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Environmental Macro Indicators of Innovation

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A framework for assessing environmental impacts of innovations

We must ensure that innovations are truly environmentally friendly. EU scientists have developed a system for figuring that out.

Society

The Europe 2020 strategy aims to pave the way for the EU to become a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy. Its flagship initiative for a resource-efficient Europe supports a shift towards a low-carbon, resource-efficient economy to achieve sustainable growth. However, it is difficult to assess whether specific innovations support a transition in the desired direction or not. The positive or negative environmental impacts of innovations are often unknown as they can’t simply be attributed to specific properties of the technology. Rather, their environmental impact is dependent on physical, behavioural, social and economic factors. For example, due to behavioural factors, when someone purchases a green vehicle, it may be their second car. This could mitigate any positive environmental impact. The EU-fund initiative EMININN (Environmental macro indicators of innovation) developed an analytical framework for assessing the environmental impacts associated with innovations. The research centred on innovations in energy, information technology, transport, the built environment and waste management. To develop this framework, researchers, experts and stakeholders collaborated to compile, review and refine indicators and data for measuring environmental impact. In addition, they collected data on innovation activities and created indicators for measuring technical change (innovation) in the areas of energy, transport and waste. The team then integrated these indicators into an analytical framework for assessing the environmental impact of innovations. The framework can be used to assess the environmental impact of both established and emerging technologies. This framework will assist policymakers in identifying drivers of and barriers to environmentally friendly innovation. As such, it will enable them to stimulate innovation while both assessing and maximising its environmental benefits. The results of this research support the EU’s policy of transitioning to a more sustainable economy under its flagship initiative for a resource-efficient Europe. And, by providing accurate and comprehensive information on the environmental impacts of innovation, it helps strengthen the link between science and policy in Europe.

Keywords

Innovation, environmentally friendly, environmental impact, emerging technologies

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