Forschungs- & Entwicklungsinformationsdienst der Gemeinschaft - CORDIS

Periodic Report Summary 2 - SOLARROK (PHOTOVOLTAIC Clusters Development and Implementation Measures of a Seven Region Strategic Joint Action Plan for Knowledge-based Regional Innovation)

Project Context and Objectives:
The Paris Agreement of the United Nations’ Climate Change Conference is the latest development in global climate change endeavours and calls for zero net anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions to be reached during the second half of the 21st century.
This calls for a coordinated transformation of the world’s energy systems to more and more renewable energies used in a more efficient way, while at the same time increasing energy efficiency. The grid needs to be developed and adapted to a more flexible distribution of energy. Efficient storage systems including electro-mobility have to interact with the grid to allow for reliable and efficient operation. In the future energy mix, solar energy will play a crucial role. In the last decade, funding programmes in European countries have created a market for solar energy and supported immense research and development activities creating a huge innovation boost. During the last years, European solar industry has faced a growing competition from Asian market actors which has led to a rapid and drastic decrease of prices and cost for solar energy. In 2015, installed solar power capacity worldwide was expected to hit 200 GW (; Zach). A study by the Fraunhofer ISE in 2015 concludes that “In a few years, solar energy plants will deliver the most inexpensive power available in many parts of the world. By 2025, the cost of producing power in central and southern Europe will have declined to between 4 and 6 cents per kilowatt hour, and by 2050 to as low as 2 to 4 cents.”
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The European PV industry cannot attempt to produce standard solar cells at less cost than in Asia. But a collective, coordinated research in Europe is working on a whole spectrum of new technologies and has a chance for technology leadership bringing new technologies, which allow higher efficiencies at lower production cost, quickly into the market.

Project Objectives
In the SOLARROK “Regions of Knowledge” project, European regions have developed a collaboration approach in order to keep innovative capacities in the photovoltaics (PV) sector.
PV clusters from Navarre (Spain), Rhône-Alps (France), Central Germany, Slovenia, Austria, Lithuania, Belgium and Netherlands (in their cross-border collaboration as ELAt region), and the Norwegian research institute SINTEF address the most important current challenges for the European PV sector by knowledge exchange and joint activities in European and emerging markets.
The managements of the participating clusters stand for more than 600 companies & 40 research institutes across Europe. SOLARROK therefore puts a considerable network power in motion – facilitated by regional communication channels. Regional experts representing the entire PV value chain contribute to establishing the knowledge base.
The SOLARROK PV-Clusters Development and Implementation Measures of a Seven Region Strategic Joint Action Plan for Knowledge-based Regional Innovation has been based on 4 objectives, namely:
- To improve access to international markets by developing new joint business models for RTD-& business actors of the European solar sector,
- To supporting innovation system by filling RTD-gaps through interregional knowledge exchange and identifying approaches for long-term cluster collaboration and fostering creative entrepreneurship,
- To build international collaboration capacities by optimising concepts to facilitate the development of new products, services and processes in the solar sector with special regard to education and training programmes,
- To strengthen European competitiveness by joint action developing a SOLARROK Joint Action Plan at European level including advice mechanisms, regional chapters for smart specialisation and an internationalisation strategy.

