SUNRISE is one of six candidates for a future European large-scale research initiative. We propose a sustainable alternative to the fossil-based, energy-intensive production of fuels and base chemicals. The needed energy will be provided by sunlight, the raw materials will be molecules abundantly available in the atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide, water and nitrogen.
Our proposal for a coordination and support action (CSA) has been successfully selected by the European Commission at stage one and two of the FETFLAG-01-2018 call! The CSA project started in spring 2019, funded with €1M for preparing the full SUNRISE initiative addressing the S&T challenge of converting solar energy into fuels and commodity chemicals with high solar energy to product yield. The main objectives of the CSA are to:
(i) Develop the Scientific and Technological (S&T) roadmap;
(ii) Build the community for carrying out a large research initiative roadmap including scientific, industrial and general public stakeholders; and
(iii) Establish an effective governance scheme for a European large-scale research initiative .
Candidate for a European large-scale
Why SUNRISE is a large-scale enterprise
Beginning of October, the 2018 IPCC report has been released. Already before its release date, Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations, has defined climate change the “defining issue” of our time and stated that “We are careering towards the edge of the abyss. Our fate is in our own hands”. As he anticipated, the new IPCC Report is a sobering assessment.
There is only one radical solution to solve this dramatic situation, which endangers the future itself of modern civilization: replacing fossil fuels in the energy and chemical sector as quickly as possible with sunlight and readily abundant feedstocks. This is a daunting scientific and technological challenge that requires a large-scale effort in terms of approach, ideas, resources, solutions, industry-academia cooperation and society involvement.
SUNRISE – the follow-up of the Proposal “Direct Conversion”, which already received wide support from member states during the open consultation made by the EC in 2016 – wants to drive Europe at the forefront of this epochal challenge.
SUNRISE is an intrinsically large-scale enterprise because:
· It addresses the most dramatic problem now faced by mankind: anthropogenic climate change.
· It proposes radically new solutions for solar energy conversion and storage.
· It has highly ambitious S&T and cost targets, to be implemented by top industrial players.
· It targets an epochal change of the energy/industrial paradigms, towards a circular economy.
· It has a broad approach towards the replacement of fossil fuels, providing solutions for industry symbioses in both the energy and the chemical sector with zero or negative CO2 emission.
· It ensures competitiveness of the industrial system despite stringent climate policy.
· It relies on a solid partnership between academia and industry.
· It develops an open structure, where the civil society contributes to the strategy together with scientists and engineers.
· It allows to create economically and ecologically efficient industrial symbioses generating value locally.
· It is committed to foster education on energy and materials efficiency at all levels, a key prerequisite for a sustainable society.
· It will prepare a solid roadmap and blueprint right away (i.e., within 2020), which is necessary in view of the urgency of the problems to be solved.
·It is ready to cooperate with national and regional initiatives
· Its targets are perfectly suited to establish synergies with a number of key EU projects/programmes, such as those on climate change, batteries, smart cities, high performance computing, and so on.
· It is open to converge with other CSA proposals.
· It has obtained the support of more than 150 players from academia, industry, and society, including NGOs and global players in the energy, chemical, and automotive sectors. The backbone of the SUNRISE initiative is already outlined.
Building a strong interdisciplinary community
The ambitious goals of the SUNRISE initiative can only be achieved through a collaborative, long-term sustained effort involving academia, industry and society at large. A substantial amount of public and private funding is crucial to turn scientific advances into concrete innovation opportunities, growth and jobs. SUNRISE engages to build a strong “SUNRISE ecosystem” and to mobilize and unite the different stakeholders.
The ambitious goals of the SUNRISE initiative can only be achieved through a collaborative, long-term sustained effort involving academia, industry and society at large.
The first step to form a SUNRISE community took place on 15th of November 2018 in Brussels, with the organisation of the first official SUNRISE Meeting. Fruitful discussions on the project’s vision, mission and strategy have been engaged, for which we would like to acknowledge the attendees of the event, around 90 participants among partners and supporters.
The meeting hosted insightful presentations from Jean-Charles Hourcade (CIRED and EHESS, Paris: “Some insight on IPCC special report on 1,5 °C”) and Philippe Schild (European Commission: “Solar fuels in the Horizon Programmes. Mission Innovation Challenge 5: Converting Sunlight”). In addition, it counted presentations introducing the project’s concepts and organisation from members of the consortium, presentations on the industrial vision (Solvay and Siemens) and a lively round table.