Member of the European Commission Brussels, 27 JUIN 2007
D (2007) 475

Ms Belen Balanya
Corporate Europe Observatory
De Wittenstraat 25
1052 AK Amsterdam
The Netherlands

Dear Ms Balanya,

Thank you for your letter of 1 June 2007 in which you express your concerns about the role of industry (in particular BIOFRAC and the European Biofuel Technology Platform) in the Commission's decision-making process in the field of biofuels, and the possible implications this may have for sustainable development.

The active involvement of industry in European research policies and implementing European research programmes is in the logical consequence the objectives for research and technological development at the Community level set out by the Treaty: the Community shall have the objective of strengthening the scientific and technological bases of Community industry and encouraging it to become more competitive at international level.

This objective has been carried further by the Lisbon Strategy of building a modern, competitive knowledge society and leveraging innovation for growth. The private sector is fundamental if research is to become innovation. European Technology Platforms have been conceived as a means to help realise the Lisbon Strategy. The platforms can play a key role in better incorporating industry's needs into EU research priorities by bringing together stakeholders, led by industry, to define a Strategic Research Agenda and to suggest possible directions for its implementation. This is the underlying rationale for the deliberate industrial focus of technology platforms, which was indeed, as you note correctly, reflected in BIOFRAC and is also manifest in the composition of the Biofuels Technology Platform.

The platform is owned by the stake holders involved, and will exist as long as it fulfils a need that is broadly perceived by the sector at large. Its composition can evolve in order to adapt to changing needs and scope of activities. The platform is an open and transparent forum, and all interested stakeholders can contribute to its discussions and deliverables, mainly through the website and the annual General Assembly. The Strategic Research Agenda that is currently being developed by the platform will go through a public consultation before being presented at the first General Assembly.

I encourage you to contribute to this public consultation and to consider applying for membership of the stakeholder group.

This brings me to our decision making process.

In the context of the Community's biofuel policy, the Biofuels Technology Platform is an important initiative, but it is not the only source of stakeholder input into our decision-making process. Other input is received through public consultations, for example on the Biomass Action Plan, on the review of the Biofuels Directive, on Biofuel issues in the new legislation on the promotion of renewable energy, and on the European Strategic Energy Technology Plan.

In the specific case of the design and implementation of our RTD Framework Programmes, we make use of a variety of sources, of which the Biofuels Technology Platform is just one. Following consultation of different advisory groups, the Framework Programme is proposed by the European Commission and adopted by the Council and the European Parliament following a co-decision procedure.

I am fully aware that the development of biofuels must proceed in a context of sustainability and promote the most efficient and environmentally friendly biofuels possible. In the 7th framework Programme, we do this by giving a high priority to research into second generation biofuels. In a broader context, we intend to work towards globally agreed sustainability criteria. In this respect, international collaboration will help us shape the global playing field. The recently established partnership between EU and Brazil, backed by an effective scientific cooperation, is an example of the kind of partnership we want to build in this area.

Let me conclude by reiterating one of the main objectives of Community research. To remain competitive, European industry needs to increase the high-technology content of its activity, and transform this technology into highly competitive marketable products and services in an environmentally sustainable way. Our research policy, and all stakeholders involved in its defmition and implementation, will play a key role in achieving this objective.

I trust that this clarifies my position.

Janez Potocnik