Project Results:
Based on regional analyses of the PV sector environments and a study of global trends and opportunities, the consortium developed the SOLARROK RTD-Atlas (WP2). The Atlas includes results of interviews among 74 research institutes and 114 companies in all project regions which provided a detailed picture of actual research and business hot spots as well as an assessment of expected future trends. The insights from the RTD-Atlas were used to establish expert groups focusing on regional and interregional exchange processes (WP3 and WP4) around sharing RTD infrastructures, training and mobility, smart specialization and regional best practices for collaboration business models in PV.
In parallel, the SOLARROK Joint Action Plan (WP3) was developed in two steps leading to a set of actions fostering the further cooperation of the SOLARROK PV clusters with foci on training and education (incl. concept for a summer school), market support, R&D infrastructures, internationalisation, BIPV, and PV Grid integration. In addition, regional Action Plans for Smart Specialisation revealed differences in regional support measures and policies for the PV sector, demonstrated regional achievements during the project’s lifetime and gave recommendations.
The project’s internationalisation approach (WP5) responded well to the PV clusters’ needs and has created tangible benefits through cooperation. After attuning possible topics and strategies in an expert workshop on European level, major global-level PV clusters were evaluated. The selected PV clusters beyond Europe in Turkey, Egypt and Tunisia were visited by SOLARROK delegations and then invited for three consecutive match-making workshops in the project regions Rhône-Alps, Central Germany and ELAt which resulted in immediate benefits for the participating cluster members (companies & research institutes from various SOLARROK regions). The mutual exchange has proven very fruitful and resulted in ongoing collaboration activities.
The SOLARROK PV Tour d’Europe was designed as knowledge exchange process with global actors and has been an excellent example for a feasible and focused collaboration of PV Clusters. Joint initiatives of European regions for outreach to neighbouring emerging markets should be a best practice example: Making the best use of complementary competencies, market & innovation offers and pooling of well-established individual networks leads to increased efficiency. SOLARROK has created awareness for the regional dimension of PV collaboration in Europe.
The project has created impact in the project regions and neighbouring PV clusters in MENA countries through dissemination activities on different levels: 7 regional workshops, 9 international workshops, participation at international fairs, presentations at multiple regional and international occasions. To conclude the project and set the scene for the future cooperation between European and neighbouring PV Clusters from MENA countries, the final conference was carried out as first EU Forum of PV Clusters during the Open Days of Regions and Cities 2015 in Brussels (14.10).
A future meta-cluster cooperation shall focus on knowledge exchange and joint internationalisation activities, making the best use of regional experiences, RTD and business capacities and established international networks.

Potential Impact:
SOLARROK has developed a joint communication and information base, established working instruments and a database derived from a combination of primary and secondary research. The produced Regional Analyses, SWOT analyses and the RTD-Atlas give important insights into the current situation and the perceived innovation opportunities and challenges, gaps and strengths of the European PV sector. With the Joint Action Plan and the strategies for European RTD-collaboration the project has focused on network building and knowledge exchange and therefor organised a wealth of face-to-face activities on different levels:
Regional - each region has carried out regional workshops in the local language to engage regional stakeholders.
Interregional (European level) - four Interregional Workshops on European level focused on different topics around cluster management, BIPV, smart specialisation and advanced materials, two international workshops where carried out to discuss policies and collaboration strategies in view of improving the coordination of European internationalisation activities and competitiveness.
International (exchange with MENA countries) - SOLARROK has been presented twice (booth and panel discussion, poster) at the international congress and fair of the PV sector, PVSEC (Paris, 2013 and Amsterdam, 2014 - WP6). Three delegation visits to Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt have been carried out, preparing the PV Tour d’Europe with three match-making workshops involving invited delegations from the same MENA countries.
The projects’ Final Conference has been carried out during the Open Days of the European Regions and Cities in 2015. This frame has helped to place the outreach activities of the SOLARROK community towards MENA countries into the background of institutionalised European knowledge exchange and interaction of regions. Four expert panel discussions were held on 1. Smarter Use of Solar Energy, 2. Advanced PV, 3. Solar Future in the MENA Regions, 4. What’s next? – Efficient Policies and Interregional Synergies for PV Development.
The project has been presented at many occasions, among them the EU PV Clusters’ 2nd Workshop and General Assembly (Spain), the Industrial Technologies 2014 conference on nanotechnologies, biotechnology, advanced materials and new production technologies (Greece), and the EU PV Clusters’ Workshop (France).

Socio-economic impact and post-project dissemination
With the Paris Agreement adopted at the COP21 in November 2015 and the prediction of a huge growth of worldwide expected PV capacity, the socio-economic benefits of joint action from European research, innovation and business actors are not to be underestimated. Coordination of research and innovation agendas will support European technology leadership in the future field of PV. SOLARROK has formed a collaboration community of organisations and stakeholders that each represent knowledge hubs in their regional environments. The consortium has decided to further engage in this community at least by yearly meetings at international events. In addition, it is planned to jointly organise internationalisation activities following the successful example of the SOLARROK PV Tour d’Europe.

Wider societal implications
The SOLARROK project has facilitated and encouraged patterns of collaboration between European regional PV clusters. These patterns include the automatic exchange of information, which allows for the emergence of fields of cooperation. The establishment of an interregional dialogue has enabled the discovery of common issues for which a joint response is appropriated. In three years, SOLARROK has evolved into a network of clusters which will continue to growth and develop to become a Meta cluster. Finally, SOLARROK has proved its added value as a driver for inter-clustering and as a network facilitator between triple helix actors on European and International markets.

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