Nineteen companies and organisations have called on the European Union to expand the EU Innovation Fund to stop the European battery value chain getting left behind.
They sent a joint letter to EU Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen and other EU leaders on Thursday urging them to create the equivalent of the EU Hydrogen Bank for the critical minerals sector. Signatories include battery maker Northvolt, battery materials company Umicore, recycler Li-Cycle, miners and industry bodies including Recharge and Eurometaux.
“Midstream processing of critical minerals is a particularly worrying gap in Europe, justifying attention,” they wrote. “Today China controls not only large shares of cleantech manufacturing, but also 50–90% of critical minerals processing capacity needed for those, as well as many global resources.”
They note the US is fast catching up with its “mammoth” Inflation Reduction Act, while Europe’s investment climate has worsened as a result of the ongoing Ukraine–Russia war.
Europe is attempting to catch up, they noted, with the Net Zero Industrial Act aimed at cleantech manufacturing and the Critical Raw Materials Act which aims to secure critical minerals supply.
But the Strategic Technologies for Europe Platform (STEP) proposal is not good enough and not targeted enough, they argued. It largely reshuffles money already available under existing funding plans. “Crucially, it lacks focus on the critical minerals value chain, failing to provide new, long-term and targeted support to scale conversion, processing (including material recovery from recycling) and refining operations,” the letter stated.
The 19 called for sufficient and dedicated EU funding – notably via the European Innovation Fund. That should be aligned with the Critical Raw Materials Act’s 2030 production benchmarks across the value chain from responsible exploration/mining, refining, to mid-stream processing (e.g. battery cathodes), and integrated recycling.
They want a replication of the pilot concept of the EU Hydrogen Bank for the critical minerals sector.
Various EU funding streams already exist, but are a patchwork of insufficient, uncoordinated and complex schemes focusing mostly on research and innovation, they said. These do not support production scale-up and are not enough to make the business case to invest in Europe, the letter went on.