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ERCI – European Railway Clusters Initiative

KOM of the LEADER 2030 project in Berlin

LEADER 2030″, the first “Europe’s Rail” project coordinated by ERCI, is launched: it will predict the availability or otherwise of raw materials and components for railways in 2030

Launched yesterday in Berlin the first European project of ERCI: it is entitled “LEADER 2030 – Lessons for European Autonomy to Deliver Europe’s Rail in 2030” and is funded by the “Europe’s Rail” research and innovation programme.

Worth seven hundred thousand euros and lasting thirty months, it stems from the experience gained by the ERCI Vice President and her Cluster DITECFER during the COVID-19 crisis in supporting the European Commission in ‘rebuilding broken supply chains’ for the supply of parts/materials between European territories.

Are we confident that the innovations being developed under Europe’s Rail programme to transform the European railway system in 2030 will find the necessary raw materials and components to bring to market?” This is, simply put, the key question behind the project, says Veronica Elena Bocci, DITECFER Coordinator and Vice President of ERCI, the Brussels-based association of European railway clusters. It is with this hat on that she coordinates the project, to ensure the maximum involvement of the territories hosting the European railway industrial clusters: 16 clusters covering 17 countries.

Already in 2014, 50 per cent of the components needed for the European railway industry came from outside the continent, and the percentage has continued to grow over the years. Then came COVID-19 and all the other crises of various nature and duration (blockade of Chinese ports, interruption of the Suez Canal, war in Ukraine, exploding energy costs, etc.) and impacted global supply chains, teaching the European industrial system its vulnerability. Climate change is also playing its part here, as the increasingly catastrophic events that are hitting South East Asia – where almost all certain production is located – are impacting the availability of chips, other components and raw materials because factories are flooded or because mines are collapsing. The European Commission, in reviewing its industrial policy in 2021, has included resilience and autonomy as one of the cornerstones, and has started to invest heavily in launching industrial alliances in all those key fields for European industry: from critical raw materials to batteries; from hydrogen to plastics; from processors and semiconductors to industrial data, edge and cloud.

This is the framework of the complexity of the challenge to which the LEADER 2030 project will have to respond, by analysing the disruptions experienced by the entire railway supply chain and in other comparative supply chains in recent years; by analysing in detail the innovations expected by Europe’s Rail in 2030, in order to define for each of them the necessary raw materials and components, both tangible and intangible; by analysing their actual availability in 2030 in the necessary quantities, also considering the ‘competition’ in access to raw materials and components from other industrial supply chains: see the case of chips, batteries, etc. This may concern the opening of new mines in Europe, the signing of new trade agreements between the EU and new supplier countries, the push towards circularity policies for the recovery and reuse of materials and components in Europe, etc..

Together with ERCI, the partners in the project are GKZ, the German cluster representing the European mining industry; Railenium, the French research and innovation centre for railways; Teknopark Istanbul, the Turkish technology centre and incubator specialised in technology-intensive sectors such as – in addition to railways – Aerospace and Defence, with which the project will attempt to measure any differences in resilience during the latest global supply chain crises.

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