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Raw materials: searching for lost resilience

raw materials
Marian Pereira

Marian Pereira

Senior Consultant

In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and the war against Ukraine, it is no longer surprising how important supply issues in general (electricity, gas, food) and raw materials have become. But what do we call raw materials? Or rather, what does the EU call raw materials?

Raw materials are materials or substances used in the primary production or manufacture of goods. As such, it encompasses a wide range of materials, although the EIT Raw Materials specifically refers to minerals, metals and advanced materials. The EU defines and reviews a list of Critical Raw Materials (CRM), which are those elements that combine a high importance for the European economy and a considerable risk in their supply. As a curious fact, we Spaniards can be proud to control the world’s strontium deposits. We will not be short of nuclear clocks (I am sure you have wondered what they are used for… at least I have), but I am afraid we contribute little more to this list of CRMs.

The raw materials opportunity

In general, Europe is a region with a limited supply of raw materials, especially mineral raw materials, due to the low number of active mines on European territory. If up to now it has been possible to guarantee the supply of limiting elements thanks to trade relations and agreements with third parties (imports), this can change when geopolitical instabilities are triggered, as is currently happening.

It has always been said that crises are moments of opportunity, and the ideal is to generate opportunities to change for the better. One of the problems that must be minimised is dependence on these imports of raw materials. We must focus on technological advances and R&D to make resources workable that were not practical before or were not available or were not profitable. This would be the case of projects to revalorise materials from old waste sources, whether from mining, industry or after the processing of urban waste.

Another example is the application of recent technologies that make it possible to reopen closed mines or to treat complex materials previously not taken up by treatment and refining processes. All this from a ‘circular’ point of view in which the entire life cycle of materials and products is considered, to avoid negative impacts of the industry, to promote more efficient and environmentally friendly processes, so that they can be sustainable in the long term.

560 million euros for the next two years

Europe therefore clearly and urgently supports new R&D and innovation projects in the raw materials sector. Raw Materials is a priority included in Horizon Europe‘s Cluster 4 (not yet final drafts), for R&D and innovation projects. Specifically, destination 2: Increased Autonomy in Key Strategic Value Chains for Resilient Industry, with a budget of around 560 million euros for 2023 and 2024 for resilient value chain calls alone.

It is a call for projects that support greater autonomy, and a transition to a carbon neutral and circular economy. On the other hand, the EIT Raw Materials supports industrial projects at pilot scale as well as training and educational projects with annual calls, including outreach programmes and career development in the sector. Apart from these specific lines, any project for the recovery or revalorisation of materials could be included in the LIFE Programme, if it has a significant positive impact on the environment.

Raw Materials Week

Finally, the 7th edition of the Raw Material Week is taking place from 14 to 18 November. It is a Europe-wide event which is expected to bring together a wide range of stakeholders to discuss policies and initiatives in the field of raw materials.

So, it seems that we are living in a time of opportunities (let’s be positive and not focus on the crisis for a moment), to build a better, more autonomous, flexible, resilient and sustainable industry and society.

With all this in mind, let’s try not to feel alienated from these ‘raw materials’ that we need in our daily lives, whether we want to or not, and see how we can contribute to this product value chain: reduce consumption, recycle or define a new process to revalue metals. Innovative ideas are welcome, so keep an eye out for upcoming publications on calls for funding.


Expert person

Marian Pereira
Marian Pereira

Seville Office

Senior Consultant

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