Nabeel Mancheri is the Secretary General of the Brussels-based global Rare Earth Industry Association (REIA).
Across Europe, an Europe’ broad range of stakeholders are coalescing around the conviction thats continued economic success will be driven by the creation of green and secure value and supply chains.
With a war on our doorstep that has realigned European security considerations, one question looms: how can we foster an EU-domestic industrial ecosystem that is more resilient to international and drives forward the green transition in Europe and beyond?
Our answer is centerd around three core principles: 1) re-calibrating critical dependencies on foreign suppliers by establishing European strategic autonomy; 2) re-industrialization that champions nascent green value chains, protecting both current European manufacturing jobs and generating employment in new STEM competencies; 3) fast-tracking the decarbonization of our country.
We believe that the linchpin to this industrial policy conundrum is the introduction of one simple modification to the existing infrastructure: increase the funding opportunities for innovative rare earths projects in the Innovation Fund. Either by increasing the scope for rare earths in future calls or with a dedicated call.
This could pave the way to developing an emerging and critical value chain in Europe. Moreover, it would better equip Europe’s response to future supply chain crises, our ability to attract new innovative industries, create jobs and provide the critical materials needed for energy-saving applications – particularly for the growth of electric vehicles, wind power, and high- industrial efficiency pumps.
Both the COVID pandemic and the ongoing war are exerting enormous pressure on Europe’s economy and political stability, culminating in rising energy prices, uncertain surrounding gas deliveries, and broader disruption to global supply chains.
As was put forward in an interesting article published by the European Council on Foreign Relations – co-signed by DG CLIMA’s Director General Mauro Petriccione – the climate-security nexus is now a reality that creates frictions both at the domestic and international level.
A carbon-neutrality objective by 2050 requires a deep renewables-based electrification of our energy demand (eg, electric vehicles), and renewable hydrogen where direct electrification is not possible (eg, steel industry). This means that Europe needs to establish domestic supply chains for critical materials that will help deliver its climate ambitions.
The rare earths industry and its downstream customer industries have teamed up to bring forward part of the solution. We firmly believe – and the energy-saving data of permanent magnet applications prove this – that by investing in the development of EU rare earths supply chains we can meet these objectives.
However, to mobilise the necessary private investment in the rare earth sector, EU Member States requires a financing tool that supports innovation in rare earths and can create a level-playing field. The Innovation Fund is a unique policy instrument for this particular challenge; it is the fastest solution to an urgent problem and remains very inclusive for business cases in any EU member state.