A4M - Opinion Paper on Governance and Strategic programming of Materials Research and Innovation in Horizon Europe

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1.    Motivation – setting the stage (“WHO” and “WHY?”)

The Alliance for Materials (A4M) started almost ten years ago to align the voices of major Materials-related organisations representing Industry, Research and Academia (EUMAT; SUSCHEM, MANUFUTURE, EMIRI, FEMS, EMRS, ETP-SMR, ESTEP, Textile-ETP and NANOFUTURE)1. These organisations also collaborated in MATVAL and MATCH EU Projects, supporting EU Commission in Materials Research, Development and Innovation (R&D&I)  Governance.2a,b

Strategic planning is a facilitator and tool to boost innovation, which is more than technology. As pointed out by the Lamy report2c, to overcome future challenges, in particular to modernize EU industry, EU innovation policy must be based on a definition of innovation that acknowledges and values all forms of new knowledge – technological but also business models, financing, governance, regulatory and social – which help generate value for the economy and society and drive systemic transformation. With the basic framework and strategic planning of Horizon Europe (HEU) reaching the decisive phase within the Commission, it is now the right time to share input and opinions from the materials-related stakeholders with the Commission. In the meantime, the need to enhance the involvement of additional materials-related teams (EIT Raw Materials, European Aluminium, ECTP, CFPC, ECP4, EMMC, EMCC, EPPN, ETPN, EDA, CLEPA, KMM-VIN, RISK)1 became apparent to assure the representation of the complete materials community. These stakeholders will be able to provide solutions for the needs of materials in the expected challenges and missions of the future.

It is widely agreed that materials are a key part of the basis of almost every innovation, and raw materials, materials and processes research, to convert material innovations into products is needed (and addressed) in nearly every Horizon Europe Cluster, Mission or Partnership activity. In fact, advanced materials and their manufacturing and processing are the most typical and explicit example for cross-silos, cross-research areas, cross-clustered R&D&I. Therefore, while preserving the needs and peculiarities of the different sectors, we recommend a problem solving, impact and system-oriented Materials research approach in HEU.

Advanced materials will be key enablers to reach policy objectives for sustainable growth, using environmental friendly materials, facilitating the transition to low carbon footprints and the circular economy. A proper strategy should minimize “raw materials dependence” from outside Europe whilepromoting recycling and re-use. Quality benchmarking and fragmented regulation should be properly addressed to stimulate innovation and progress, in nano, bio, secondary (recycled) and high performance materials.

Developing materials and products for durability, energy efficiency and circularity shall be a key objective, integrating and optimizing material developments into the full product value chain with a life cycle perspective, is essential.  Here, we should adopt a new model to boost disruptive evolutionary development, targeting the clear needs of end users and market. Therefore, the mission to shape the future must clearly have as a key priority -materials that are fit-for-purpose and provide improved quality of life for EU citizens. The impact of materials R&D&I along the value chains can be huge! 

A4M recognises that the synergies between different application areas of materials, the avoidance of double funding, the fundamental materials R&D serving all stakeholders, as well as the balanced funding of cross-cutting challenges, relevant to the whole materials community, requires special (infra-) structures and responsibilities. In one word: a governance structure for materials R&D&I.


2.    Proposals for Materials Governance in Horizon Europe (“HOW?”)  

  • A4M already supports a strong, high-quality, comprehensive materials governance in Horizon Europe.
  • The preferred option would be an “entry-point” for materials-related R&D&I challenges, inquiries, proposals, projects directly linked to more than a single specific sector. This should provide an up-to-date and complete overview of any Materials related activities serving multi-sectors as well as linking basic material research in Pillar I, with applied material research in Pillar II.
  • A4M welcomes the setting-up of the new EU Commission Unit (F4) within PROSPERITY, i.e. Materials for Tomorrow, and hopes that this Unit would act as the entry point.
  • However, as materials research is an important building block in the success of many different clusters, missions and partnerships, the entry point should also assure proper Materials governance “beyond PROSPERITY”. A4M advocates for a sort of commission-wide on-line information hub where ALL materials-related programmes and projects would be registered, so that information is efficiently disseminated to interested stakeholders and broadly used, where it best fits.
  • Strong materials governance also means supporting the EU Commission in setting new or adapted rules, tools and data bases for the monitoring, sharing and transmission of materials data, project results, and research findings from one thematic area to another, across clusters and missions. It implies not only the possibility to flag (identification and tracking) the different materials activities along the HEU, but also to create a real Open Science approach within the different scientific and technological groups/consortia, active in the programme. Only through an effective on line sharing of knowledge, the progress and results from projects, will it be possible to create cross-cutting benefits, synergies and optimal use of resources, reducing the time to market. For example, we can re-direct the field of material application of an idea/product/system, thereby reducing exploitation cost.
  • A4M has a vast materials and market experience available through its member organisations, and thus offers to act a materials reference partner to the Commission. A4M welcomes the possibility to take an active role in the upcoming Strategic Programming exercise, supporting the Commission in setting up and carrying out Materials Governance and Co-creation in Horizon Europe.


