Friday, 17 July 2015

Innovation across Regions: Shaping Solutions for Resource Efficiency in Europe

To mark the end of the successful three-year SusChem-inspired FP7 project Chemical Regions for Resource Efficiency (R4R), the project team will be presenting its final findings and recommendations on 30 September in Nice, France. The R4R closing event will be part of the major ECCE10 + ECAB3 + EPIC5 conference.

The combined 10th European Congress of Chemical Engineering, 3rd European Congress of Applied Biotechnology and 5th European Process Intensification Conference is the perfect venue to present the R4R findings.

The R4R workshop will gather policymakers, regional experts, captains of industry and academia to hear the key learnings from the project and provides an excellent discussion forum to exchange and discuss ideas on how chemical and related industries along their various chemical value chains can be transformed into eco-efficient, high-technology solution providers – and a key enabling element of the circular economy.

At the R4R workshop you can:

  • Learn about the role of regions in promoting resource efficiency
  • Discuss with policy makers, industrial players, entrepreneurs and academia during our networking breaks
  • Engage in discussions during dedicated panel debates with mentors from R4R's four flagship initiatives to implement recommendations for a resource efficient Europe
  • Hear about resource efficiency success stories with keynote speeches from representatives from R4R's six European regions
  • Explore our exhibition space
  • Shape future prospects for the R4R flagship initiatives including topics such as industrial symbiosis, education and bio-based SMEs.

A complete overview of the workshop will be available soon, but the draft agenda is available now.

Register now!
To register for the R4R workshop you need to register for the entire ECCE 10 + ECAB 3 + EPIC 5 conference that takes place from 26 September to 1 October. A special Early-Bird rate is offered for the first 150 persons who register at this link! The discount code is: ECCE-CEFIC1

The full ECCE 10 + ECAB 3 + EPIC 5 conference programme can be accessed here.

For more information, please contact Jacques Komornicki, Cefic Innovation Manager. We look forward to seeing you in September in Nice!

About R4R
Under the Chemical Regions for Resource Efficiency (R4R) project, launched in late 2012, six complementary European chemical regions came together to overcome fragmentation and create a platform for international collaboration on resource efficiency. A Joint Action Plan was developed comprising tools and best practise to improve the triple helix collaboration between the participating regions involving industry, academia and public sector.  Find out more at the R4R website.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

RESIDE gets Results

The heating and cooling of buildings contributes around 30% of the gross energy demand in Europe. Although new buildings follow more stringent energy efficiency standards, the existing and extensive estate of old buildings with poor energy rating is significant. Around 35-40% of Europe’s building stock was built before 1960 and 45-50% of the remainder before 1991. The density of old building stock varies extensively by regions, but the vast majority of Europe’s built environment more than 25 years old. In order to meet its emission and energy consumption reduction targets, Europe needs to urgently target and refurbish these older buildings in a cost-effective way.

Launched in December 2013 the SusChem-inspired FP7 project RESIDE aimed at supporting the implementation of EU Strategies to boost demand for innovation in the buildings refurbishment market by:

  • Adapting and applying of a promising emerging scientific approach, Technology Innovation Systems (TIS) for an extended localised market assessment
  • Defining, implementing and monitoring multi-level strategic roadmaps for Demand Sides Policy Measures (DSPM), based on the TIS market assessments, and
  • Proactive engagement of all target groups in the whole process

CEFIC was a partner in RESIDE together with CiaoTech (Italy), Bax & Willems (Spain) and the University of Utrecht (NL)

RESIDE has assessed the market and set up a baseline scenario of the EU refurbishment sector with a focus on three EU regions (Lombardia-Italy, Catalonia-Spain, Noord Brabant-The Netherlands), using the TIS methodology to identify the interactions among different parts of the system.

The main results of RESIDE, in particular from the TIS analysis and confirmed through direct discussions with the regional stakeholders, are that the three regions have clear targets and comprehensive plans for building refurbishment and that the main barriers to implementation are not the existence of financing schemes or refurbishments technologies from construction companies but are more due to:

  • Lack of knowledge of existing schemes
  • The speed of market formation
  • Resource mobilisation issues

Smart cities
The final results of the eighteen-month RESIDE project were presented to the General Assembly of the European Innovation Partnership on Smart Cities and Communities (EIP SCC) at the Metropolitan Solutions conference in Berlin on 21 May 2015.

