Thursday, 6 May 2010

SusChem in Lyon: Clear goals, clearly communicated

Delegates to the 8th SusChem Stakeholder event held in Lyon, France on 4 May were told that Europe is in the business of smart, sustainable, inclusive growth and that the chemical community is a key partner in this. Applying the benefits of SusChem research through its innovation initiative is a key priority and SusChem will be working through the remainder of 2010 to prioritise the best candidates for future Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) that could be taken forward under FP8 from 2014.

In his keynote address Prof. Rodney Townsend, the Chairman of the SusChem Board, reminded delegates of SusChem’s success in promoting sustainable chemical and biotechnology research and innovation in FP7. “It is a big programme …with some €800 million in FP7 currently,” he said. “But now we are doing much more than research – we are not just a technology platform - we are looking at the big picture.”

Townsend stressed a new approach based on “partnership, looking at the whole system (or value chain) and bringing integrated thinking to provide sustainable solutions to society’s challenges” as the platform’s key objective.

He sees SusChem in partnership with government, industry and society, working through instruments such as Lead Market Initiatives (LMIs) and PPPs that assess the whole supply and value chain across thematic programmes using research, development and innovation to implement the sustainable changes required. These sustainable solutions might not always be only technological in nature.

This process is informed by the recommendations of the European Commission’s High Level Group on the Competitiveness of the Chemical Industry in Europe and Expert Group on European Technology Platforms (ETPs) that looked to strengthen the role of ETPs in addressing societal challenges and also boosting educational aspects.

The thematic programmes would address societal challenges that have significant innovation contribution requirements from chemistry. A first wave of themes was on the agenda for the Lyon meeting: Energy, Environment and Water. A second wave could include health and food.

SusChem’s priority goal was to develop an Innovation Implementation Action Plan (I2AP) by the end of 2010 that outlined a few potential themes for major PPPs that would be proposed to the Commission as part of FP8.

Such PPPs would integrate new research and available technologies to achieve full (pre-competitive) societal implementation including demonstration and proof of concept projects. The initiatives would address technology and non technology barriers for implementation that can overcome challenges to market and societal introduction. This should also include a strong communication and engagement role that was public-facing to assist and guide implementation.

Townsend outlined the numerous collaborations that were already in place for SusChem, including the collaboration with the Water ETP, sustainable production (where a white paper had recently been delivered to the Commission), sustainable construction, and nanotechnology.

SusChem was now a research and innovation technology platform with a developing policy on education. He concluded by stating that SusChem was “about thinking big …about changing things”.

The EC view
Herbert von Bose, the Director for Industrial Technologies at DG Research, outlined the European Commission’s approach to the current economic crisis: the 2020 initiative. “Smart, sustainable and inclusive growth – green but competitive” was at the core of the initiative and “chemistry was in the centre of all this … without chemistry we would go nowhere”, he said, “SusChem is one of the key actors in the transition to sustainability.”

Von Bose stressed the need for the transformation from resource-based to knowledge-based industry in Europe and the need to move more towards innovation in the Commission’s research programme.

Looking at the future for SusChem Von Bose agreed that SusChem’s Strategic Research Agenda “had involved massive participation and was a great success”. Chemistry and industrial biotechnology are enabling technologies which meant that SusChem is a very important – essential - partner for many potential PPPs but it was not yet a leading partner. SusChem needed to think about future possibilities for PPPs and this meant talking and working with other ETPs. He admitted this was not easy and was time-consuming but he noted that this was something that SusChem was already doing.

Von Bose said that there would be no new PPPs before 2014 (the start of FP8) but to significantly influence thinking on FP8 themes in the Commission the “window of opportunity” was this year.

Panel and workshop pointers
A lively panel discussion moderated by journalist Willy De Backer completed the morning session. The panel included (from left to right in the image below)Prof. Mike Matlosz of ENSIC in Nancy, Suschem board member Paul-Joel Derian from Rhodia, Herbert von Bose, Willy De Backer, Denis Bortzmeyer of Axelera and Horst Soboll: a prominent member of the Commission’s ETP Expert Group.

Their discussions covered how to foster the sustainable innovations needed to address the major challenges facing society, the necessity of building value chain collaborations, and how ETPs might find a role or indeed catalyse these major collaborations.

Following an active networking lunch delegates split into three parallel sessions to start the process of building value chain approaches to innovation in three sectors identified as the first wave for potential SusChem PPPs: energy, environment and water.

The results of the three sessions were presented in the final plenary session before Prof. Townsend’s final remarks and will form one basis for SusChem’s I2AP.

Earlier delegates were welcomed by Pierre-Jean Brochand, President of Dow France and a Member of l’Union des Industries Chimiques (UIC) executive committee who described French support for a strong “green and sustainable” chemical community.

For more information and to view the presentations made at the 8th SusChem Stakeholder event on the SusChem website.

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