Wednesday, 19 December 2018

SusChem wishes you a successful 2019!

Dear colleagues and members of the SusChem community,

The past year showed us once again the enormous challenges and changes that our world and our industry have to cope with, whilst striving to achieve sustainable development. An extended summer across Europe reminded me and many of us that CO2 emissions are still on the rise; and the issue of plastics waste became more urgent on the political agenda.

Identifying solutions to global challenges like these is achieved via science and technology – and through collaboration. This is exactly the purpose of SusChem, and I think in 2018 we made further progress in sharing a ‘European voice’ on research and innovation priorities in Sustainable Chemistry and Industrial Biotech.

One highlight was our response to Horizon Europe, the ambitious research and innovation programme that the European Commission is forging to succeed Horizon 2020.  At our annual stakeholders event in June, the potential of the contribution of SusChem and Key Enabling Technologies (KETs) under Horizon Europe was highlighted. And we initiated our consultation to build a new SusChem Strategic Innovation and Research Agenda (SIRA). I am sure the new SIRA will be a solid base for advising the European Commission on future technology priorities for Horizon Europe. Delivery of a final draft is planned in the course of 2019 – a major task for next year.

Looking back on 2018, I also well remember our brokerage event in October which was supported by keynote speakers from the Commission and also the disruptive innovation community. The event brought together some 200 European innovators to form strong consortia under open Horizon 2020 calls – a really impressive number! Also the number of national technology platforms (NTPs) rose in 2018 with the accession of Bulgaria, Finland and Sweden, so that our community now comprises 17 NTPs across Europe. 

2018 also saw SusChem making significant contributions to the innovation discussion in Europe. Our extended ‘Key Enabling Technologies in Horizon Europe’ paper was published in February, while two new white papers gave insight and recommendations on recycling of polymer composites and battery energy storage. And most recently, ‘SusChem Plastics Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda in a Circular Economy’ was published with contributions from across the full plastics value chain, as a contribution to the implementation of the EU Plastics strategy.

So 2018 was really impactful. Our key focus for 2019 will be to build on SusChem’s role as a multi-stakeholder advisory forum engaging with both academia and industry. Together we can provide a vision and direction on innovation and technology priorities in Sustainable Chemistry and industrial biotechnology to ensure the success of Horizon Europe. We therefore invite you to join us in formulating together the new SusChem SIRA!

On behalf of the SusChem Board and the SusChem secretariat, I would like to thank you all very much for your continuing commitment to our platform and activities. I wish you a relaxing Christmas break and a healthy, happy and “sustainable” New Year. We look forward to working with you on new SusChem inspired initiatives over the next 12 months!

Best wishes,

Dr Markus Steilemann
Chairman of the SusChem Board

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

REE4EU Pilot Plant success

The SusChem-supported Horizon 2020 project REE4EU has successfully demonstrated at a pilot scale a closed-loop permanent magnet recycling process for the first time in Europe. The REE4EU pilot has successfully treated several tons of in-process wastes and end-of-life magnetic products containing rare earth elements, resulting in the recovery of almost hundred kilos of rare earth alloys. The alloy will be reused in the manufacturing of permanent magnet products, thereby closing the materials loop!

The successful recycling of permanent magnet waste is a major result for the REE4EU SPIRE project whose full title is: Integrated High Temperature Electrolysis (HTE) and Ion Liquid Extraction (ILE) for a Strong and Independent European Rare Earth Elements Supply Chain.

Rare earth elements (REEs) are the seventeen chemical elements including the lanthanides, Scandium and Yttrium that are key-enablers of sustainable technologies. They are used in hybrid electric vehicles, wind turbines, and highly efficient electric motors. Currently European industries are highly reliant on imports of these valuable and rare materials. Recycling the elements from REE-containing waste streams could constitute an important secondary source of the materials for Europe.

A recent study estimated the global trade in REE-containing products in 2010 is around EUR 1.5 trillion, or 13% of global trade. However, only 1% of REE waste is being recovered as no adequate process is currently available. REE4EU’s success could open-up a brand-new route to recover process wastes from permanent magnet production.

Pilot demo
During the third year of this four-year project that started in October 2015, work has focused on constructing and running the REE4EU's pilot units: the high temperature electrolysis (HTE) and ionic liquid extraction (ILE) units. The technology has now been demonstrated at pre-industrial scale using permanent magnet wastes.

