Highlights in 2020
Highlights in 2020

High impact innovation activity triggered by MI

Mission Innovation has:

  • strengthened the development of collaboration activities among international public research centers;
  • facilitated the interaction among the National Research Centers involved in the development of cleantech technologies;
  • favoured the synergy among the various Ministries involved in the research activities’ support;
  • given substance and resources to the Italian R&I activities planned under the 5th Dimension (R&I&C) of the National Plan for Energy and Climate (NPEC), together with the participation in the EU – Strategic Energy Technology – SET Plan in the frame of the European New Green Deal which foresees a strong effort on clean energy innovation activities;
  • focused the attention of major stakeholders in Italy on the opportunities that smart grids, advanced materials and hydrogen can offer in the decarbonisation perspective. To this end the Ministry of Economic Development has launched a collaboration agreement with the main public research organisations to actively participate in the activities carried out in the context of the ICs. These activities will be also open to industries involved in the related value chains to ensure a correct finalization of the results.

Update on clean energy innovation policies and strategies

In early 2021 the Italian Government published its “Long-term strategy with low greenhouse gas emissions” to 2050 as part of the commitments of the Paris Agreement on climate change which invites signatory countries to communicate their strategies by 2020. The national long-term strategy identifies the possible paths to reach, in our country, by 2050, a condition of “climate neutrality”, in which the residual emissions of greenhouse gases are offset by the absorption of CO2. An objective in line with that indicated by the President of the EU Commission Ursula Von der Leyen, in her Communication on the European Green Deal, outlined a growth strategy towards “a modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy that in 2050 will not generate net greenhouse gas emissions “. The strategy starts from the Integrated National Energy and Climate Plan (PNIEC), which indicates the path up to 2030, “dragging” the consequent virtuous energy-environmental trends until 2050. The types of levers that can be activated to achieve climate neutrality by 2050 are therefore identified: a dramatic reduction in energy demand, linked in particular to a drop in consumption for private mobility and consumption in the civil sector; a radical change in the energy mix in favour of renewables (RES), combined with a deep electrification of end uses and the production of hydrogen[1].

At the end of 2020 the Italian Government launched a public consultation on the Guidelines for the National Hydrogen Strategy, developed by the Ministry of Economic Development, in order to identify the sectors in which this energy vector could become competitive in a short time but also to verify the areas of intervention that are best suited to develop and implement the use of hydrogen. The National Hydrogen Strategy will allow Italy to accelerate the achievement of the objectives set by the PNIEC, favouring the energy transition towards a green, sustainable and technologically advanced economy, which represents one of the central points of the action carried out by the Government.

Major innovation initiatives and programmes in 2020/21

At the end of 2020 the Ministry of Economic Development launched a call-for-proposals of the National Electric System Research Fund for the private sector on a co-funding basis within the end of 2020. The activities are aimed at innovating and improving the performance of the system in terms of economics, safety and the environment. The resources allocated amount to EUR 16 million. The programme’s coverage ranges from high efficiency PV to storage systems and energy efficiency in industrial processes. It is financed through a specific component of the end-user electricity tariff[2].

In early 2021 ENEA and the Ministry of Economic Development signed a collaboration agreement in order to create the first Italian Hydrogen Valley to develop a national supply chain for production, transport, storage and use of hydrogen, focusing on research, technologies, infrastructures and innovative services. The project, conceived by ENEA, kicks off with a 14 million euro investment (in the frame of the Italian additional budget for the activities of Mission Innovation) to set up the first Italian technological incubator for the development of a hydrogen supply chain, in collaboration with universities, research institutes, associations and companies, to boost the energy transition and decarbonisation[3].

Private sector engagement in 2020/21

The European Commission gave the green light to a second Important Project of Common European Interest (IPCEI) on batteries, in which Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden participate. The objective of the Project is to create a sustainable and innovative value chain that will lead Europe to produce next generation raw materials, cells, modules and battery systems and that will allow the reconversion and recycling of batteries with innovative and more efficient. Italy participates in this important project, on the initiative of the Ministry of Economic Development with 12 companies and 2 research centers, consolidating their innovative presence in the field of new generation batteries thanks to the investments planned through this large project: the provision of state aid for over 600 million euros, will produce a total investment of over 1 billion nationwide[4].

Major activities in support of the Innovation Challenges in 2020/21

IC1: in the year 2020 Italy, with the support of IC1 members, successfully finalized the Smart Grid Innovation accelerator (SGIA) platform that was then publicly released in early 2021. The news about the publication of the SGIA platform was posted on the MI website and reported on the February 2021 Mission Innovation Newsletter. Italy provided both the financial support needed for the SGIA development and selected through a national effort a large number of documents to enrich the SGIA repository.  The SGIA is a cloud-based online platform to share knowledge on smart grids and the energy sector as a whole with 1100+ key documents selected and shared by IC1 country members from the public and the private sector.

IC6: the Italian representatives in IC6 have always participated to the virtual meetings organized by the Canadian coordinator. These meetings aimed at 1) consolidating bi- and multilateral technological-scientific collaborations between the members of the IC6 with particular emphasis on the theme of waste heat harvesting; 2) defining the cross-cutting role of IC6 in the organization of the next interministerial initiative with a view to the creation of Platforms alongside the wider Missions. The Italian representatives also actively contributed to the discussion within the National Scientific Associations and the European Energy Research Alliance to facilitate the alignment of the European Community’s contribution to the organization of the next MI 2.0.

IC8: following the Mission innovation activities on Hydrogen Valleys, the Ministry of Economic Development launched at the end of 2020 a public consultation on the Guidelines for the National Hydrogen Strategy, in order to identify the sectors in which this energy vector could become competitive in a short time.

Other Mission Innovation related activity in 2020/21

Italy has participated in the second part of the MI Champions event and a young lady researcher has been nominated. It was organised in a way to allow the Champions to intervene and say a few words on their activity and how they see the future in a post-COVID world. The difficulties encountered in the communication reveal the need to reinforce the broadband connections globally. However, the great majority could express their thoughts. Italy has also had a judge (Ms. Alicia Mignone) on both Cohorts and she enjoyed very much the interesting and stimulating experience. We do think it is an excellent idea to reward the Energy Innovation capabilities and efforts of people motivated to tackle climate change and hopefully the MI Champions Initiative will be continued in the future.

Public sector RD&D investment