Tuesday, 22 December 2009

December 2009 Editorial - Rodney Townsend

A very warm welcome to the latest issue of our SusChem Solutions newsletter.

As we approach the latter period of FP7, much is changing in terms of the Commission’s research and innovation priorities. It is important that SusChem should respond to these changes in order to ensure that the substantial progress we have made so far is consolidated. Long before the Commission initiated its “Strategy for Recovery”, SusChem had recognised that we needed to update and perhaps re-focus our Implementation Action Plan (IAP) on a regular basis. Consequently, over the summer and autum SusChem’s technology work groups have been putting the finishing touches to the 2009 IAP update. A comprehensive and consolidated IAP document will soon be available for all stakeholders and will be widely circulated for comment. Please have a look at this document and let us know your views!

As you know we announced at the 2009 Stakeholder conference in Prague that the IAP Update would now be an annual process. The comments, additions and inputs from SusChem stakeholders and others on the 2009 IAP document will form the basis for this new process and enable us to respond to Commission initiatives in an up-to-date and authoritative manner.

In addition, the regular IAP Update is designed to make sure that our research and innovation agenda is always relevant to the research needs of society. A similar focus on the issues facing society will be one of the main approaches for planning the next European Research Framework Programme, FP8, which will begin in 2014.

FP8 is expected to focus on Grand Challenges and Great Ideas. The first of these comprises a process to convert problems, questions and concerns of citizens into a series of Grand Challenges and then act to meet them through research – examples being social cohesion, global security, education, climate change, environment and energy. Grand Challenges is very much a “top-down” exercise. By contrast, via a “bottom-up” process, Great Ideas looks to universities, research institutes, companies in pan-European teams to develop new ‘higher risk’ research concepts with a focus on cross-disciplinary, cross-institutional research.

SusChem already has defined its SRA by looking at general societal areas of concern. We are therefore very well placed to help shape FP8 and respond to policy developments. For the future prosperity of sustainable chemistry and biotechnology in Europe it is essential that we do influence FP8 effectively. With the very recent announcement by President Barroso that he wants to appoint a Chief Scientist to “deliver proactive, scientific advice throughout all stages of policy development and delivery” it looks like true science-based policy may at last become a reality across the European Commission.

If we are to improve our innovative capabilities within Europe and enhance our competitive capabilities in the future, especially in sustainable technologies, it is very important that we enhance the skills capabilities of not only young people passing through universities and into the job market, but also all members of the current European work force. SusChem is taking a lead here in assessing the skills needs of the future and I was delighted to be invited to speak on skills needs, and what we are doing to deliver them, at the recent ECTN Conference in Dresden in early September. On that occasion, it was good also to learn of the achievements and future plans of the European Research Council, through an excellent lecture from Prof Hans Joachim Freund. ERC support for chemistry has been encouraging but we must not be complacent as the ERC reviews progress to date and formulates future plans.

As many of you will know my term as SusChem Chairman was nearing its end and I was expecting to stand down at the end of this year. A process was agreed by the SusChem board earlier this year to nominate and select my successor. The process has gone well and some possible successors identified, but with all the changes taking place in both the management structures and objectives of SusChem at present, it is very important that whoever succeeds me should “hit the ground running”, so to speak. For these reasons, it was felt that to effect the transition at the end of this year might be a premature move and I have been asked if I would be prepared to stay as Chairman for a further period of six months. This means that we now expect to welcome a new Chairperson in July 2010. Whoever that new person is, I do hope you will all show him the support and enthusiasm that I have been fortunate to receive from you. As the recent brokerage event shows, SusChem continues to be a great success and has a tremendous and valuable future in front of it.

As ever, if you have any comments on SusChem activities or suggestions, please do not hesitate to contact us via suschem@suschem.org. And please note the date for our next Stakeholder event in Lyon on 4 May 2010 – we look forward to seeing you there!

Prof. Rodney Townsend
Chairman SusChem Board,
Director Science & Technology, Royal Society of Chemistry

In this issue of SusChem Solutions

SusChem Brokerage Event

EU Recovery Package

PNO Consortium building

SusChem Chair Succession

Stakeholder Event 4 May 2010 - Lyon

1st SusChem France Stakeholder Event

SusChem/DPI Polymers Event - March 2010

EuCheMS SustainableChemistry Award 2010

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