Enough waste material (in-process waste and end-of-life magnets) has been treated to obtain enough rare earth alloy (REA) to run a 600 kg batch of strip cast rare earth master alloy (REMA) and output material from the HTE pilot cell has been used to manufacture permanent magnets in a laboratory line.

The quality of both the REMA input and the permanent magnet output obtained in terms of magnetic properties and chemical composition show that the magnets prepared have the same properties as magnets from mass production using virgin materials. This validates the REE4EU technology to obtain REA for permanent magnet production using magnet waste materials.

The two-step process (ILE then HTE) has been optimised for direct REA production, suitable for REMA to be used in permanent magnet manufacturing. In this way, a complete closed-loop permanent magnet recycling has been demonstrated at a pre-industrial scale using less steps than conventional methods currently carried out in China.

The process and its advantages are explained in this REE4EU video.

Next steps
In the next few months, the REA obtained in the HTE unit will be used to manufacture REMA for permanent magnets in a real magnet production line and benchmarked against magnets produced using virgin materials.

Data collection and modelling activities on permanent magnet waste recycling routes have been carried out and these results will be used to eco-design the recycling chain and to compare it to the conventional supply route of REA currently used for permanent magnet production.

For more information on the REE4EU processes visit their website.

What is the value of Industrial Water?

At the end of November SusChem and the European Water Technology Platform (WssTP) joined forces to present ‘The Value of Industry Water’ at Dechema’s Industrial Water 2018 conference in Frankfurt. The conference was attended by around 150 participants, mostly from Europe but with international representations from China, India, South America and the US, all active and interested in Industry Water Innovation. The conference was supported by SusChem, WssTP and SPIRE.

Water is essential for life. As the world’s population grows and the effects of climate change become apparent the demand for water will increase. And too many people around the world still do not have access to clean water or adequate sanitation. The Industrial Water 2018 conference on 27-29 November sought to highlight today's challenges in industrial water management and discuss the new strategies, developments and technologies that can make industrial water use more efficient.

The Industrial Water conference and exhibition is a biennial platform that addresses all relevant topics along the industrial water value chains: from raw water to waste water treatment; from sensors to digitisation in industrial water management; from alternative water resources to zero liquid discharge and integrated management.

The contribution from SusChem and WssTP was presented by Henk Pool from Cefic during the Digitalisation in Industrial Water Management session of the conference on the morning of 28 November.

Multiple waters
The paper, jointly authored with Durk Krol and Andrea Rubini from WssTP, was entitled ‘The Value of Industry Water: Integrated multiple waters, Digitally Connected and Smartly Managed’ and focused on the new ‘Multiple Waters’ Governance model and how Digital Waters enable a totally different, bottom-up and multi-stakeholder approach.

The basis for the paper stems from joint workshops organised by SusChem and WssTP to identify critical innovations in the context of an Industry Water transition from Single Use to Integrated Management.

The concept of Multiple Waters entails the employment of different water sources and qualities (such as fresh ground and surface water, rainwater, brackish water, saline water, brines, grey water, black water, recycled water) for various purposes by multiple users. The Multiple Waters concept targets the right water for the right purpose to the right users in a synergetic combination of centralised and decentralised water treatment. Water use can then be optimised based on the circularity principle for water such as cascading, reuse or recycling, while enacting new economic mechanisms and models based on the true value of water.

Value drives innovation
Considering Industrial Water management and the true Value of Water leads to the identification of industry innovation needs, which are driven by four factors:

1. Sensor Networks: Sensor development provides a unique opportunity for enhancing the Value of Water. Advanced sensor development is required to ensure continuous understanding and control of water quality. Handling of dynamic water systems requires advanced sensors. Full implementation, reliable operation costs and maintenance are important considerations.

2. Big Data: Identifying the Value of Water system in terms of the data that it generates and creates is central to its economic value. The creation of a resilient basis for cyber security and privacy legislation is necessary, as no holistic overview currently exists in the sector. Links between data silos and pockets of data should be established and prioritised.

3. Modelling and Analysis: Many models for enhancing water management exist in academia or within other research organisations. However, these methodologies need to be brought into context before moving to the next (pilot) phase. It is necessary to identify models and tailor them to the requirements of users in order to develop more efficient water systems while observing the interactions and implications.

4. Smart Governance: Smart governance models vary from region to region. The selection process for an appropriate governance design requires extensive consideration. Education and communication are crucial for its successful understanding and implementation.

