Successful event kick-off in Brussels to place the topic of lightweight design at EU level: Composites United, VDMA and Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus-Senftenberg (BTU) had invited on behalf of the Strategy Advisory Board of the lightweighting initiative of the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Protection (BMWK) to Brussels on 04 May 2023 with the aim of promoting cooperation between science, industry and politics at European level. A continuation of this format is planned for next year.

The future of Europe is inextricably linked with the European Green Deal, which entails disruptive change processes for industry and society. An important enabler for the Green Deal is lightweight design in all its facets. On May 04, 2023, the members of the Strategy Advisory Board of the Lightweighting Initiative of the BMWK, Composites United, the VDMA as well as the Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus-Senftenberg (BTU) invited representatives from politics, science and industry as well as from other European clusters and networks to an exchange in Brussels, at the Representation of the Free State of Bavaria to the European Union. Under the motto “No European Green Deal without Lightweight Technology”, the importance of lightweight design and the potential of this key technology for Germany as well as for the achievement of the strategic goals of the EU were highlighted in more detail in order to increase the political perception of lightweight design at EU level.

The event received support from the BMWK. Its Parliamentary State Secretary Michael Kellner opened the event with a video message to the approximately 80 guests.

Cooperation – the key to success

In the first of two high-profile panel discussions, representatives of the European partner networks EuCIA, ELA and ELCA spoke with policymakers about the contribution of lightweight design to climate protection, the Green Industrial Plan and the Critical Raw Materials Act. The discussion addressed the need for a common language and a clear definition of topics in the collaboration in order to exploit synergies between cluster partners and increase the visibility of lightweight design topics. Participants also emphasized that a regular exchange on the current state of the art, e.g. on the topics of circular economy and recycling, is crucial to ensure effective collaboration.

The second panel discussion focused on what SMEs, large-scale industry and research institutions want from policymakers. Apart from financial support instruments, regulatory requirements and their practicality were also discussed. Dr. George Kotsikos (European Commission – European Health and Digital Executive Agency HaDEA) spoke with entrepreneurs and scientists about how the acceptance and use of composites materials can be promoted. Recycling was also discussed intensively and, above all, the desire for low-bureaucracy support for SMEs up to a high technology readiness level and the creation of uniform standards at EU level was expressed.

The presentation of non-bureaucratic, European example projects such as GreenOffshoreTech, the Advanced Materials 2030 Initiative and a circular economy approach to lightweight design using the example of CFRP, for which a recycling process was industrially implemented more than ten years ago, rounded off the program.

In the panel discussion “Lightweight Technology Made in EU? – Wishes for European Politics from Research, SME and Large Companies”, representatives from SME, large industry, research institutions and politics talked about how the acceptance and use of composite materials can be promoted.

Right picture, from right to left: Holger Bär (Olin), Dr. George Kotsikos (European Commission – European Health and Digital Executive Agency), Dr. Gernot Kalkoffen (Carbon Truck & Trailer GmbH), Tim Rademacker (Mitsubishi Chemical Group), Prof,. Holger Seidlitz (BTU, Fraunhofer IPA – Department PYCO) and Mechthild Mohr (innos GmbH, moderator).

Michael Kellner assesses the kick-off as very positive: “As a key technology, lightweight design is important for Germany and for achieving the Green Deal goals. It is therefore essential to seek exchange at the European level and to work together to promote lightweight design as a transformation technology for Europe as well. This event has contributed to this by bringing together many relevant European players from politics, networks, research and industry. Only together can we achieve more climate protection, resource conservation and circularity, especially through high-quality recycling of composites. I would like to thank the organizers and the Bavarian representation and I am already looking forward to the follow-up event next year.”

Dr. George Kotsikos summarized the event: ” The European Commission will continue to fund research in lightweight design. It is important that stakeholders from science, industry and politics seek dialogue at European level to openly discuss the issues of circular economy, sustainability and advanced manufacturing processes and to develop approaches to solutions. I was pleased to join this event after my participation at JEC World in Paris. Let’s continue to exchange ideas with each other.”

Positive conclusion – organizers plan to continue the format

The large number of guests, the lively discussions and exchanges with the speakers and the high-caliber plenary session, as well as the desire of all participants for a continuation of this format underscore the success of the event. It was agreed that close cooperation between all stakeholders, companies, science and political decision-makers is indispensable in order to position lightweight design as a key instrument in climate protection and in promoting the competitiveness of the European economy.

“The idea of an event in Brussels on lightweight design originated from the strategy advisory board of the BMWK’s lightweighting initiative. With the support of their office and Damáso López Ruiz from VDMA, Prof. Holger Seidlitz from BTU and our leading-edge cluster MAI Carbon, we have now managed to implement it. For me personally, this event was a first, successful step with an excellent program, but we still have a longer way to go and need to continue the talks. We received very positive and motivating feedback from all sides. I am already looking forward to the next event,” summarizes Dr. Gunnar Merz, CEO of Composites United e. V. and moderator of the event.

Composites United would like to thank the partner networks European Lightweight Association (ELA), European Lightweight Clusters Alliance (ELCA), European Carbon and Graphite Association (ECGA), European Composites Industry Association (EuCIA) as well as its leading-edge cluster MAI Carbon for their support of the event, also on behalf of the Strategy Advisory Board of the Lightweighting Initiative of the BMWK.