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Good morning!

The energy transition in Europe is under pressure as never before as the war in Ukraine rages on, threatening gas and oil shipments from Russia.

It’s hard to think of something that would have ignited this movement in Europe as forcefully as this war in its backyard. In Germany, they speak of a Zeitenwende, a turning point or watershed. So major is this shift towards renewable energy that this German word has now made it into the English vocabulary, taking its place next to venerable old-timers such as zeitgeist, angst and doppelgänger. It remains to be seen how far this momentum will carry into the future.

🌳The EU, itself famous for its foot-dragging, has expressed pleasant surprise that a full 40 percent of funds dedicated to the Recovery and Resilience Plans is being dedicated to the green transition by member countries, even more than expected, says EU President Ursula von der Leyen. Mauro Mereu provides insights into the complex tapestry of initiatives behind this effort in the form of energy islands, hydrogen, and sustainable mobility. A true green transition can only be accomplished not by just flipping a switch, but by flipping a whole myriad of them.

⚙️Recycling is another way of saving energy, but even better is re-manufacturing. Using AI, a team spearheaded by the Fraunhofer IPK has found that vehicle components can be refurbished and reused before they land in the recycling bin. A process previously done manually has suddenly become worthwhile as AI is exponentially more accurate and faster. Remanufacturing has become an economical alternative by helping employees identify and assess defective wear parts. In effect, AI is helping take the manu – Latin for “hand” – out of manufacture – Latin for “to make by hand.”

🦠That other war, the one against the COVID-19 pandemic, is also far from disappearing, although it has taken a back burner. But it hasn’t permanently impacted Europe’s innovative spirit: after experiencing a brief dip in 2020, patent applications in Europe resurged to a record level in 2021. Patent applications are a significant early indicator of companies’ investments in research and development, a main driver of technology, reports Arnoud Cornelisson in an overview of European patent applications. 

🏗️ Croatia has not only suffered from the pandemic but also from devastating earthquakes in recent years. The country is seizing this opportunity not only to rebuild, but to build back better, to borrow President Joe Biden’s mantra. Edifices will be reconstructed to be more earthquake-proof and more energy-efficient for up to 30 percent lower energy costs compared to before renovation. Subsidies from the EU will contribute to this effort. Building back better – and greener.

Is this the long-awaited Zeitenwende in the energy sphere? Time will tell.

Wishing you an angst-free week,

Brenda Arnold

Munich correspondent Innovation Origins