The presentation addressed the above factors in detail and built connections between them.

“A balanced combination of innovation across all the factors will enhance the true Value of Water and therefore drive the industry water transition from single use to integrated management,” Henk Pool concluded.

Water efficiency
On 30 November an additional workshop on increasing water and energy efficiency in process industry took place looking at relevant tools, technologies and concepts. The workshop was jointly organised by the EU-funded Horizon 2020 projects WaterWatt and INSPIREWATER – a SPIRE project. The workshop included a number of case studies from the steel and the chemical industry regarding water and energy efficiency measures. Participants were also introduced to the recently developed online tool for evaluating energy efficiency (E3 Platform) and got the opportunity to test the tool during the workshop.

Friday, 7 December 2018

New Plastics SIRA shows path to circularity

In response to the European Commission's recent Plastics Strategy, SusChem and its partners have issued a new report outlining a 'Plastics Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda in a Circular Economy'. This report identifies the challenges to plastics circularity and defines the types of solutions needed to address them. Future research is required in three main areas: Circularity by design, recycling and alternative feedstock.

Commenting on the release of the report, SusChem Chairman and Covestro CEO Dr. Markus Steilemann said:
“The Plastics industry is committed to increase the resource efficiency of its production processes and to face the challenge of closing the circularity loop. The new Research and Innovation Agenda gives fresh impetus on the strongest way to drive progress along plastics value chains by means of collaboration.”
The analysis from this new report has helped to identify priorities, projects and the level of investment needed to achieve full circularity of plastics. SusChem and its partners – Cefic, PlasticsEurope, European Plastics Converters (EuPC) and the European Composites, Plastics and Polymer Processing Platform (ECP4) – will use this report as their main input to EU innovation policy on the circularity of plastics.

It is hoped that this document will inspire an increase in the number of collaborative projects as well as increasing European and member states support for a full implementation of the solutions proposed.

The document was developed using input from experts involved in the plastics value chain; principally from SusChem, the European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic), the European Composites, Plastics and Polymer Processing Platform (ECP4), the European Plastics Converters (EuPC), and PlasticsEurope.

EU plastics sector
There are around 60 000 companies in the European plastic industry, most of them SMEs, employing over 1.5 million people and generating a turnover close to EUR 350 billion in 2016.

Thanks to their versatility and high resource efficiency, plastics have enabled innovation in many other sectors allowing the development of products and solutions in strategic areas (e.g., higher protection in packaging, insulation in building & construction, lightweight for transportation, societal wellbeing brought by renewable energy and medical devices) that could not exist today without these materials. A full plastics circularity has the potential to contribute to a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, resource efficiency and job creation (European Circular Economy objectives).

Report partners
The European Chemical Industry Council - Cefic is a committed partner to EU policymakers, facilitating dialogue with industry and sharing broad-based expertise. Cefic represents large, medium and small chemical companies across Europe, which directly provide 1.2 million jobs and account for 14.7% of world chemical production. Based in Brussels since its founding in 1972, Cefic interacts on behalf of its members with international and EU institutions, non-governmental organisations, the international media, and other stakeholders.

PlasticsEurope is one of the leading European trade associations with centres in Brussels, Frankfurt, London, Madrid, Milan and Paris. The association networks with European and national plastics associations and has more than 100 member companies that produce over 90% of all polymers across the EU28 member states plus Norway, Switzerland and Turkey. 

European Plastics Converters (EuPC) is the EU-level trade association, based in Brussels, representing more than 50 000 companies in Europe, which produce over 50 million tonnes of plastic products every year. Plastics converters (sometimes called "Processors") are the heart of the plastics industry. They manufacture plastics semi-finished and finished products for an extremely wide range of industrial and consumer markets - the automotive electrical and electronic, packaging, construction and healthcare industries, to name but a few. 

The European Composites, Plastics and Polymer Processing Platform (ECP4) is an industry-driven collaboration that unites 25 members from 13 countries amongst the top-level European research institutions, regional plastic clusters, and EU-level industrial organisations of plastics and composites converters. ECP4 brings innovation partners together to identify opportunities for collaborative research.

Friday, 30 November 2018

BOOST INNOVATION - Establish the right framework for your industry

The 2019 HARMONI Summit is a multi-stakeholder-platform including relevant participants from regulation, standardisation and industry. On 16 and 17 January 2019 at the Assuralia Meeting Centre on Square de Meeûs in Brussels, the summit will deal with non-technological challenges in your innovation agenda such as regulation, standardisation and innovation transfer. Registration is open until 7 January 2019.