RESIDE representatives attended the plenary session of the EIP Smart Cities Conference, chaired by European Commissioner for Transport Mrs. Violeta Bulc and European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Mr. Günther H. Oettinger. The conference attracted more than 450 representatives of EU organisations and communities including Mayors, CEOs and High-level speakers from all around Europe. The RESIDE project displayed a poster as part of the EIP event within the Berlin “Metropolitan Solutions” fair along with other 20 EU-funded projects on similar topics.

The RESIDE work raised high interest with the stakeholders present. In particular, Commissioner Bulc (see above Commissioner Bulc centre with Laszlo Bax on left from RESIDE) showed high interest in the RESIDE methodology and the three regional case studies, asking for more feedback on project’s results.

In the afternoon sessions, Laszlo Bax, the RESIDE project coordinator, presented the final results of the project to the EIP SCC’s Action Cluster “Sustainable Districts and Built Environment”. The Action cluster, chaired by Mrs. Rinske van Heiningen of Akzo Nobel and the Action Cluster leader, gathered about 40 people, all experts with multidisciplinary background and experience including architects, representatives of various EIP SCC commitments, entrepreneurs, university professors specialising in urban planning and energy efficiency in building, among other disciplines.

Finally, RESIDE partners participated to the break-out sessions on “Business Models for Sustainable Districts” and “District Regeneration” where representatives of the Action Cluster further discussed these topics and links and synergies with the EIP SCC in general, including the next steps for follow up.

RESIDE received several expressions of interest for future collaborations and was included in the list of projects on which the Action Cluster wants to push for a follow up within the EIP SCC community.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Helsinki Chemicals Forum 2015 and SusChem

Every year since 2009 in late spring, a meeting takes place in Helsinki that is of major relevance to chemicals manufacturers and their customers. And not just those whose businesses operate mainly in Europe.  The annual Helsinki Chemicals Forum (HCF) is hosted by the European Chemicals Agency, a body which was set up by the European Commission to manage the ongoing implementation of the EU's Regulation, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals legislation (REACH). SusChem board member Prof Rodney Townsend is a regular presenter at the meeting and here he reports on the 2015 meeting for SusChem News.

This year the Helsinki Chemicals Forum met at the end of May. All of the five main discussion topics had very much in mind the stated  aspiration of the planned 2020 World Summit on Sustainable Development, which is to achieve by 2020 a minimisation of 'the adverse effects of man-made chemicals on human health and the environment'.  An emphasis that ran through the whole meeting was the proposed Transatlantic Trade Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the EU and USA and what the implications of this might be in terms of harmonisation of regulations for chemicals between the two trading areas.

Dr Klaus Berend from the European Commission’s DG Growth is currently advising the TTIP negotiators regarding REACH-related issues. He gave a summary of the current state of negotiations to the HCF participants and emphasised that under TTIP, neither the EU nor the USA will lower current safety standards.  Indeed, both parties will maintain their right to continue to raise them, but for the TTIP to work, harmonisation of current legislative policies is essential.  A further key issue is that neither party will impose their system on the other.  These negotiation principles have important implications for chemicals manufacturers as they seek to develop more sustainable products, whether their markets are primarily in the EU or USA or span both current trading areas.

SusChem is by its very nature highly committed to sustainable development.  Similarly, implementation of and changes in REACH regulations, or their equivalents in the USA, are critically important to any company committed to sustainable innovation.

SusChem was represented at the HCF meeting by myself (second left above) and Erwin Annys, Director of REACH Chemicals Policy at Cefic (centre above), also attended.  Erwin and I were both directly involved in the fifth Panel Discussion topic, entitled ‘Green Chemistry and Engineering – a Fundamental Breakthrough?’  The Panel discussed the basic tenets of the Twelve Principles of Green Chemistry which were first enunciated nearly a quarter of a century ago by Paul Anastas, who currently works for the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Is Green chemistry sustainable?
The Panel and audience (which added its thoughts via tweets and texts) concluded that it was time to review the Twelve Principles because their focus is almost wholly on the activities of chemists and not on the manufacturing process as a whole.

