Speech by Bertholt Leeftink at the ECCM Conference, 29 June 2018
As Director-General for Enterprise and Innovation at the Ministry of Economic Affairs (and Climate Policy), one of my most important motto’s has been the following:
“A global challenge is a global economic opportunity.”
You are experts on electrochemical conversion and the energy carriers of the future and of high-tech for system integration and technology development. Your expertise is key in tackling what is the most global challenge of them all: climate change and energy transition.
The transition to a CO2-neutral economy requires sizeable investments in new technologies and requires an integral approach including socio-economic innovation. However, your knowledge of ECCM and a strong innovation ecosystem will allow a sustainable industry in the Netherlands, which will be able to connect to that of other countries, so that in the end the whole world will be able to benefit from ECCM.
That is also the core of what the coalition agreement says about our economy: we have a giant challenge ahead of us when it comes to tackling climate change. But the Netherlands has the knowhow to do so. According to the government, sustainability is not just necessity – it’s an opportunity.
Especially when I speak in front of these people here.
As Richard just said, last September, I was one of the people who
received the report on the future of ECCM, with a number of
recommendations in it. If, as a country, we want to make the most of our
ECCM expertise, the report said we have to pay attention to the
- Research and Development;
- And, Rules and regulations.
I think that the single most important thought underlying these recommendations is: ECCM should form a community. A community 1) with roots in education and R&D; 2) with an effective governance to develop and expand; 3) and with the government as a strong partner.
Now, less than a year later, I am pleased to see, and pleased to say, that ECCM has made significant progress. A community is indeed starting to form. In fact, that is the most important reason we are here today.
The importance of this community cannot be stressed enough: electrochemical conversion touches upon a great deal of fields – three top sectors to begin with: energy, chemistry and high tech systems and materials. In terms of the current negotiations on the new climate agreement, ECCM has its place on two of the five ‘tables’: electricity and industry – and is relevant for two other tables: mobility and also agriculture. In addition, ECCM is not just about developing technology – it is also about integrating ECCM in a larger system. In industry, in our economy, and in society.
It’s good to see that the ECCM community is taking root in education and R&D. As part of the top sector policy, this autumn, NWO will launch 7 million euro call for associate professor positions for strengthening the knowledge base in the ECCM domain – in collaboration with AkzoNobel, Shell and TataSteel. Furthermore, ECCM pilot test facilities are under development by ISPT and TNO, including support from the Climate Envelope, to support technology development of water electrolysis. Also, the ECCM committee is promoting the formation of a broad consortium to compete in the top sector crossover call which will be launched by NWO in July. All these examples are linked to each other, as for instance the research positions resulting from the NWO call will be inspired by research questions coming from the test facilities.
In addition, the governance is being professionalized as the three top sectors just mentioned work together in the ECCM-committee. A good governance will help ECCM to develop knowledge and technology, to integrate new technologies into economy and society, and to export that knowledge and products to other countries. For that, it is important that we know how we compare to countries around us, what we can learn from them, to identify what should be the focus of the Netherlands in an international context, and to identify opportunities to work together – after all, the challenges addressed by ECCM require strong international collaboration. That’s why I am happy we have colleagues from Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Austria and the United States here today.
As far as rules and regulations go: this has been and will be an important point of interest. It will be decided first and foremost in the negotiations on the Climate agreement.
What is certain is that the Dutch government is a partner in the ECCM community. In fact, ECCM is a prime example of what the government has in mind for the top sector policy in general. That is: innovation programs focusing on societal missions, in cross-sectoral cooperation, along the whole innovation chain. And with long-term commitment from all parties involved.
Ladies and gentlemen,
What you are building is impressive and promising. I hope today, you will continue taking steps to create an ECCM community that is ready for the global challenge I mentioned before. Know that the government is your partner in making sustainability an opportunity.