Reversing the downward trend -- EU R&D funding

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Leading figures in Europe's wind industry have joined forces to launch a research and development (R&D) strategy to stem the decline in funding for European wind research. President of the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) Arthouros Zervos stresses that Europe's ability to maintain its global dominance of the wind turbine market depends on maintaining its R&D leadership. European wind turbine companies have a 90% world market share. The potential annual prize of the worldwide wind market is worth EUR 75 billion by 2020. There is still a need for long term R&D for wind, not least to develop new offshore technology, he says.

The R&D strategy is a child of the Wind Energy R&D Network -- a collaboration of over 200 actors from across the wind sector, including industry, financiers, insurers and the R&D community. The emphasis is firmly on long term research. Zervos points out that today most wind R&D is short term and is being carried out within companies. Compared to many other industries, where around 4% of turnover is ploughed into research, for wind the figure is broadly 2%, he says. "To maintain our competitiveness, we also need long term R&D, which should be financed by the EU and by national governments," says Zervos.

European Union R&D funding for wind energy has been dramatically reduced under the current Sixth Framework Program (FP6). Priorities in the field of sustainable energy, with its budget of EUR 405 million, are not on furthering the success of proven technologies, but on a series of emerging technologies: fuel cells, hydrogen, CO2 sequestration from fossil fuels, photovoltaics and biomass.

Release of the wind industry's strategy with its push for more funds is timed to feed into EU discussions about the areas to be funded in the next (seventh) European R&D program. The Wind Energy R&D Network's outlines nine priority areas: economic, policy and market issues; environmental and social impact; wind turbine and component design issues; testing, standardisation and certification; grid integration, energy systems and resource prediction; operation and maintenance; new potentials; offshore wind technology; megawatt and multi-megawatt wind turbines. In further reports, the priority areas will be further defined into specific programs.

At the launch of the strategy in Brussels in late January, EWEA secured the support of EU Commissioner for research, Philippe Busquin, who pointed out that in the past European support had played an important role in the progress of wind technology over the last two decades. Busquin said the strategy could influence the second call for proposals under FP6 and, more importantly, FP7.

In its first strategy report, the Wind Energy R&D Network outlines nine priority areas. In further reports, the priority goals will be translated into specific programs.

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