The summit will open from 14h00 on 16 January with an introduction to HARMONI and its mission to assess non-technical barriers to innovation, followed by a word from the European Commission. The new 2050 Vision recently launched by the SPIRE PPP will then be described by Daniel Gauthier, President of A.SPIRE and the role of standardisation in facilitating an innovation framework outlined by CEN-CENELEC.

After coffee, a session will focus on how to utilise the funding schemes under the forthcoming Horizon Europe programme including how to benefit from the new “Missions” concept, assessing the programme from a national perspective, and how it aligns with the EU’s Low Carbon Strategy. The last formal session on the first day is entitled ‘Enabling innovation during the fuzzy front end as well as beyond’ and will feature contributions from the European Investment Bank, BNP Paribas, and industry representatives.

The formal sessions will end by around 17h40 but an evening event kicks off at 19h00 with a buffet, drinks, discussion and speeches at The Office; Rue d'Arlon 80; 1040 Brussels.

The second day features a couple of break-out sessions. The morning session tackles the issue of ‘Overcoming innovation barriers’. Three parallel workshops will work on Learning from success - tools and standardisation to grow and transfer innovations, Non-technological issues regarding CO2 valorisation (Part 1), and innovation barriers to Circular Economy (the example of plastics). The later session will see discussion of SusChem’s soon-to-be-published Plastics Strategic Innovation and Research Agenda (SIRA).

After lunch, a second break-out session will address themes under the general title ‘Enabling Circular Economy and industrial innovation’. Three parallel workshops will consider Standards and innovation transfer in the area of Circular Economy, Non-technological issues regarding CO2 valorisation (Part 2), and Waste management: Innovations in industrial symbiosis. The later session will include feedback from SPIRE projects working in this area.
Registration for the event is open until 7 January 2019 via this registration page and participation is free of charge. Please feel free to forward details of this event to other interested parties and colleagues.

For more information on the event, please contact Christian Grunewald or Sönke Nissen.

Friday, 2 November 2018

SPIRE projects debate the utilisation of CO2 and CO on 12 November

As part of the EU’s Raw Materials Week, the SPIRE Horizon 2020 project Carbon4PUR is organising a stakeholder event to bring together SPIRE projects, industrial, political and NGO stakeholders working in the area of CO2 and CO utilisation. The goal is to create synergies between the projects, create a closer cooperation between the projects and stakeholders, and get a holistic view on the field of CO2 and CO as raw materials. The event takes place on 12 November at the European Commission’s Covent Garden building in Brussels. The meeting is free to participate, but prior compulsory registration must be made by 6 November in order to access the building.

The following SPIRE and EU funded projects will present their take on the subject and the advances they are making in the area:

  • Carbon4PUR - Turning industrial waste gases into valuable polyurethanes - European research collaboration between the steel and chemical industries
  • FReSMe & MefCO2 - Methanol production from flue and residual steel gases
  • ICO2CHEM - From industrial CO2 streams to added value Fischer-Tropsch chemicals
  • RECO2DE & ENGICOIN - Recycling CO2 in the cement industry for the production of added-value additives
  • EPOS - Enhanced energy and resource Efficiency and Performance in process industry operations via onsite and cross-sectorial symbiosis
  • Steelanol - Transforming carbon-rich industrial waste gases into advanced bio-ethanol

A panel discussion will allow for interaction between all projects and participating stakeholders.

Geographical questions
A special focus of the event will be on geographical aspects of CO2 and CO as chemical feedstocks. Answers will be sought for the following questions:

  • Where do we have CO2 and CO sources, where renewable energy and chemical transformation facilities are available? 
  • Do we need pipelines for the gases and is there space for the new utilisation plants? 

The event will also discuss value chains and potential cooperation between the different actors represented. 

All participating projects are looking for feedback from the various stakeholders about their projects, depending on the progress of the individual project including: 

  • Did the project consider all important aspects?
  • Do you have suggestions for the implementation?
  • Do you see problems? 

Participating stakeholder will get a thorough understanding of the research going on in Europe to use carbon rich gases as resources. You can also make your voice heard and influence these projects with your feedback. Lastly, this is a great opportunity for networking and to get into contact with researchers and companies working in the field of CO2 and CO utilisation. 