Specifically the following points were made during the discussion:
  • 'Green chemistry' is not the same as 'green chemicals'.  This may seem an obvious point, but the Panel felt that it was not one which legislators always appreciated.  It was noted that current legislation in the USA emphasises just chemicals in final products rather than looking holistically at the sustainable manufacturing system.  See for example: and
  • Although the environmental imperative is the most critical factor in considering sustainable product design, no future process will be truly sustainable if it is not also societally beneficial and economically viable.  This is a key part of SusChem’s 2020 Strategy and also underpins the Europe 2020 growth strategy.  It is for this reason that SusChem prefers not to present ‘green chemistry’ as the answer per se.
  • This holistic thinking must extend along whole value chains; what might seem ideal at one point in the chain may have major implications further along the value chain. This is also central to SusChem’s strategic approach.
  • In the light of the recent EU Circular Economy initiative there is a strong need for a rethink issues related to waste disposal and re-use. In particular, Principle 1, which just states: 'It is better to prevent waste than to treat it or clean up waste chemicals', needs a major overhaul.
The general conclusion that was drawn at the HCF was that the time is overdue to update the Twelve Principles of Green Chemistry.  How this should be done and who should do it is not yet entirely clear, but that it should be done is crystal clear.

In line with movements in global scientific and technological developments, holistic thinking across all disciplinary barriers must proceed apace, especially in the light of the enormous changes and opportunities implicit in the coupling of intelligent computing with 'big data'. This matter will be the subject of a further blog article in the near future.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Sustainable Chemistry in Action: A close look at how science can change the world for the better

Science and sustainable chemistry has had an enormous impact on the development of a healthier and more sustainable and prosperous society, yet there is still so much to be done to tackle the world’s most pressing problems such as poverty, hunger, disease and climate change. Every day, scientists across the globe strive to provide answers to these global challenges, going to great lengths and making huge personal sacrifices to develop real solutions.

Dutch chemical and biotechnology company Royal DSM are using the tagline 'Bright Science. Brighter Living' to talk about these challenges and possible solutions. The company is paying tribute to the unsung heroes of our time: the world’s scientists who inspire us by making a positive difference to our society (see the video above).

This campaign aims to start a conversation with the general public, NGOs, governments, businesses and other stakeholders about the importance of science with positive societal purpose. In order to have real societal impact, science should be a truly collaborative effort. Please feel free to share the campaign video that can be found on YouTube  and visiting the dedicated website.

You can also follow DSM on twitter (@DSM) with the campaign hashtag #brightscience, on Facebook, and they have a dedicated YouTube channel too.

Friday, 26 June 2015

BBI launches €200 million EU call for bioeconomy at Brussels Info Day

 Today (26 June) the second call for proposals for Bio-Based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI JU) were announced at their Info Day in Brussels and the results of the first call were confirmed with the signing of the first 10 grant agreements. 

Europe’s biobased economy received a major boost with the announcement of the new €200 million+ call for proposals on June 26 at the Bio-Based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI JU) in Brussels. The latest call for proposals follows the July 2014 launch of the BBI JU, a €3.7 billion public-private partnership aimed at supporting the development of Europe’s emerging bioeconomy.

The 2015 call for proposals were formally announced at the Info Day - an information and awareness event gathering together research and innovation programme managers and experts from across Europe.

The 2015 call is aimed at attracting project proposals that can fill the technological gaps within specific value chains in the bioeconomy, or actions addressing the whole value chain from feedstock sourcing to the market applications. Demonstration actions should include building a demo-scale production facility in Europe, while flagship actions should support the first application in the market of a proven innovation that has not yet deployed. Details of the second call can be found here.

The packed Info Day meeting (above) at the European Commission’s Borschette Centre in Brussels was opened by BBI JU’s Interim Executive Director, Barend Verachtert. He hailed the new call for proposals as a landmark for Europe in its progress towards a fully sustainable bioeconomy. “Today is an important day for the BBI JU,” said Verachtert. “It shows that we are on the way to building a strong bioeconomy in Europe.”

