Interview of Dr. Marcel Rommerts, Head of Unit for Transport Research in the European Climate, Environment and Infrastructure Executive Agency (CINEA)

Interview of Dr. Marcel Rommerts, Head of Unit for Transport Research in the European Climate, Environment and Infrastructure Executive Agency (CINEA)

October 26th, 2021

Dr. Marcel Rommerts, Head of Unit for Transport Research in the European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency (CINEA) (short CV here), introduces to the readers of the EASN Newsletter the scopes and the challenges of the new Agency CINEA and describes the main policy priorities of the transport R&I.

Question 1: INEA, the Innovation and Networks Executive Agency, was recently transformed into CINEA, the European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency. What does this change mean for the Agency and its role?

The European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency (CINEA) started its operations on 1 April 2021, in the context of the latest Multiannual Financial Framework. The new mandate extends to 2027 and beyond.

CINEA merges programmes, projects and expert staff from both INEA (Innovation and Networks Executive Agency) and EASME, the former Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, as well as receiving new programmes. CINEA's large and diverse portfolio brings together all EU programmes that contribute to the European Green Deal's objectives. , This makes the Agency the EU's cornerstone for green projects, with a clear focus on climate and the environment.

CINEA is now managing:

  • The Connecting Europe Facility 2 (Transport and Energy infrastructure)
  • Pillar 2 Cluster 5 of Horizon Europe (Climate, Energy and Mobility research and innovation)
  • The LIFE programme (the EU funding instrument for the environment and climate action)
  • The Innovation Fund (funded by the ETS market to demonstrate innovative low-carbon technologies)
  • The European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (which supports the sustainable use of aquatic and maritime resources)
  • The Renewable Energy Financing Mechanism (which supports the cost-effective roll-out of renewables across the EU)
  • The Public Sector Loan Facility under the Just Transition Mechanism (which intends to alleviate the socio-economic impact of the transition towards a climate-neutral economy)
With these programmes, which bring a total budget of EUR 56 billion, CINEA will be at the forefront of the EU Green Deal implementation with the same drive to serve stakeholders and EU citizens by supporting EU-funded projects. CINEA's role will be key to support the transition to a climate-neutral Europe by 2050, by implementing EU programmes that contribute to a green, resource-efficient and competitive economy.


Question 2: As head of the Horizon Europe Transport unit of CINEA, supporting EU-funded R&I (Research and Innovation) within Horizon Europe, could you briefly explain which are the main policy priorities the transport R&I effort will respond to and what are the specific challenges to be tackled by aviation R&I in the future?

Today, transport emissions in the EU represent approximately 25% of the EU's total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Achieving the goal of being the first climate-neutral continent by 2050 requires ambitious changes in transport within the EU, and the EU Green Deal identifies a clear path in this direction, aiming to achieve a 90% reduction in transport-related GHG emissions by 2050. To this end, the European Commission has recently adopted a set of proposals intending to make the EU's transport policies fit for reducing net GHG emissions by at least 55% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels. Transport R&I (Research and Innovation) in the EU will make a strong contribution to these ambitious objectives, in order to ensure sustainable transport solutions for all.

The aviation sector in particular faces notable challenges and opportunities, due to its key role and contribution to the Union's economic prosperity, and its slow progress until now in terms of decarbonisation. These challenges are highlighted in the policy priorities of the European Commission. More specifically, the European Commission's Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy aims for zero-emission large aircraft to be market-ready by 2035. Additionally, within the Fit for 55 package the European Commission has proposed carbon pricing for the aviation sector, as well as an obligation for aircraft to take on sustainable blended fuels (blends of sustainable fuel with conventional fuel) for all departures from EU airports. All these are of course in addition to the well-established FlightPath 2050 Goals.

Despite the current downturn in aircraft operations due to the global pandemic, demand for air transport worldwide will continue to drive the sector's economic and social impact, hence calling for measures to mitigate aviation's environmental impact, in line with the aforementioned policy priorities. As such, EU aviation R&I needs to provide a major contribution to tackle the challenges facing the sector, in order to mitigate its environmental footprint. To this end, game-changing technologies, propulsion concepts and fuels are necessary to render aviation more environmentally friendly, while preserving safety and competitiveness. This will ultimately contribute to improving citizens' quality of life while fulfilling the ambitious objectives of the European Green Deal.


Question 3: The Horizon Europe Transport unit of CINEA is supporting several sectors of EU-funded R&I, including aviation. How extensive is the current portfolio of aviation projects supported by CINEA and how is it expected to evolve in the future under Horizon Europe?

The Horizon Europe Transport unit of CINEA is supporting and implementing more than 250 ongoing projects in several transport sectors, including automated transport, electric vehicles, urban mobility, logistics, safety, waterborne, and of course aviation. The aviation portfolio in particular consists of more than 100 completed and ongoing projects, and a total implemented EU budget of more than EUR 500 million since 2015. The thematic areas addressed by the aviation projects include climate impact, emissions, air quality, noise, flight and airport operations, SAF (Sustainable Aviation Fuels), electric and hydrogen propulsion, UAM (Urban Air Mobility) and drones, icing, human factors and safety, materials and structures, testing, modelling and simulations, multidisciplinary design and optimisation, and international collaboration.

The EU-funded aviation projects supported by CINEA are delivering significant results that are further improving existing solutions and developing the disruptive technologies needed to accelerate the sector's reduction of its environmental footprint, to maintain its industrial and research leadership, and to ensure high safety and security standards, while addressing the EU citizens' needs.

The Horizon Europe Transport unit of CINEA will further expand its aviation portfolio within the calls of Horizon Europe's Cluster 5, while maintaining a close and effective collaboration with the European Commission Directorates General (DG) for Transport and Mobility (DG MOVE) and for Research and Innovation (DG RTD). The foreseen aviation R&I to be funded in the coming years mainly addresses clean and competitive solutions. Collaborative actions will pursue transformative low-TRL (1-4) technologies, generally contributing to policy priorities aimed towards climate neutrality by 2050 and digital transformation, hence expecting increased focus on CO2 and GHG emission reduction. The aviation R&I activities to be supported and implemented by CINEA are complementary to the European Partnership for Clean Aviation (Clean Sky 2) and the European Partnership for Integrated Air Traffic Management (SESAR), with which we have excellent collaboration. We anticipate additional fruitful collaboration in the future, to further exploit the complementarities and synergies of EU-funded aviation R&I.


Question 4: By concluding this discussion are there any messages you would like to pass?

We have considerable work ahead of us in transport R&I and particularly in aviation. Due to its scientific and industrial leadership, the aviation sector is a key economic contributor to the EU as a mobility service and job provider and it is now time to deliver on the objectives of greening and decarbonisation. The road to sustainability requires coordinated efforts and collaboration among different disciplines and all actors in the sector. The European Commission is committed to supporting the sector in its striving to research and deploy solutions that will contribute to sustainability. With its enhanced programme portfolio, CINEA is in an excellent position to support the aviation sector, and help exploit synergies and complementarities among these programmes. You can count on us to do our share of the work and we count on you and on all EASN members to contribute with your excellence to the challenges ahead.