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26 September 2013

Switzerland and the EU continue research partnership through Horizon 2020

Despite its non-EU status Switzerland will continue to participate in Horizon 2020, the EU's research framework programme. Following approval from the National Council, Switzerland’s Council of States agreed to the country taking part in the programme from 2014 to 2020. Participation in the programme provides important benefits to both parties.

For Switzerland it solidifies its position as a centre of research in international networks. Grants and scholarships offered by the programme are also important for the country's academic institutions, particularly science and technology university ETH Zurich. For the EU, Switzerland brings a world-renowned research pedigree to the table. Federal Councillor Johann Schneider-Ammann said: “The international networking opportunities and the competition with other countries strengthen our research. In this regard, our researchers need to have the will to compete with the best in the world in their disciplines and to be able to do so”.

In the coming years the Horizon 2020 programme will place a particular emphasis on enhancing the innovation capacity of companies. It will also push for new scientific discoveries in information technology, and develop solutions to social problems in the areas of health, food security, demographic change, and the environment.

For more information, click here.


25 September 2013

Enfield Council opts for cleanliness without cruelty

Enfield Council’s (UK) decision to exclusively stock cleaning products free from animal testing started with a letter from a young girl. Concerned about the cruel treatment of animals, the young Enfielder wrote to the council enquiring about the products they use. The letter was brought up at a council meeting and the decision to ensure only cruelty free products were procured was made.

After surveying the market the first barrier was identified: animal-testing free cleaning products were not available wholesale. Following an extensive search, the council contacted Ecosearch Ltd, a local research and manufacturing company, who agreed to produce the products. The company worked closely with BUAV, an organisation campaigning to end the practice of animal testing and sister company to Cruelty Free International. For many products the assurance that they are “not tested on animals” does not tell the whole truth, as constituent parts are not covered by the guarantee. To be certified by Cruelty Free International’s Leaping Bunny logo each ingredient used must be free from animal testing, requiring an examination of the entire supply chain.

Once ready for distribution, Enfield Council ran a trial phase in conjunction with its contracted cleaning company. The feedback from staff was hugely positive, with most saying they prefer using the new cleaning materials. Councillor Andrew Stafford, Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources said “This new range of cleaning products that we have introduced into our civic buildings has not only never been tested on animals, but gives economical superior cleaning performance. The feedback has been excellent from staff who say the hand soap is good to use, and also cleaning staff who tell us because the cleaning fluid is not noxious they do not need to wear masks to use it.” Michelle Thew, Chief Executive of the BUAV, expressed delight at the example Enfield Council is setting for others, and said that she hoped “many others will follow Enfield’s admirable stance.”

Enfield Council is delivering a Sustainable Procurement Policy and Action Plan which forms part of the council's wider Enfield 2020 sustainability programme and action plan.

For more information, click here.


19 September 2013

German Ministry for Environment funds hybrid buses in Hamburg

The German Federal Ministry for Environment has lent its support to the city of Hamburg (Germany) in its acquisition of advanced hybrid buses. The ministry contributed a grant of €510,000 for the city to purchase 15 hybrid buses that will go into immediate use in the south of the city. This figure represents two thirds of the total cost of purchasing the buses.

Hybrid buses are particularly well-suited for urban traffic as they can conserve and re-use almost all the energy lost in braking. Additionally, carbon dioxide and other forms of pollution are reduced, and the buses are also much quieter.

The Ministry for Environment has supported the use of hybrid buses since 2010 across Germany, in a move to develop bus routes served entirely by electrically-powered buses. The ministry’s policy on hybrid buses ties into the National Climate Protection Plan which supports projects across Germany to reduce emissions and combat climate change.

For more information, click here [in German].


17 September 2013

Nordic countries to develop norms and standards for green buildings

Nordic governments have unveiled plans to issue common standards within the construction sector as a means to boost green growth. Standardisation, they contend, is essential to a healthy and sustainable building sector. Focus will be placed on three areas: sustainable renovation of existing buildings, indoor climate and voluntary classification standards, and Nordic contributions to EU regulations and standards in sustainable construction.

Nordic Innovation, an institution within the Nordic Council of Ministers, has been tasked with spearheading the projects. “Standardisation is a key tool in reducing trade barriers and building markets. Harmonised standards within the Nordic countries will make it easier for companies in the building sector to conduct business across the region,” says Johan Englund, Senior Advisor at Nordic Innovation.

Each project will be led by a Nordic country - Norway will lead on sustainable renovation, Denmark will be responsible for the indoor climate project and Finland will take charge of Nordic contributions to EU sustainable construction product declarations. The projects aim to enhance Nordic influence in green standardisation, developing models that will be adopted Europe-wide.

For more information, click here.


13 September 2013

GPP 2020 to use low-carbon procurement to reach EU sustainability goals

GPP 2020 is a new EU-funded project that aims to cement green public procurement (GPP) across member states to make the EU’s goals of a 20 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, a 20 percent increase in the share of renewable energy and a 20 percent increase in energy efficiency a reality by 2020.

Although awareness of GPP has increased in recent years, the vast majority of public tenders in Europe still do not incorporate effective environmental criteria and do not result in the purchase of sustainable solutions. The GPP 2020 project will work in eight target countries (Austria, Croatia, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain) to mainstream practice across Europe.

To do so, the project will take the following actions. Project partners will implement more than 100 low-carbon tenders to achieve significant emission reduction immediately. The project will also organise training and networking events for procurers and procurement training providers on implementation of energy-related GPP, and enhance permanent GPP support structures in the target countries.

For more information, click here.


11 September 2013

New members welcome in Sustainable Construction Interest Group

The Sustainable Construction Interest Group operating on the PPI Platform, slated to close with the end of the SCI-Network, will remain active as part of the EU iNSPiRe project. The group’s popularity and benefit to users led to the decision. As a result of the changeover, the group will take on a slightly different format. From September 2013 onwards the number of members will be reduced to foster greater interaction and networking among participants.

The group provides a forum for those working in the field of construction in the public sector and public procurement (procurers, architects, engineers, building managers, planners) to exchange experiences, share expertise, develop partnerships, and develop innovative products and approaches with private and public sector partners. Those interested in joining can contact

The iNSPiRE project aims to address the problem of high-energy consumption by producing renovation packages that can be applied to a wide range of buildings. All information gathered will be fed into a database, which will be made accessible to industry professionals. The project will run for four years.

For more information, click here.


4 September 2013

British aerospace funding competition spurs innovation

The Technology Strategy Board, the UK’s innovation agency, is managing a competition to spur innovation in the British aerospace industry. The total prize of up to £25 million will co-fund research and development projects that support the Aerospace Industrial Strategy, published in March 2013.

Part of this strategy includes the commitment to create an Aerospace Technology Institute which will seek to encourage growth in the aerospace sector from major civil programmes. The aerospace industry is one of the strongest parts of the UK’s advanced manufacturing sector, and the competition will allow it to continue to retain the international status that it currently holds.

As applications are invited from all companies across the aerospace supply chain this is a good opportunity for any supplier to make a contribution to new and innovative ways to grow the aerospace sector. This is an example of the way in which the public sector can encourage innovation from the private sector, as part of a dialogue between suppliers and procurers.

For more information, click here.