Bioeconomy, circular economy
The new call comes just two weeks after G7 leaders meeting in Germany agreed to end all fossil fuel use by the end of the century and the day after a major conference meeting in Brussels highlighted the role of sustainable chemistry and biotechnology in achieving the aims of the circular economy.

Verachtert said that the new call reflects Europe’s clear commitment to develop cleaner ways to exploit its natural resources. “The bio-based industrial sector will significantly reduce Europe’s dependency on fossil-based products, help the European Union meet climate change targets, and lead to greener and more environmentally-friendly growth,” he said.

Moreover, Verachtert pointed out the social and economic effects of the BBI JU proposals, in particular their focus on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). “These proposals can go a long way to help SMEs produce the innovative bio-based products needed to lift Europe’s sustainable economy,” he said. “With the bioeconomy now at the heart of the EU’s investment agenda, the proposals underline a joint will to build new value chains between sectors like agro-food, chemicals and energy,” he added.

Following presentations on the BBI and the European biobased industries and Horizon 2020 and a full briefing on all aspects of the 2nd call in the morning, the afternoon of the Info Day was devoted to networking and the initial steps towards consortium building and proposal preparation.

New BBI JU projects
The second round announcement comes days after the BBI JU signed its first 10 grant agreements. The BBI JU 2014 call for proposals included support for the development of biorefining technologies to sustainably transform renewable natural resources into biobased products, materials and fuels.
The call resulted in the submission of 38 proposals, of which 10 received grants. The total BBI JU contribution for these 10 projects is almost €50 million with an additional industry contribution of over € 70 million.

Seven of the projects are Research and Innovation Actions (RIAs) aimed at replacing fossil-based materials with biobased materials. The seven projects are:

  • US4GREENCHEM - the pre-treatment of lignocellulosic or plant dry matter feedstock
  • PROVIDES - new sustainable pulping technologies
  • SmartLi and Greenlight - fibres and polymers from lignin
  • CARBOSURF - fermentation processes to produce biosurfactants and specialty carbohydrates
  • PROMINENT - extracting protein products from plant residues
  • NewFert - nutrient recovery from waste streams and residues

A further three grants are for demonstration and flagship projects aimed at testing technologies. The projects are:

  • PULP2VALUE - (DEMO) a biorefinery system for sugar beet pulp and products for detergents, personal care, oil and gas, paints and composites
  • ValChem -  (DEMO) techno-economic viability tests on the production of chemicals from wood
  • FIRST2RUN - (FLAGSHIP) exploiting underutilised oil crops to extract vegetable oils
The links will take you to the project's CORDIS Horizon 2020 project webpage if it exists. A Commission background paper on the projects is available here.

About the BBI JU
The BBI JU is a public-private partnership (PPP), part of the EU’s plan to move its economy to a post-petroleum era. It is expected to help make the EU’s economy more resource-efficient and sustainable, while supporting growth and employment. €3.7 billion will fund the BBI JU between 2014 and 2024, with €975 million coming from the European Commission and €2.7 billion from its private partner, the Bio-based Industries Consortium (BIC).

The EU’s bioeconomy currently has an annual turnover of around €2 trillion and employs more than 22 million people.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

BIO-TIC’s 10 Recommendations to enable € 50 billion EU Bioeconomy

Today (23 June), the BIO-TIC project has launched its final roadmap report for tackling barriers to realising the full potential of industrial biotechnology in Europe. The report is entitled ‘The bioeconomy enabled - A roadmap to a thriving industrial biotechnology sector in Europe’ and was introduced at the project’s high level policy conference “From bugs to business: Unlocking the Bioeconomy in Europe” that took at the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Science and the Arts in Brussels. The conference brought together industry, academia, policy makers, innovation agencies and other bioeconomy stakeholders to discuss the actions needed to stimulate the development of industrial biotechnology in Europe. 

The BIO-TIC report highlights that the EU market for industrial biotechnology-derived products is expected to increase from € 28 billion in 2013 to € 50 billion in 2030. This growth will be largely driven by replacement of fossil carbon materials, reflecting Europe’s desire to develop more sustainable and resource-efficient products and processes.

