France

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France is a major European player in the field of eco-innovation, and possesses a strong track record in environmental regulation and support schemes – targeting both public and private actors (including individuals). This is illustrated by its strong ranking in the 2015 Eco-Innovation Scoreboard (seventh among the 28 EU Member States). However, France still falls behind a number of front-runners, particularly due to limited energy and water productivity and limited green early-stage investments. Increasing levels of resource efficiency, particularly energy efficiency, in key sectors such as transport and building are also key priorities.

The most important eco-innovation areas in France are linked to network and network management industries, and more specifically water management and sanitation, waste management, and environmental engineering. These sectors are well organised around very large international firms that are also major aggregators of innovations.

Since 2010, a group of clusters, focusing on environmental technologies, have supported the creation of innovative local networks of SMEs and large companies based around water and waste management, energy efficiency, renewable energies, smart cities and smart transport. These clusters act as a major testbed for the emergence of eco-innovations, and help to bring together public and private partners around common issues.

In addition, the national and regional support to eco-innovation and the circular economy is strong. At the national level, a number of dedicated calls for projects have been set up in recent years, complementing existing support measures such as eco-innovation equity funds or tax incentives focusing on the demand side of eco-innovation. At the regional level, 20 out of the 22 (former) metropolitan regions have at least one strategic domain of their Regional Smart Specialisation Strategy directly related to eco-industries. 

2015 Eco-innovation Scoreboard ranking and eco-innovation index composites for France

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Innovative optical waste sorting from PELLENC Selective Technologies

Labels: France

PELLENCPELLENC Selective Technologies was created in 2001 and is currently the only French firm specialised in optical waste sorting technologies. The firm designs, produces and commercializes waste sorting machines designed to sort a wide array of materials including plastic, paper, wood, metal and minerals, obtained from waste produced by households or industries. To do so, the firm has developed cutting-edge technology such as infrared recognition, spectrometric analysis, artificial vision and multi-spectral image analysis used on its equipment. Most of this technology has been produced in-house, as almost 30% of the firm’s employees are dedicated to R&D activities.

Automatic waste sorting was first used in recycling facilities in the 1990s. Given the technology available at the time, it was only possible to sort streams derived from selective waste collection for very specific materials. Developments in automatic sorting techniques and particularly in optics and material detection resulted in the expansion of the number of applications and in improved quality and quantity performance

Determinants

Waste selection technologies are mostly motivated by the need to increase efficiency in waste management procedures, allowing firms and territories to reduce the volumes of waste produced and increase recovery rates. Waste sorting has also been boosted by the need for firms and governments to meet national and European regulation recovery and recycling targets.

Pellenc has also been able to expand due to the lack of existing competitors on the market and their current situation as ‘new-comers’. Being the first to innovate in this type of equipment market offers increased possibilities to consolidate on a long-term basis and become a market leader.

Sustainability effects

Pellenc has significantly contributed to efforts to increase recovery rates through efficient waste management techniques. Veolia recently purchased four machines for one of its commercial and industrial waste treatment centres. The machines have contributed to obtaining a 50% of recovery rate, allowing the centre to become one of the most efficient in France.

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