A number of environmental challenges, such as water treatment and monitoring, energy technologies or materials, waste and resources, are currently addressed by a large community of stakeholders consisting of policy makers, civil society organisations, technology providers and market players. New technologies are urgently needed to meet the requirements of these environmental challenges but they often face difficulties in convincing potential end-users and investors of their merits. As a result, this barrier keeps eco-innovative companies from marketing efficiently their new technologies, end-users from tapping into greener technological solutions and policy-makers from making use of new efficient and cost-effective tools.
One possible solution to improve the market take-up of such environmental technologies consists in providing independent and reliable information with regard to their performances. This requirement can be achieved by carrying out an environmental technology verification (ETV) where performance claims, which are put forward by technology providers (i.e. developers or vendors), are checked to make sure that they are complete, fair and based on reliable test results.
Technology verification means that technology performance data are checked by an authorized third party using pre-specified technology verification protocols. It aims at establishing or proving the truth of the performance of the technology under specific predetermined criteria or protocols. It differs from certification, which deals with the process of certifying that a product has passed performance qualification requirements (e.g. quality assurance). In that way, by providing evidences of the proper functioning of a technology, technology providers can more easily get acceptance for their technology towards end-users. End-users feel likewise more secure when considering the performance of a novel technology.
Environmental technology verification, which is carried out on a voluntary basis, is completed within a verification system that consists of four major steps that are (i) the contact step, which can be initiated by the technology provider, (ii) the development of the relevant parameters to be verified, (iii) the testing of the technology itself to provide data that can be checked against the parameters that have been defined and (iv) the verification of the product.
It is assumed that managing such an initiative for setting up a European ETV system should enable a number of technology providers from one member state to propose their technology in further EU member states as well as allowing end-users to widely access extra-national technologies. Therefore, the dissemination of information related to ETV targets three goals:
- Firstly, to help technology providers, especially SMEs, in delivering reliable evidences concerning the performance of their new technology.
- Secondly, to support public and private technology purchasers to base their decision on sound information.
- Thirdly, to ease the implementation of public policies and regulations in a more flexible way than traditional command-and-control mechanisms, by focusing on functional requirements rather than resorting to technology-based standards.
Furthermore, the international working group on ETV is currently working on the development of a new ISO ETV Standard so that the technology readiness level of the ETV process is estimated to be 7 on the TRL scale. The future ISO ETV Standard will aim to state all phases of the ETV process as well as delivering an accreditation framework for organizations involved in the ETV process.