Thursday, 28 October 2010

New Chairman of SusChem announced

Dr. Paul-Joël Derian has succeeded Prof. Rodney Townsend as Chairman of the board of SusChem – the European Technology Platform for Sustainable Chemistry. Prof. Townsend will remain on the SusChem management board.

Dr. Derian is group vice president for research and development at Rhodia and has been a member of the SusChem board for a number of years. He is also chair of SusChem’s Material Work Group.

“It is a great honour for me to have been elected as Chairman of SusChem following the excellent job that has been done by my predecessors Rodney Townsend, Alfred Oberholz and Emmo Meijer to promote sustainable chemistry across Europe,” said Dr. Derian.

Dr. Derian outlined his priorities for SusChem: to continue to identify and pursue key elements of the SusChem research agenda and to accelerate the adoption of innovation along the chemical value chain by enhanced collaboration.

He also stressed the need for SusChem to help facilitate the understanding of the value of innovation by the public through increased transparency from industry and better communication.

Leading role
“SusChem has made amazing progress in the last couple of years through initiatives such as its network of national platforms across Europe,” said Dr. Derian. “But we need to continue to form our own Innovation Union to work with other platform so they can understand how chemistry can contribute to their innovation. We need to work with politicians so they perceive chemistry not as a problem, but a solution to the challenges that Europe currently faces.”

“The maturity that SusChem has achieved can enable us to lead large innovation programmes with downstream industries in the EU,” continued Dr Derian. “We have the key enabling technologies to solve their problems.”

SusChem – New Generation
Dr. Derian is also looking to enlarge the pool of talented people who contribute to SusChem. “A large number of engaged, dedicated and creative people have helped SusChem achieve what it has to date,” said Dr. Derian. “But we need a new generation to make their contribution: to mobilize a younger generation of passionate people towards our goals for sustainable chemistry in Europe.”

A video interview with new SusChem chairman Dr. Derian is available on the SusChem website or view it below.

SusChem board
The current membership of the board of SusChem is:

Dr. Paul-Joël Derian, chairman
Prof. Matthias Beller
Ms. Martina Bianchini
Dr. Andreas Förster
Prof. Rüdiger Iden
Dr. Gernot Klotz
Mr. Philippe Lavielle
Dr. Fernando Moreno
Dr. Peter Nagler
Prof. Wim Soetaert
Dr. Klaus Sommer
Prof. Rodney Townsend
Prof. Louis Vertegaal
Dr. Marcel Wubbolts

Biographies for all SusChem board members can be found on the SusChem website.

Rodney Townsend interview

Prof. Rodney Townsend’s tenure as chairman of the SusChem board has now come to an end after just under three years at the helm of one of Europe’s leading technology platforms. He formally stepped down as chair at the September board meeting and will be succeeded by Paul-Joël Derian of Rhodia. During a recent interview at the European Parliament building in Brussels, Prof. Townsend talked to SusChem News about the ETP’s achievements and looked to future challenges.

SusChem News: In your view what have been SusChem’s main achievements during your chairmanship of the board?

RT: When I took over from the very able chairman ship of Alfred Oberholz in 2008 SusChem had already set an extremely good framework in terms of its Strategic Research Agenda (SRA) and Implementation Action Plan (IAP).

A first big achievement - and like others, this was a team achievement – was to move from being just a very good framework to being an effective instrument for concentrating and channelling Commission money into chemical and biotechnology research. And an important part of examining how effective we are at this was the measurement and analysis framework that was set up so well by Dechema. This has allowed us to monitor the funding allocated to ‘SusChem inspired’ projects in both the NMP and KBBE areas. Being able to show the level of achievement for SusChem in terms of the level of funding in FP7 projects (more than €800,000,000) has proved to be a very useful instrument for further engagement with the Commission at various levels.

So there are really two linked achievements here: we started to move forward to become an instrument that brought substantial funds – hundreds of millions of euros - to chemical and biotechnological R&D and we were able to measure and therefore demonstrate this effectiveness to the Commission – a significant positive feedback loop.

