Annual Event 2012

Effective Resource Technologies - The European Way

The lack of a secure supply of non-energetic raw materials is a threat to a number of industrial sectors in Europe. These raw materials are thus vital for the EU‘s economy and crucial for the development of sustainable technologies. Yet, within the EU, exploration and extraction face increased competition with different forms of land use and a highly regulated environment. Drawing on the EU strategies on raw materials, our Round Table discussed solutions to these challenges. It will also presented examples of how Helmholtz scientists, in collaboration with international partners, are working to provide new solutions through innovative research and industrial applications. Whatever path we follow – new extraction, recycling or substitution – the key to the solution will always require intense research and technological development.


Invitation: "Effective Resource Technologies"

Topic Raw Materials During "Round Table" in Brussels

On 19 March 2012, the Helmholtz Office Brussels hosted a round table on the topic of "Effective Resource Technologies – The European Way" by way of contributing to the raw materials debates taking place on a European level. Some 150 guests from the world of politics, science and business exchanged their views regarding the possibilities offered by research. Raw materials, such as copper, gallium and rare earths, are indispensable in the manufacture of, for instance, photovoltaic facilities, electric cars or in the field of information technologies. To avoid shortages, substitution, recycling and the utilisation of modern and efficient mining technologies present promising strategies. Amongst other institutions within the Helmholtz Association, the Helmholtz Centre Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) with the Helmholtz Institute Freiberg (HIF) for Resource Technologie and the GEOMAR deal with this range of topics.

The Bavarian Minister of Science, Research and the Arts, Dr Wolfgang Heubisch, opened the evening event in his capacity as representative of the Free State of Bavaria to the European Union. He said that because of its limited natural resources as regards raw materials, Bavaria placed emphasis on research and technology development as well as on a high degree of international networking. The President of the Helmholtz Association, Prof. Dr Jürgen Mlynek, declared that Helmholtz was a forerunner with its main areas of research. Yet in addition to national research programmes, joint and coordinated EU activities were indispensable in developing a strategy for the whole of Europe.

In their capacity as representatives of the EU Commission, Gwenole Cozigou (Enterprise and Industry Directorate-General) and Dr Rudolf Strohmeier (Research and Innovation Directorate-General) explained the EU Commission's approach. Recycling was a key element here, they said. Strohmeier mentioned also the budget allocation in the next framework programme for research. Prof. Dr Roland Sauerbrey, Director of the HZDR, made it clear that current mining technologies were inefficient and that the European mining industry thus suffered from considerable competitive disadvantages. At the same time, he presented the HZDR's current approaches to research, for instance, research on bacteria and proteins that can separate rare earths from other metals.

Panel discussion: impressions - (c) Helmholtz Association / photographer: Vivian Hertz

In the course of the subsequent panel discussion, Dr Patrice Christmann, Prof. Dr Jens Gutzmer (HIF), Dr Marion Jegen-Kulcsar (Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel - GEOMAR), Henryk Karas (Corporate Advisor at the mining enterprise KGHM, Poland, and Chairman of the European Technology Platform on Sustainable Mineral Resources), Wilfried Kraus (Undersecretary at the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research) and Jürgen Mlynek discussed opportunities and risks of marine mining, the problem of a lack of acceptance of mining and the simultaneously strong demand for raw materials, the economic and ecological consequences of outdated mining technologies and the need for European approaches to research. The panel agreed that tackling these challenges required not only funds and a realistic evaluation of European resources of raw materials, but also training young scientists for the future.

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