3.    Co-creation: systemic approach towards sustainable society, including the citizens (“WITH WHOM?”)

Co-creation means the “involvement of all parties”, reinforcing synergies with other key-stakeholders such as Pilot Project Partnerships like SPIRE2d or Factory of the Future2e. A material value chain approach combines "Design, raw materials processing, materials transformation and products manufacturing, their use and recycling" considering both economic and environmental aspects.  We should promote sustainable sourcing and value chain from and in Europe, protecting knowledge and exploitation in Europe. We should better integrate materials research within the industrial policy and economic market instruments to reach a coherent and stronger European position globally. We should also promote gender equality, diversity, and involvement of the citizens (beyond “just stakeholders and customers or end users”) in research policy, setting and programming priorities definition. This goes far beyond good information and communication actions. Co-creation considers the (societal) needs of the different population groups outside the high-tech community (e.g. groups that don´t easily embrace digital technology, the aging population, children with migration backgrounds, etc..). Their experience, skills and ideas must not be lost.

Co-creation needs robust communication about technology research value and its impact on citizens and it is not new to the A4M community. Among these initiatives:  a) the plastics industries have widely looked for citizen-oriented problem solutions; b) the KIC EIT Raw Materials works with schools, museums, entrepreneurs, consumer advocates, citizens, policy makers and regulators, promoting creative industries generation based on youth ambitions; c) FEMS is organizing workshops, addressing “materials for solutions of societal problems”  targeting different age and experienced groups2a-b; d) EMRS is promoting functional materials to decrease systems complexity; e) EuMaT is establishing the use of Social Media to capture a broad spectrum of opinions on materials trends; f) ESTEP is promoting “prizes” winning and is currently involved in the ESSA Project on Skills Agenda and Strategy;2f g) The ETP Nanomedicine (ETPN) boosts industrial development of efficient and safe medical applications of nanomaterials; h) the NOBEL Project raises awareness, promoting dialogue for emerging medical technologies to provide smarter healthcare solutions for citizens, by combining biomaterials, medical devices and artificial intelligence along the continuum of care2g; i) ECTP is addressing material's use for health, safety and social comfort in the built environment, j) ETP SMR is part of the European Minerals Day initiative that invites children and the public at large to discover the minerals sector's importance to society through open days at industry sites. In general, the wide range of active A4M partners and beneficiaries covers already a sizeable part of society.

A genuine co-creation approach must contain a well-managed feedback loop, where citizens can engage in a multilateral dialogue enabling their voices to be considered, in the definition of priorities and in addressing long-term effects of technological changes. A4M intends to work with a multi-actor engagement process making use of innovative tools as the one developed in the SwafS Project2h on Responsible Research & Innovation to bring together technological, social and human sciences, for early involvement of the citizens in policy decisions; A4M welcomes the opportunity to run one or several pilot projects in H2020 and Horizon Europe supporting the Commission in a technology-societal Co-creation process.


4.    Relevant Examples (“WHAT?”)

Materials R&D&I typically addresses cross-sectorial issues. A first collection of Materials Challenges addressing Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) with explicit communalities and with technology convergence are defined in the following table:


5. Implementation (“NEXT?”)

  • As agreed in the meeting on 29th January, EUMAT, The European Platform for Advanced Engineering Materials and Technologies, will serve and act as secretary of A4M.
  • A4M invites the EU Commission to strongly consider the possibility to support the implementation of the afore-mentioned A4M activities by launching a Coordination Support Action (CSA) type initiative on this theme.




