow the rapid speed of scientific developments. Initiated by the European group of renewable energy research centres EUREC Agency, the Commission-funded project “Promotion of renewable energy technology transfer” (ProRETT) is applying a new methodology for quicker and broader exploitation of scientific research results in the fields of renewable energy and energy efficiency in the form of licensing or spin-off creation. ProRETT offers transfer services to teams that wish to commercialise new technology applications, materials or processes elaborated in publicly funded research projects. The team behind this project unites all the stakeholders and skills required for a successful technology transfer: Researchers, technology transfer professionals, finance and industry. In a first selection round, 27 research results were proposed for further support coming from a broad range of renewable energy technologies and supporting tools. 12 proposals were selected for potential commercialisation. They will now receive individual coaching for market and risk analysis, business plan and model development and brokerage to interested investors. Entrepreneurial training for the teams aiming at spin-off creation is also part of the package. ”Most research centres already have technology transfer offices. What ProRETT can provide in addition is the European dimension which many transfer agents lack, as well as a complete range of services that cannot be offered by all individual transfer centres. Moreover, the ProRETT team has a very successful track record of licensing and spin-off creation”, says EUREC Agency’s Secretary General Katharina Krell. ProRETT’s particularity lies in its sector specific approach: all project partners are specialising in the clean energy sector, even the venture capital fund. To be eligible for support with commercialisation, three conditions must be met: the research must have benefited from public funding for its development, the proposal must be related to the fields of renewable energy and energy efficiency, and the commercialisation must happen in Europe. The consortium still accepts proposals until November 2006, interested actors are advised to get in touch with ProRETT-coordinator EUREC Agency. If successful, ProRETT could serve as model for technology transfer from public research to the market in form of spin-off creation or licensing. A public event is planned for late 2007 to discuss the strategy and policy implications of the project findings.

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Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Spain, France, Italy