However, in spite of this market growth, significant hurdles remain and hamper the full development of industrial biotechnology in Europe. For example, the principal barrier to fully exploiting industrial biotechnology opportunities in Europe relates to product cost-competitiveness, both compared to fossil alternatives and to equivalent products sourced from elsewhere in the world.

To tackle this and other hurdles, and to ensure that most of this potential is realised in Europe, the BIO-TIC roadmap outlines ten pragmatic recommendations for action. Presenting the main findings of the report Antoine Peeters of EuropaBio (below) said that: "The projected market of up to € 50 billion meant that there were many opportunities for competitive European positions - it was now up to you [the European bioeconomy stakeholders] to make it happen!"

The ten main recommendations in the report are to:

  • Improve opportunities for feedstock producers within the bioeconomy; 
  • Investigate the scope for using novel biomass; 
  • Develop a workforce which can maintain Europe’s competitiveness in industrial biotechnology; 
  • Introduce a long-term, stable and transparent policy and incentive framework to promote the bioeconomy; 
  • Improve public perception and awareness of industrial biotechnology and biobased products; 
  • Identify, leverage and build upon EU capabilities for pilot and demonstration facilities; 
  • Promote the use of co-products; 
  • Improve the bioconversion and downstream processing steps; 
  • Improve access to financing for large scale biorefinery projects; 
  • Develop stronger relationships between conventional and non-conventional players in the value chain. 

Nathalie Moll, Secretary General of EuropaBio, which coordinated the project, said: “We are thrilled to see BIO-TIC come to fruition. The roadmap represents a comprehensive summary of expertise and insight from across the Member States. In 10 recommendations, it highlights ways of capturing the huge potential for environmental, societal and economic solutions that this cutting-edge technology offers in the development of a more competitive, circular EU bioeconomy.”

The roadmap
The Bioeconomy Enabled: A Roadmap to a Thriving Industrial Biotechnology Sector in Europe’ roadmap is a key deliverable of the EU funded BIO-TIC project. The results are based on an extensive literature review, complemented with over 80 expert interviews and 13 stakeholder workshops organised across Europe in 2013 and 2014. It is based on three detailed reports covering market potential, research and development and regulatory/policy issues, available separately as appendices to the main document. All BIO-TIC roadmaps can be downloaded from the BIO-TIC web portal.

The ‘From bugs to business: Unlocking the Bioeconomy in Europe’ conference was chaired by Professor Patricia Osseweijer of TU Delft and featured keynote speeches by BioAmber, Biobased Delta, Energochemica and Ecover to illustrate the issues and potential of industrial biotechnology in Europe.

Panel debates covered project financing for industrial biotechnology projects and issues around biomass availability. The conference concluded with contributions from MEP Lambert van Nistelrooij and Waldemar Kütt, ‎Head of Unit for BioBased products and Processes at DG Research and Innovation, giving their views from Parliament and the Commission respectively on industrial biotechnology.

Lambert van Nistelrooij highlighted the need to “introduce a long-term, stable and transparent policy and incentive framework to promote the bioeconomy” while Waldemar Kütt said that: “Industrial biotechnology can make a change to enable a future bioeconomy and a future circular economy. BIO-TIC’s ten recommendations will be very valuable making progress in this area.”

The event included an exhibition of industrial biotechnology-related tools (including 3D printing machines) and a range of biobased products (above). Conference delegates were also invited to visit the Bio Base Europe Pilot Plant on the morning of 24 June.

The Industrial Biotech Research and Innovation Platforms Centre towards Technological Innovation and Solid Foundations for a Growing Industrial Biotech Sector in Europe (BIO-TIC) project was launched in September 2012 with the vision to establish an overview of the hurdles to biotech innovation and find solutions to accelerate the uptake of industrial biotechnology in Europe. BIO-TIC was a three-year project funded by the FP7 Programme of the European Commission and is operated by 12 partners. These are EuropaBio, Cefic, PNO Consultants, TNO, Dechema, nova Institut, Clever Consult, KTN, IAR, Poyry Management Consulting Oy, Ciaotech and PNO Innovation. The consortium is led by EuropaBio.

