European Innovation Partnership on Raw materials (EIP-RM) as part of Innovation Union flagship initiative, and the Resource Efficiency Policy is the response of European authorities vis-à-vis of the society challenges triggered by the need to guarantee a sustainable supply of raw materials which will contribute to the 2020 objectives of the EU Industrial Policy to increase the share of industry on GDP by 20%. To address these challenges, apart the partnership on raw materials also the innovation and demonstration activities were boosted at EU level by means of various private and public partnerships (PPP’s) and funds. The European Commission re-opened the space for the Raw materials R&D in the EU 7th Framework Programme (FP7) on research and development under different themes, particularly “Nanosciences, Nanotechnologies, Materials and new Production Technologies” and Environment. Raw materials gained a clear position as a societal challenge in the next EU framework programme called Horizon 2020 covering not only research aspects, but also innovation. In addition, the strengthening of the coordination of various research efforts, knowledge, tools and research infrastructures to maximize impacts of the research initiatives and actions in the area of Raw materials carried out by the EU, Member States, industry and research communities for the benefit of the society are now managed with outmost priority.
Although a net importer, Europe is a major global producer of industrial minerals. Around 180 million tonnes per year of products are extracted in the EU, with an estimated contribution of €10 billion to European GDP and offering direct employment to some 42,500 people. A secure supply of sustainable mineral products is essential to maintaining the European mining, mineral and manufacturing industries, since in global terms, the EU produces one third of the world’s production of perlite, 20% of calcined kaolin and 20% of diatomite.
Major funds from the EU budget are allocated to innovation and demonstration activities within FP7 to address these society challenges along the raw material access and along the entire value chain. The main objective of the FP7 funded project STOCISM (Sustainable Technologies for Calcined Industrial Minerals in Europe) is to enhance the competitiveness of the European industrial minerals industry by developing cleaner, more energy efficient extraction and processing technologies. STOICISM is an industry-led project with a specific focus on calcined industrial minerals. Most calcining process uses the direct combustion of fossil fuels, contributing to up to 85% of their carbon emissions. To meet the overall aim, three key calcined industrial minerals have been identified: diatomaceous earth; perlite and kaolin. The processes implemented can also then be directly transferable to many other industrial minerals. Key markets for these minerals are beverage filtration, coatings, plastic, rubber, cosmetics, insulation and construction materials. STOICISM will research, develop and demonstrate a range of new innovative technologies along the industrial minerals value chain. These will include developments in extraction, beneficiation, drying, calcining and waste recycling.
STOICISM is expected to impact significantly on the sustainability of the EU’s industrial minerals industry by decreasing the resource use (both mineral deposits and energy resources) leading to the sustainable production of better and purer products with less waste and lower environmental impact.