EU to invest €65 million to scale up innovative clean tech projects

Alina Oprea
The Commission has selected 17 small-scale innovative clean tech projects to receive over €65 million in project support under the EU Innovation Fund. These funds will help companies in Europe, including small businesses, to bring breakthrough technologies to the market in energy-intensive industries, renewable energy, and energy storage. The selected projects cover a wide range of sectors, with a particular focus on manufacturing components for renewable energy and glass, ceramics, and construction materials.

There are also projects in the area of energy storage, solar energy, renewables, iron and steel, refineries, chemicals, cement and lime, and hydrogen.

The selected projects are expected to avoid over 1.8 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions within the first ten years of their operations, contributing to Europe's decarbonization and clean energy transition. With these new projects, the Innovation Fund expands its geographical reach to cover projects in a total of 24 countries, with Latvian and Hungarian projects receiving support for the first time.

The chosen projects are:

Energy-intensive industries: 8 projects receiving €32.6 million from the Innovation Fund

  • 3 projects on glass, ceramics, and construction materials in Italy;
  • 1 project in the refinery sector and 1 in cement and lime, both in Spain;
  • 1 hydrogen project in Croatia;
  • 1 project on iron and steel and 1 in the chemical sector, both in Italy.

Energy storage: 2 projects receiving €8.4 million from the Innovation Fund

  • 1 in France for a multi-energy smart grid and 1 in Denmark for thermal energy storage.

Renewable energy: 7 projects receiving €24.4 million from the Innovation Fund

  • 3 projects on manufacturing of components for renewables production in France, Hungary and Latvia;
  • 2 solar energy projects in France and Greece;
  • 2 projects on the use of renewable energy for the maritime and flexo printing industry – one in the Netherlands and a second one in multiple locations: Sweden, Finland, and Norway.

Each of the 17 projects will receive Innovation Fund grants ranging from €1.6 to €4.5 million, funded through revenues generated by the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS). The exact grant amounts will be known once the grant agreement preparation process is completed.

One-third of the beneficiaries are small and medium-sized companies. In addition to the 17 selected projects, 4 other promising projects are being considered for project development assistance by the European Investment Bank, which can provide tailor-made support and help them to reach financial close and enter into operation.

”On our path to climate neutrality, we must make the most of the EU's investment firepower. The Innovation Fund is an important instrument available to support our industry in the transition, which can also help leverage much-needed private investment. By funding clean-tech projects, we are both reducing our emissions and contributing to our competitiveness on the global stage”, says Executive Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič.

In total, 72 proposals were submitted for the call, 48 of which were found eligible and admissible. The eligible projects were subject to further evaluation by independent experts against the Innovation Fund's five criteria: degree of innovation, potential for greenhouse gas avoidance, project maturity, scalability, and cost efficiency.

With an estimated revenue of €40 billion from the EU Emissions Trading System between 2020 and 2030, the Innovation Fund aims to create financial incentives for companies and public authorities to invest in cutting-edge low-carbon and net zero technologies and support Europe's transition to climate neutrality.

The Innovation Fund has already awarded about €6.5 billion to more than 100 innovative projects through its previous calls for proposals.

”The Innovation Fund is one of the world's largest funding programs for the deployment of innovative clean tech, and we are proud to fund another 17 projects across Europe today. I am particularly pleased that we can help small businesses in Europe to benefit from the green transition. Though small in scale, these projects and companies have great potential. We will keep investing in Europe's green future and helping to bring breakthrough innovations to our economy”, says Wopke Hoekstra, Commissioner for Climate Action.

Projects under this third small-scale call will now start preparing their grant agreements with the European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency (CINEA), the implementing agency of the Fund. These are expected to be finalized in the second quarter of 2024, allowing the Commission to adopt the corresponding grant award decision and start distributing the grants. This was the last call for small-scale proposals defined as projects with total investment costs of up to €7.5 million.

On 23 November 2023, the Commission launched two new calls for projects. The first pilot auction under the European Hydrogen Bank, with a €800 million budget available for project developers in the EEA, and another call with a €4 billion budget available for net zero technologies in various sectors. This new call includes small-scale projects, but these are now defined as having total investment costs below €20 million.