R&D and innovation
The ISOPEM project proposes disruptive technology to produce solar energy quality silicon using a metallurgical rather than a chemical process.
By helping take innovation to the market, ADEME goes beyond research and acts as a catalyser for innovation in its various fields of expertise.
Action continuity and mutual enrichment: such are the effects of the Investments for the Future Programme (IFP) that ADEME steers for the Agency’s R&D activity. For several years, ADEME has been active in research and development with targeted outcomes by financing applied research projects or theses that inform essential forward-looking discussions. Over the years 2007 to 2012, ADEME funded more than 1,400 projects generating around 600 million euros worth of research activity. Consistent with the specified targets, two thirds of the funding provided by ADEME for these projects (€218m) is earmarked for companies. “Helping develop low-energy and clean technology by supporting R&D and bringing developments to market through the IFP since 2010 aims to work towards cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 75% by 2050 (the so-called Factor 4), the target achievable according to the discussions during the French national debate on the energy transition”, pointed out Anne Varet, Director of Research and Scenario analysis at ADEME. Various scenarios for achieving the Factor 4 objective by 2050 were put forward and discussed during the national debate on the energy transition. The scenario developed by ADEME is classified among the so-called “low-energy” approaches and proposes to reduce energy consumption by 40% in the transport and building sectors. This scenario may seem ambitious, but it does not require any major disruptive technology given the progress currently achieved by projects included in the IFP.
Funded by the Investments in the Future programme, the Hybrid Air motor
points towards a low-energy vehicle that is affordable both in terms of
its purchase price and running costs.
MORE SCENARIO ANALYSIS RESEARCH
Introduced in 2010, Investments for the Future Programme provided a significant boost to ADEME’s R&D and Innovation activity through calls for expressions of interest. These then led to State funding in the form of subsidies or contributions from its own funds with ADEME becoming in some cases a direct investor in the project company. “The subjects, here again, are closely linked to the issue of energy transition, and the projects, some of which have evolved out of standard R&D projects, inform new more scenario analysis research thereby creating a sort of retroactive loop”, says Anne Varet. In 2014, the emphasis will be on storing energy. Renewable energy is often confronted with the issue of its intermittence, or in other words a mismatch between periods of production and periods of high energy demand, with hydrogen being one of the avenues to be explored. Among the topics addressed, some concern vehicles and new modes of travel.
Others deal with green chemistry and improving industrial processes, or even smart grids* and, of course, the development of renewable energy. Work is also underway in the circular economy (industrial ecology), in particular with a view to encouraging the emergence of new waste treatment streams through the development of innovative technology. At times, some R&D projects from ADEME also generate Investments for the Future projects. For example, the solution developed by the PHOTOSIL project partners that aims to devise the “minimum necessary” treatment for very low-cost silicon using a metallurgical approach in order to manufacture metal alloys. This original process has made it possible to achieve a very attractive price of around €25/kg for solar energy grade silicon.
Following on from that, the ISOPEM project, co-funded under the Investments for the Future programme, aims to move on to an industrial demonstration unit with an even more ambitious target of less than €20/kg.
* Smart grids aim to be more flexible and responsive to variations in the balance between electricity generation and consumption.
INVESTMENTS FOR THE FUTURE
ADEME finances applied research projects or theses. The flow of calls for projects in the area of R&D and innovation is in particular driven by the Investments for the Future programme (IFP) through calls for expressions of interest. The exchange of experience and enrichment goes both ways between the ADEME’s standard R&D activity and the research projects launched under the IFP. Since 2011, the Agency has used this approach to select 115 projects involving over 400 companies and representing funding of over 3 billion euros.