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Eco-innovation: EU-funded SMEs demonstrate job creation and green growth

Investment in SMEs working in the area of environmentally innovative technologies is producing above average returns, creating valuable jobs and also alleviating environmental impacts, according to a new report. The performance of young SMEs funded over the past two years under the eco-innovation component of the EUís Competitiveness and Innovation Programme (CIP) has been analysed and shows impressive results. The investment of EU eco-innovation funds shows a 20-fold return - every euro invested has resulted in 20 euros for its beneficiaries. Furthermore each project supported has generated an additional 8 permanent full-time jobs.

European Commissioner for the Environment Janez Potočnik said: "The new study demonstrates that good business, job creation and environmental protection can go together and generate widespread benefits. This suggests that Europe has a strong niche in the green business, a niche which can promote competitive, resource-efficient and sustainable growth."

The EU's Eco-innovation funding focuses on five main sectors: material recycling; water; sustainable building products; green business; the food and drink sector (pure energy efficiency investments are not covered).

More than 240 projects funded by the eco-innovation scheme are already underway. The projects have been developed primarily by small businesses with innovative concepts needing early stage capital to realise their growth potential.

The eco-innovation projects which have received funding cover a wide range of sectors and activities from omega 3 fatty acid production from algae, to pollution-free leather production.

An analysis of the performance of the EU funded projects also reveal substantial 'green' benefits in the areas of water saving (170 million m3), equivalent to the annual water consumption of an EU city of 350.000 people. The reduced greenhouse gas emissions (11.6 mt when including CO2 emissions reduced by energy savings), equal those from the annual electricity use of 1.7m EU homes, and the 609.000 tonnes of reduced waste make up for the annual waste generation of an EU city of 125.000 people.

Converted into cash terms, the value of these environmental savings is put at more than EUR 800 million in 5 years.

In May the European Commission launched a new call to select a further 45 eco-innovation projects with novel environmental solutions who will benefit from an investment budget of EUR 31.5 million.