  1. - a) EUMAT (European Technology Platform for Advanced Engineering Materials and Technologies), www.eumat.eu) , b) SUSCHEM (European Technology Platform for Sustainable Chemistry, www.suschem.org), c) MANUFUTURE (European Technology Platform in Manufacturing, www.manufuture.org; d) EMIRI, Energy Materials Industrial Research Initiative (www.emiri.eu), e) FEMS (Federation of European Material Societies), www.fems.org  , f) EMRS (European Materials Research Societies), www.european-mrs.com; g) ETP SMR (European Technology Platform in Sustainable Mineral resources), www.etpsmr.org ; h) ESTEP (European Steel Technology Platform), www.step.eu; i) Textile ETP (European Technology Platform for the Future of Textiles and Clothing); www.textile-platform.eu) j) NANOFUTURE  (European initiative for sustainable development by Nanotechnologies), www.nanofutures.eu , k) EIT Raw Materials, www.eitrawmaterials.eu/; l) EAA (European Aluminium), www.european-aluminium.eu; m) ECTP (European Construction Technology Platform, www.ectp.org; n) CFPC (Carbon Fibres & Advanced High Performance Composites Cluster) www.technologycluster.eu, o) ECP4 (European Composites plastics and polymers platform), www.ecp4.eu ; p) EMMC, (European Materials Modelling Council), www.emmc.info ; q) EMCC (European Materials Characterization Council), www.characterisation.eu , r) EPPN (European Network for Pilot Production), www.eppnetwork.com, s) ETPN (Nanomedicine European Technology Platform), www.etp-nanomedicine.eu , t) European Defence Agency, Materials CAPTECH, www.eda.europa.eu; u) CLEPA (European Association of Automotive Suppliers), www.clepa.eu, v) KMM-Vin (Knowledge based multifunctional materials), www.kmm-vin.eu. x) The European Virtual Institute for Integrated Risk Management,  https://www.eu-vri.eu/
  2. - a) www.match-a4m.eu, b)  http://www.matsearch.ch/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/2019-Towards-a-System-Approach-for-Materials-Research-Development-and-Innovation-for-Europe-.pdf; c) LAB – FAB – APP — Investing in the European future we want, Report of the independent High Level Group on maximising the impact of EU Research & Innovation Programmes, European Commission 2017, d) https://www.spire2030.eu/; e) http://ec.europa.eu/research/industrial_technologies/factories-of-the-future_en.html; f) ESSA project, “Blueprint New Skills Agenda Steel”: Industry-driven sustainable European Steel Skills Agenda and Strategy”, g) http://www.nobel-project.eu; h) H2020 SwafS-10-2018 “Analysing gender gaps and biases in the allocation of grants”.
  3. - a) https://www.energy.gov/eere/vehicles/lightweight-materials-cars-and-trucks, b) CESA Company, Spain
  4. - a) K. Holmberg, A. Erdermir, “Influence of tribology on global energy consumption, costs and Emissions”, Friction 5 (3): 263–284 (2017); https://doi.org/10.1007/s40544-017-0183-5. b) A. Igartua, R. Bayon, A. Aranzabe, J. Laucirica, “Tribology, the tool to design materials for energy efficient and durable products & process”, IntechOpen, in press 2019.
  5. - a) https://inspectioneering.com/news/2016-03-08/5202/nace-study-estimates-global-cost-of-corrosion-at-25-trillion-ann; b) http://corrosion.org/
  6. - https://www.spire2030.eu/spire/the-association
  7. - a) https://ec.europa.eu/food/safety/food_waste_en; b) https://wholefoodsmagazine.com/news/green-news/report-40-food-produced-america-goes-waste; c) Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC), http://www.fao.org/3/a-i2697e.pdf ;  d) Biosmart Project, http://biosmart-project.eu ; d) https://ec.europa.eu/food/safety/food_waste/eu_actions_en
  8. - a) Plastic Strategic Research Agenda in a Circular Economy 2019. https://www.plasticseurope.org/application/files/6315/4510/9658/Plastics_the_facts_2018_AF_web.pdf;  b) https://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/health/case_studies/plastics.html
  9. - a) http://en.misis.ru/university/news/science/2018-09/5582/. b) https://www.disabled-world.com/assistivedevices/prostheses/prosthetics-costs.php
  10. - a)  http://www.oecd.org/els/health-systems/Health-at-a-Glance-Europe-2016-CHARTSET.pdf . b) GLOBOCAN 2018 https://gco.iarc.fr/.
  11. - a) https://ec.europa.eu/programmes/horizon2020/en/area/raw-materials; b) The circular economy - a powerful force for climate mitigation, Material Economics, 2018.
  12. - a) http://www.ren21.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/17-8652_GSR2018_FullReport_web_final_.pdf. b) http://emiri.eu/news_and_documents; c) https://www.dropbox.com/s/p3d7e7zmfz25mnl/considered%20view%20of%20E-MRS...
  13. - a) K. Holmberg, A. Erdermir, The Impact of Tribology on Energy Use and CO2 Emission globally and in Combustion Engine and Electric Cars, Tribology International, in press 2019; b) https://www.european-mrs.com/latest-news-publication/6th-world-materials-summit-outcome. c) http://www.ren21.net/.
  14. - a) Materials and Sustainability, ECTP Committee, 2021-2027 Position Paper. http://materials.ectp.org/fileadmin/user_upload/documents/M_S/M_S_Committee_Position_Paper_short_v2018-28-06.pdf; b) https://www.siemens.com/press/en/pressrelease/?press=/en/pressrelease/20...
  15. - a) http://www.cecimo.eu/site/fileadmin/Additive_manufacturing/AM_European_Strategy_2017_LQ.pdf; b) http://supplychaininsightsglobalsummit.com/impact-of-additive-manufacturing/ d) New EUMAT working group www.eumat.org.
  16. - a) https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/operations/our-insights/digital-manufacturing-the-revolution-will-be-virtualized, b)Big data challenges in Additive Manufacturing. www.bdva.eu, 2018.
  17. - a) https://cloudblogs.microsoft.com/quantum/2018/10/09/accelerating-quantum-materials-research-with-microsofts-new-copenhagen-lab/ b) https://ec.europa.eu/digital-single-market/en/news/european-commission-will-launch-eu1-billion-quantum-technologies-flagship, c) New EUMAT working group www.eumat.org.