Key Enabling Technologies – or KETs, by the catchiest of names – are emerging technologies and processes which have been singled out on account of their game-changing potential for society and economy.

KETs are multidisciplinary and cut across many technology areas. From laser beams, waste-treating microalgae to nanotechnological inkjet processes, their industrial applications are vast and uncharted. Benefits of integration into a wide range of industrial sectors – automotive, food, chemicals, electronics, energy, pharmaceuticals, construction, telecommunications – have already been largely demonstrated. KETs make steel stronger and more durable; they make cars lighter and safer; and they make a range of other products from medicines and biofuels to mobile devices, more effective and sustainable.

KETs are knowledge-intensive and typically associated with high R&D intensity, rapid innovation cycles, high capital expenditure and high-skilled employment. As such, KETs hold great potential with regard to resource efficiency and industrial competitiveness.  For European SMEs in the manufacturing sector, global competition has made KETs an investment of particular strategical significance.

The EU has laid considerable emphasis not only on deploying KETs in research but also on commercializing research results through manufactured goods and services. This ultimately means creating synergies between researchers, developers and industries. 

Here is where KET4CleanProduction comes into play. 

KET4CleanProduction is a coordination and support action (CSA) funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme. It started back in January 2018 and will continue until January 2021. Its goal is twofold: connect manufacturing SMEs to KET researchers who might help them upgrade their production processes and provide financial support to the collaboration projects that meet the right criteria. 

Following the launch of the KET4CleanProduction initiative, the first few months were devoted to setting up an online-platform and gathering a network of premier KET Technology Centres (KET TCs) in clean production. KET TCs carry out applied research and innovation at high technology readiness levels (TRL 2-8) and must also provide at least one type of technological service and infrastructure to industry and SMEs. By delivering standard procedures and tools for transnational collaboration, shared infrastructure and joint service provision,KET4CleanProduction also hopes to stimulate KET TCs to collaborate and share clients. In this way, when an SME comes knocking at their door, it can easily be provided with a solution involving multiple KETs and tailored to its specific clean production challenge. The project also involves innovation consultants from the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN). 

In a single facilitated one-stop-shop process, manufacturing SMEs thus have access to a multi-KET, cross-border, pan-European troubleshooting innovation service

The scope of innovation possibilities is, therefore, cast so wide, that we dare not offer a comprehensive overview of projects involved in KET4CleanProduction. A few examples, however, might snag your attention and leave you curious for more – laser beams for augmented reality applications, plasma treatment of sanitary surfaces, tyre recycling, microalgae for wastewater management, nanomaterials that capture environmental pollutants, and so on. Ultimately though, innovation under the KET4CleanProduction project is left entirely to the participants’ own creativity.

KET4CleanProduction also manages a financial support programme. Should manufacturing SMEs and two or more KET TCs team up in addressing production challenges, they can submit a joint proposal and apply for micro-grants. Application submissions for micro-grants are open throughout the year but are only evaluated every three months. Quick aside: the next deadline is on January 31st, 2019.

All in all, KET4CleanProduction’s long-term purpose is to have created a sustainable open innovation ecosystem for KET deployment, with the unwavering focus on making European SMEs resource efficient and competitive. 

For now, the project is still in a pilot phase which will last until June 2019. Moving on to the Large-Scale Demonstrator Phase, the plan involves adding on to the 13 KET TCs, 9 EEN partners and 20 SMEs currently involved until reaching a critical mass of clean production technology deployment in SMEs throughout Europe.

And we promise: whatever happens, it's definitely worth keeping an eye out!  





KET4CleanProduction Logo The EREK team