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About the conference

The path towards a climate-neutral future

The order of the day in Europe is climate neutrality by 2050, and Austria wants to outperform this target by ten years achieving it by 2040. To meet this target, it takes more than lip service. It requires new processes, new efficiencies and innovations – this became clear at the first scientific conference of the NEFI Innovation Network which took place online on May 6 and 7. Around 50 speakers from research, business and politics discussed challenges and solutions. More than 400 participants from 14 countries followed the presentations and discussions online. All presentations are now available at the NEFI Youtube Channel.

The minister speaks out

„The decarbonization of industry is a key to achieving climate neutrality by 2040,” emphasized Climate Protection Minister Eleonore Gewessler in her speech at the conference. In order to achieve this ambitious goal, the minister said, more effort is needed in research and development. „This is important, because we do not yet have all the necessary technologies for a climate-friendly industry. NEFI, as one of these research networks, provides important solutions for decarbonization of domestic, but also international industry“, says Gewessler. DI Theresia Vogel, Managing Director of the Austrian Climate and Energy Fund sees a strong willingness on the part of the federal government and the states of Upper Austria and Styria to invest in the energy future. “The impulses resulting from this are also positively received by the economy and contribute to the success of NEFI“, Vogel confirms.

Efficient use of energy

To achieve climate neutrality by 2040, there are many levers to pull. Industry needs a wide variety of technologies, ranging from heat pumps to energy storage systems. There is the increased use of renewable gases such as hydrogen and the electrification of production facilities. An increasingly important issue is also the use and storage of CO2 generated by industrial processes. Waste heat must be utilized just the same in the plant or through cooperation with municipalities – keyword: district heating. Intensive cooperation and communication between research, industry and the federal states is important, as this can be seen in the showcase project NEFI. But the challenge is not limited to research and industry. The legal framework must also be further developed to meet the new requirements. In the six core conference sessions on the technological and systemic fields of innovation and in the policy talks, solutions and framework conditions were discussed. A special highlight was the session on industrial process optimization, which was attended by 145 participants.

Speed and cooperation needed

Time for achieving climate neutrality is pressing, thus research and implementation must take place in parallel. In the future, new technological developments and the necessary lean and efficient framework conditions will be needed. Climate protection and industry can also be a successful economic duo: This is demonstrated by the NEFI Industrial Board. This platform fosters a direct exchange between representatives of the Austrian industry and NEFI to promote the topics of decarbonization and transformation of the industrial energy system. This was the motto of the high-profile presentations, which can be accessed in the stream via link. We would like to thank all our speakers, participants and moderators of the NEFI Conference 2021 and the whole organisation team.

NEFI – New Energy for Industry is grouped around a consortium including the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology, Montanuniversität Leoben, OÖ Energiesparverband and Business Upper Austria, the business agency of the Upper Austrian Government. It was created to drive forward the industrial energy transition. NEFI is an energy model region funded by the Austrian Climate and Energy Fund and supported by the Federal States of Upper Austria and Styria.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact the conference team at

Innovation Fields

NEFI-New Energy for Industry Key Innovation Fields

In the framework of NEFI key technologies for decarbonizing the industrial energy system are addressed in three technological and three systemic innovation-fields. This categorization reflects the importance of a well-balanced industrial innovation environment and is not to be considered as a strict distinction between technological and systemic development.

Technological innovation fields

(1)     Energy Efficiency & New Processes

The key focus of this innovation field is achieving low carbon industrial processes, to be achieved by reducing CO2 emissions through more efficient energy use and through the introduction of novel technologies and processes. Disruptive process technologies or alternative process routes are covered. Examples: Utilization of industrial waste heat; introduction of new heat exchanger concepts, development of innovative burners.

(2) Renewable Energy & Storage & Demand Side Management

The extension of renewable energy sources for the industrial energy mix means new challenges for the energy infrastructure due to volatile generation. This field of innovation examines energy storage systems, innovative conversion technologies and demand-side management (DSM) tools from this perspective.

(3)     Industry and Grid

This field of innovation is dedicated to the development of system-solutions using industrial waste-energy streams (in form of power, industrial gases, process-heat, etc.) to cover energy demands in the surrounding environment of the NEFI flagship region. Such industry to grid energy networks do not reduce the industrial production’s end-energy demand but they do reduce the primary energy demand of the overall energy system.

Systematic innovation fields

(4) Legislation, Innovation & Research Policy

To achieve a successful industry transformation towards decarbonization, NEFI innovation processes and innovation ecosystems need to be aligned with appropriate political, institutional and legislative framework conditions. The innovation lab NEFI_Lab supports this process with specific know-how and runs an innovation platform where different legislative and other research policy aspects can be discussed. NEFI_Lab enables the knowledge transfer and exchange between different industrial sectors, end-users, politicians, regulatory authorities and the public. Additionally, Living Labs as new RTI (research, technology and innovation) policy instrument have been introduced as integral part of this innovation field.

(5) Systematic Solutions & Infrastructure

Establishing the necessary systematic solutions and infrastructure for the regional and transregional exchange of energy streams between industrial users, grid operators and (renewable) energy producers is the key element of this innovation field.

(6) New Business Models

NEFI supports projects, spin-off companies and start-ups in their attempt to find and test novel business models and solutions.


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