Much has been done since the launch of the SET Plan in 2008. In 2013 it was decided that the updated technology roadmaps of the SET Plan should be consolidated into a single document in order to tackle the silo approach to energy technologies and to create an overview of an integrated European energy system. “Towards an integrated roadmap”, published in 2014, was the result of an extensive consultation process, and identified a portfolio of around 450 research and innovation (R&I) actions for the transition to a low carbon energy system. It was then time to set priorities and to choose joint actions to be implemented together with stakeholders, member states and associated countries (MS/ACs), along with the European Commission (EC). Work has been ongoing since the beginning of 2015 to define common agreed targets in the form of declarations of intent, and R&I actions in implementation plans.
Establishing priorities and implementing joint actions requires a strengthening of dialogue between MSs and ACs and between MS/ACs and the EC. To this end, The Bureau and the Joint Actions Working Group (JAWG) were set up at the end of 2013, and each has played a key role in the achievements of the SET Plan. The Bureau brings together around 10 rotating MS/AC representatives, chosen by their peers in the Steering Group, and supports the group in driving the delivery of the SET Plan. The Bureau reinforces dialogue with the Commission and develops suggestions for the forward agenda of meetings. It also ensures that MS/ACs’ views, ideas, issues and concerns are brought forward for discussion. The Bureau is essential for the preparation of each SET Plan Steering Group meeting, acting as the main contact for the European Commission. The JAWG constitutes a working group, open to all interested MS/ACs, of the SET Plan Steering Group, with the EC participating as an observer and providing support. The JAWG currently provides a forum for around twenty MS/ACs to discuss joint actions, and crucially allows for informal discussion between countries, within a less formal framework than that of the Steering Group and with less intense scheduling. So far, it has concentrated on coordinating the preparation of ERA-NETs. Ten ERA-NETs have been launched since the beginning of Horizon 2020, on themes including Bioenergy, Carbon capture and storage, Geothermal, Ocean, Offshore wind, Photovoltaic and Concentrated solar power, Smart grids, Smart cities and communities. These ERA-NETs support collaboration and cooperation between MS/AC R&I programmes and represent about €180 million of MS/AC national budget funding, supported by €87 million of top-up EU budget funding. This is hopefully just the start, and other types of joint actions are expected to be considered; leading to more coordinated actions between MS/ACs.
Although energy mix is the responsibility of each state, and the differences between European countries are clear to see, it is important to show that collaboration at European level makes sense. Because demonstration is a mandatory step in the field of energy, and these demonstrators are at a pre-industrial scale, national collaborations are all the more attractive as costs can be shared. That’s what we have tried to build with ERA-NETs. That does not mean, of course, that we can forget about supporting basic research, as a consistent and efficient preparation of the future of energy union, and we believe that links with EERA need to be strengthened.
The JAWG and Bureau have acted as important landmarks in the landscape of European energy research, which has been changing in recent years. We built 13 themes for the Integrated Road Map in 2013-2014, and addressed the 4 core priorities of Energy Union in 2015, followed by 10 key actions in the SET Plan Implementation phase. Discussions in JAWG helped all of us to understand these changes, to keep our ideas clear and our enthusiasm intact.
We have done a great deal of work in common over the last two years, building the SET Plan together: the first step was to define common targets together with stakeholders, MS/ACs and the EC – not easy, but essential – and then to align policies and build efficient collaborations. The publication of the Declarations of Intent at the end of 2016 would not have been possible without the efficiency created by the JAWG and Bureau. And we must say that these common targets are also very useful at a national level: firstly to identify our own efforts to reach the targets, to measure what we have left to do, and to build strategic plans in coherence with those targets; secondly to show that Energy Union does exist. The Implementation Plans are on schedule to be endorsed by the SET Plan Steering Group in the coming months, defining the R&I actions required, including when and by whom they must be carried out.
In conclusion, we can say that we are entering a crucial phase of the SET Plan: its implementation. We need a place now more than ever for discourse and concrete collaboration between countries. So much collective effort has been put into the SET Plan framework, through the JAWG and Bureau, giving impetus to each country to achieve common goals that we would love to see enhanced visibility for the SET Plan through institutional strengthening.
Dr. Frederic Ravel
Representative of the French Ministry of higher education, research and innovation in the SET Plan steering group
Dr. Frederic Ravel is the representative of the French Ministry of higher education, research and innovation in the SET Plan steering group since 2014. Currently scientific director for energy, sustainable development, chemistry and process engineering, he joined the Ministry in 2011, after more than twenty years in national laboratories dedicated to material science. His sector in the French Ministry deals with research connected to low carbon energies, smart cities and mobility, energy efficiency and waste management. Member of several boards of research organizations, he is also the French representative for Innovation Challenge #6 (materials) in Mission Innovation framework.
Dr. Pascal Newton
Sherpa of representative of the French Ministry of higher education, research and innovation in the SET Plan steering group
Chemist and physicist by training, Dr Pascal Newton is currently the Sherpa of representative of the French Ministry of higher education, research and innovation in the SET Plan steering group since 2013. For Horizon 2020, the European R&I framework programme, Pascal is also the French representative in the Horizon 2020 Energy Programme Committee and one of the French Energy NCPs. He works also on the issue of synergies of funds, mainly of ERDF with Horizon 2020. Before that he worked during seven years in a research organism and dealt with regional authorities for the purpose of implementing territorial research projects.
 The ERA-NET instrument under Horizon 2020 is designed to support public-public partnerships in their preparation, establishment of networking structures, design, implementation and coordination of joint activities as well as topping up of single joint calls and of actions of a transnational nature.