Driving Sustainable Innovation: Insights from the 2024 Cleantech Conference

On April 11, the European landscape for clean technology took a significant stride forward with the Cleantech Conference held in Brussels and streamed online. Under the banner of “Driving sustainable innovation”, the conference emerged as a pivotal gathering for discussing the future of cleantech manufacturing within the EU, focusing on boosting the sector’s capabilities and positioning Europe at the forefront of the green transition.  

The event was steered by Katrina Sichel and featured key insights from Maroš Šefčovič, Executive Vice-President of the European Commission. Šefčovič emphasized the centrality of the European Green Deal and the importance of sustaining the industrial base within Europe. “We need to improve our innovation in sectors such as photovoltaic and cleantech in general, not only to stay competitive but also to ensure that Europe leads in sustainable industrial innovation”, he noted. This sentiment set the tone for a day focused on strategic innovation and resilience, including advancements in recycling and the circular economy.  

Panel highlights and key discussion 

The first session explored Europe’s cleantech manufacturing’s technological challenges and investment opportunities. Barbara Thierart, President of battery Systems at Northvolt, highlighted the burgeoning demand for green batteries, expected to quintile between 2025 and 2030. Thierart underscored the necessity for innovation in battery technology to meet this demand sustainably. “We are setting new standards to enhance the circularity and recycling from the outset in everything we do, which not only improves competitiveness but also contributes to a secure supply and industrial strategy”, she explained.  

The panel moderated by Kurt Vandenbergh, General Director of DG Clima, brought together different perspectives from key stakeholders such as Kerstin Jorna, Director General of DG GROW, and François Paquet, Impact Director at the Renewable Hydrogen Coalition. They discussed how EU policy and regulations, like the Critical Raw Material Act, shape the product manufacturing landscape.  

In the afternoon session, attendees heard from project managers funded by the EU’s Innovation Fund, who presented various pathways for supporting Europe’s climate neutrality ambitions. Vaitea Cowan, Co-founder of Enapter, and Sven Lindstrom, EVP of Midsummer, shared insights into their projects, emphasizing advances in hydrogen production and solar technology, respectively. Lindstrom highlighted their project DAWN, which integrates solar panels with roofing materials, significantly reducing the carbon footprint. 

In conclusion, the 2024 Cleantech Conference has significantly reinforced the EU’s commitment to sustainable growth through cleantech innovation. It underscored the necessity of collaborative efforts to build a robust manufacturing ecosystem supporting the continent’s green ambitions. As Europe positions itself as a leader in the global green transition, the insights and outcomes of the conference are set to shape future policy, investment, and innovation strategies. The event highlighted the need for greater collaboration across governments, industries, and research institutions to speed up the development and commercialization of innovative technologies. It also emphasized the critical need for thoughtful regulations and incentives to facilitate a shift toward a greener economy. 

In conclusion, the conference illustrated that the EU is not only setting global sustainability standards but is also committed to leading the world in green innovation. The path toward sustainability is filled with challenges, but the EU is poised to lead the charge, making the Cleantech Conference a milestone in Europe’s journey toward sustainability.