More information
For more information, contact Claire Gray Project Co-ordinator for BIO-TIC at EuropaBio or visit the BIO-TIC website.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

ACHEMA 2015 - Global Summit of Innovation!

With over 3,800 exhibitors and a huge exhibition space ACHEMA opened on 15 June in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. The growing international reputation of Europe’s premier event for the process industries was underlined by the fact that, for the first time, the majority of exhibitors come from outside Germany. With well over 160,000 participants anticipated to attend from 15 - 19 June one focus of interest for SusChem amongst the varied technical programme are three sessions on CO2 utilisation.

ACHEMA is the world forum for chemical engineering and the process industry providing an international platform for new chemical process innovations and technologies. And innovation was the main focus of the first day of ACHEMA. At the opening press conference Prof. Dr. Rainer Diercks, Chairman of the Board of organiser DECHEMA e.V. described ACHEMA as: “the global summit of innovation.” Being interdisciplinary and highly international, ACHEMA is a “melting pot of ideas.” Diercks also pointed out that the significant contribution of chemistry and process engineering to the solution of global challenges such as water supply, food or health is not well-known to the general public. ACHEMA is therefore aiming to increase its activities directed towards engaging with the public on these subjects.

The importance of the chemical industry for overall innovation should be brought much more strongly to the attention of the general public DECHEMA believes. All speakers in the press conference panel warned that Europe could fall back as a place for innovation if the political and societal framework was not improved.

Innovation in terms of CO2 utilisation technology is of growing interest to SusChem and the chemical industry generally. At ACHEMA DECHEMA has organised a special stand on the German #useCO2 funding programme in the Exhibition area in  Hall 9.2, stand E46 (link text in German). If you are at ACHEMA go visit!

In addition two ACHEMA conference sessions and a workshop are of direct interest in this field.

Energy and alternatives
Energy, water and feedstock are essential for any chemical or biotechnology conversion. As these resources become scarcer, new methods for efficient use are being introduced. This includes energy efficient transformations and operations as well as the temporary storage of energy in the form of electricity or heat. Renewable energy resources that produce electricity depending on weather conditions rather than in response to demand may create a temporary and regional surplus of energy. This can be usefully employed for the production of basic chemicals as well as for conversion of unconventional feedstock such as CO2.

The ‘Power to chemicals’ conference session majors on this latter theme and takes place on the morning of Thursday, 18 June from 10:30. The session will describe  a number of interesting processes in this field including the use of ammonia as a storage medium for fluctuating (renewable) energy sources; synthetic fuels from a sustainable pathway; storage of power as chemicals using gasification plants; tailored foams as catalyst support for highly exothermic processes; and comparison of biological and catalytic methanation for power-to-gas applications.

You can find more information, including downloadable abstracts of all the presentations, here.

On the following morning (19 June) a dedicated session on Industrial carbon dioxide utilisation covers topics including: Materials for the 21st century - can carbon come from CO2?; CO2-based polyurethanes on the way to commercial scale (the Bayer DREAM process); an evaluation of the economic and environmental potentials of using CO2 in chemical processes; Combinatorial screening of catalyst materials for electrochemical CO2 reduction; and Environmentally sustainable syngas production from carbon dioxide and hydrogen.

Again you can find more information, including downloadable abstracts of all the presentations, here.

SCOT workshop
Also on the afternoon of 18 June from 15:00 the EU FP7 project Smart CO2 Utilisation (SCOT) is organising a workshop at ACHEMA entitled: ‘PtX: A new paradigm for energy and gas networks?’

The event will present the draft of the SCOT Project’s Vision for Power to Gas and Power to Liquids and open a discussion on  the potential of these technologies in Europe.
The workshop will address the following questions:

  • In which fields will PtX provide added value?
  • What needs to happen for the technologies to be viable (policy, technical progress, etc)?
  • What impact will PtX have on electricity and gas network operators and industries in Europe?

To guide the discussion, three high-level experts will lead the exchanges with the audience that will consist of people from industry, research institutes as well as policy makers.

A joint Cefic-European Commission Workshop on the Chemistry and Processes of CO2 Utilisation was recently held and the outcomes will be published soon.