Participation is free, but you need to register by November 6th to get access to the building. A preliminary agenda for the meeting can be accessed here and you can register via this link.

Friday, 26 October 2018

SusChem Brokerage 2018: Horizon 2020 update and Project Pitching

The SusChem Brokerage Event 2018 took place at the distinguished Hotel Le Plaza in Brussels on 23 October and was attended by some 180 participants. The audience was updated on Commission proposals for the 2019 and 2020 Horizon 2020 work programme and forthcoming calls in areas relevant to sustainable chemistry. In addition, a wide range of project ideas and consortia were presented in some 39 presentations across three project pitching sessions and inspiring talks on disruptive innovation were given. Information booths presenting the programmes of the SPIRE cPPP, the Biobased Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI JU), and SusChem National Technology Platforms (NTPs) were open throughout the day and, of course, speed dating and informal networking was facilitated.

Delegates to #SusChemBrokerage2018 were welcomed by Vivi Filippousi, SusChem Secretary and Innovation Manager at Cefic, who introduced a video message Markus Steilemann, CEO of Covestro and Chair of the SusChem board Chairman (pictured below). He welcomed the wide range of SusChem stakeholders at the event and urged them to continue the collaborative style that SusChem has initiated and to be “curious, colourful and make the world a brighter place through sustainable chemistry.”

Commission programme
Overviews of the forthcoming Horizon 2020 work programme and 2019 and 2020 calls were presented by Commission officials, although it was stressed that the topics presented were currently tentative and official texts would be published later in the year.

Potential topics in the materials (NMBP) area were presented by Søren Bowadt, Deputy Head of Unit; Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology at the Commission’s DG Research (pictured below). This was followed by Carmine Marzano, Programme officer for Advanced Manufacturing Systems and Biotechnologies who focused on process technologies – in particular the forthcoming SPIRE calls – and Panos Balabanis, Deputy Head of Unit for Eco-Innovation who concentrated on calls that offered direct support for the EU’s recent circular economy package and that connected economic and environmental gains.

In a second session call presentations from two further Commission speakers were presented. First, Arian Zwegers, Programme Officer for Technologies and Systems for Digitising Industry at DG-Connect described some of the calls in the digital with an emphasis on security, the concept of digital manufacturing platforms and big data applications.

Topics on Energy were described by Silvia Vivarelli, Senior Project Adviser on Horizon 2020 Energy Efficiency at the Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (EASME) Goals in particular those putting energy efficiency first and providing the technical basis for the Clean Energy for all Europeans Package.  Reducing final energy intensity in industry was a key goal.

Power pitching, disruptive innovation
After the morning coffee break, seven of SusChem’s NTPS (Spain, Finland, Czech Republic, the UK, Belgium, Slovenia and Greece) were introduced by Anne Chloe Devic from Cefic and presented a range of project ideas on behalf of national stakeholders including SMEs, larger companies, RTOs and universities.

An intense second Project Pitching session after lunch saw 22 speakers from large and small companies, RTOs and universities presenting their project ideas. This was followed by two presentations on disruptive innovation in Europe.

Nicholas Zylberglajt, President and Co-Founder of the European Young Innovators Forum (EYIF) looked at trends and challenges in the European start-up ecosystem. To succeed start-ups needed access to talent and skills, funds and the ability to make effective and useful connections. He said that Europe had made huge progress over the last decade – the last five years especially – in terms of its start-up ecosystem with leading hubs in London, Berlin, Amsterdam and Barcelona.

Eric Pol, Senior Advisor at venture capital organisation Ventures4Growth described the sort of initiatives that he looks to invest in: companies doing good, relevant, and credible science with high quality, close-knit teams who were able to react to crisis. Overall, he thought that Europe was doing very well thanks to EU programmes and the existence of the single market.

A final, third pitch session saw presentations on behalf of nine sustainable chemistry start-up companies.

The day was completed with a networking cocktails and throughout the day a dedicated meeting room allowed individuals to meet and exchange ideas, speed date and build consortia. Information booths representing SusChem NTPs and the two SusChem inspired Horizon 2020 programme initiatives – the SPIRE cPPP (above) and the BBI JU (below) – were also open providing information on their forthcoming work programmes.

All in all, #SusChemBrokerage2018 was a packed and exhausting day with, in total, more than 50 project concepts presented and numerous individual contacts facilitated. We look forward to these exchanges leading to the birth of many new and successful projects in the next few months!