The consequences of climate change, which are becoming more and more clearly noticeable, and the diminishing stocks of fossil fuels have brought about a rethink on energy matters in Europe. But to push ahead with the aimed-for energy turnaround requires innovative energy technologies and strategies, new utilisation concepts, political will, a well-functioning market and, not least, a large portion of entrepreneurial spirit at all levels. To promote this entrepreneurial approach to sustainable energy, to combine and expand the available know-how at a pan-European level and to consciously optimise knowledge flows in places where they create jobs and economic growth in harmony with nature – these are the objectives of the planned European cluster “Energy KIC”, for which TU Graz is applying as an Austrian location with the support of both the federal government and the state of Styria.
“I support the application of Graz University of Technology for the Energy KIC to the best of my endeavours. Efforts in this direction sharpen the profile of the university and strengthen Styria as a centre of science and research. Initiatives such as this one provide the foundations for Austria to take up a strong position in the European research community", explains Johannes Hahn, Federal Minister of Science and Research.
“By applying for a European knowledge and information cluster in the field of sustainable energies, Graz University of Technology wants to combine international know-how, stimulate innovation and arouse entrepreneurial spirit in this commercial and scientific branch of the future”, explains Hans Sünkel, Rector of Graz University of Technology. If Graz University of Technology is given the green light by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), the initiative will start work as early as the beginning of 2010. This large-scale project which is meant to link up European universities, research establishments, political decision-makers and citizens in a sustainable energy society to a powerful innovation cluster should run for 15 years.
Co-operation as a factor of success
The core element of the Graz concept is the close co-operation between science and business. “Graz University of Technology can fall back on a broad knowledge basis in the field of renewable energy, excellent contacts with business and a range of successful spin-offs“, explains Brigitte Hasewend, head of the administrative unit International and Strategic Partnerships at TU Graz and initiator and moving force behind the Energy-KIC application for “eCANDO.” “We have been successfully co-operating for many years with national and international research and business partners and are stakeholders in several energy-relevant competence centres. The European Energy Centre would be set up as an independent establishment in the form of a GmbH (PLC) with head office in Graz and branches in Hamburg, Twente and Trento. “The predominant task of eCANDO should be to combine European research in the area of sustainable energy supply and to make the results coming from this available as a path to energy innovations for a broad range of establishments, companies, regions and creative heads and to make their implementations easier”, emphasises Hasewend.
Apart from the relevant Austrian research institutions and some 30 renowned companies, including regional small and medium-sized firms, Graz University of Technology was also able to win over top-class international partners from a variety of regions in Europe for the large-scale project as co-ordinator. These include Fondazione Bruno Kessler (FBK), the University of Trento in Italy, the University of Twente in the Netherlands and TU Hamburg-Harburg (TUHH) in Germany. Four locations should be run by these strategic partners, all of which will be managed together in a holding with the Graz location. Two further sites are being planned in Southwest and Eastern Europe in the coming years. Furthermore, under the auspices of Graz University of Technology, 100 organisations from 30 countries have recently joined together in the “European Sustainable Energy Innovation Alliance” (ESEIA).
Comprehensive range of research and training
With respect to content, each site will concentrate on a special energy topic, so that all the important aspects of future energy production, supply and policy will be covered. For instance, TU Hamburg-Harburg will be dedicated to sustainable energy technologies, the University of Twente will concentrate on the policy dimensions of the energy turnaround, and FBK will bring its IT know-how in the field of sustainable energy systems to bear. Since Graz University of Technology does not only have the best prerequisites for the co-ordination of the energy cluster, but also carries out top-quality research itself, it will supervise the fourth main focus of “Energy-efficient towns, industries and regions” in close co-operation with its Austrian partners. An excellent cross-topic training and further education programme will also be initiated, aimed at both basic-research oriented researchers and application-oriented developers in business, and which will define a Europe-wide educational standard in the form of joint EIT-degrees.
Know-how from many minds
“Individual institutions, companies and towns will profit in concrete terms from this initiative since they’ll find not only highly qualified employees for a broad variety of tasks in the field of energy but also suitable commercial or research partners at a local or global level”, explains Brigitte Hasewend. “Moreover, through the interdisciplinary collaboration of many research establishments, integrated one-stop solutions can also be provided for complex problems in the field of sustainable energies. And last but not least, large-scale international innovation initiatives in the form of an energy KIC bring together the creative potential and available expertise of a large number of different partners – a central prerequisite for actually implementing the European energy turnaround and for meeting its challenges in a profitable way.”
Whether Graz University of Technology will win, will be decided on 17 December 2009, but the course has been carefully set with two years of preparation.
Photographic material available free of charge when naming the sources:
Mag. Brigitte Hasewend
Head of the administrative unit International and Strategic Partnerships
Tel.: +43 (0) 316 873 - 5280
Mobile: +43 (0) 664 60 873 5280