Visionary projects
SusChem News: Are there any specific projects that are highlights for you?

RT: Yes the F3 factory is an extremely good example of a demonstration project that we originally put forward in the SRA and IAP that has now been brought to a very tangible result. The F3 Factory is about Fast, Future, Flexible manufacturing – hence the acronym. It is something that the chemical community can actually touch, look at and, most importantly, use to solve problems and get new insights. Another important component of this success has been the bringing together of a large number of companies from across Europe, together with Commission money, to produce a significant project in terms of resource (nearly €30,000,000). The project is being hosted by Bayer in Leverkeusen, Germany.

In parallel there have been many European projects that will contribute to the realisation of the Integrated Biorefinery visionary project proposed SusChem. The F3 factory project will also play a role there.

Alongside that there is some disappointment. We had high hopes for the Smart Energy Home (SEH) project, but this has moved in other directions, partially due to economic circumstances, but perhaps this was a little too far removed from the obvious chemistry and biochemical aims of the platform for it to be one that we could take forward with SusChem clearly in the lead. I remember vividly some MEPs asking me questions exactly related to that when we highlighted the SEH at a meeting in the European Parliament.

SusChem News: How about the actual structure of SusChem – how has that changed over the past few years?

RT: I think we have developed a much stronger and clearer management structure – albeit with limited resources – and we are particularly grateful to Cefic for its support here. Following the excellent work of Marian Mours, he was replaced over two years ago by Ger Spork, who has also been a tower of strength in the same role as Marian, as the SusChem coordinator at Cefic. As a result of their efforts and many others we now have highly focused management groups and working groups.

Related to this – and this is a significant differentiator for SusChem compared with some other technology platforms – is that we can and have moved fast to respond positively to changing external circumstances. Just as we did originally at the beginning of SusChem in 2004, we do not just respond to announcements from the Commission, but we actually get in place ideas and thinking that anticipates Commission policy. We don’t just want to react to external events – we want to shape these events proactively.

All this has put us in a strong position now in pressing the case for chemical and biotechnology involvement in Innovation Partnerships within the recently announced Innovation Union. This strong position had been boosted by our early championship of innovation to press a plausible and logical case for chemical technologies to take a lead. Whether we shall succeed in that endeavour only time will tell – we are working on a major proposal for an Innovation Partnership led by the chemicals industries at this very moment, and if it doesn’t run it will not be for lack of trying! In addition, I am very confident that with Paul-Joël Derian we have an excellent new chairman who will continue to drive the process forward – he is doing this already!

Skills for the future
SusChem News: SusChem has achieved a great deal in terms of research funding but what about the human resources angle?

RT: Another extremely pleasing highlight is the way we have been taking the skills project forward. We deliberately moved SusChem into the field of addressing the skills and competences that are needed for chemical industry and biotechnology in the future. This was coupled with surveys of what chemical and downstream user businesses see as their needs and this approach has been very fruitful and is another strong support for our ongoing discussions with the Commission and other bodies.

SusChem News: How do you see the future for SusChem?

RT: We are entering an uncertain phase. No one knows how the successor to FP7 is going to fully shape up. But we do know that this year is very critical within the decision–making process within the Commission. Therefore it is critical that SusChem continues to develop its strategy in the right direction and keeps its profile high in the right quarters. In the next two to three years SusChem has to continue to ensure that chemical technology and biotechnology is at the core of whatever emerges out of FP8. I don’t think that there is any certainty here at all at the moment.

The SusChem team has worked very hard and has grasped well the opportunities of the past. And I still see a very enthusiastic group that is determined to clinch a deal on behalf of chemical and biotechnological industries.

Finally, I have been very honoured and proud to lead the SusChem team as Chairman for nearly three years. Throughout this period I have appreciated the support of all my colleagues in our endeavours and I wish Paul Joël Derian all the very best for the future as he leads us towards further SusChem successes.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Breaking innovation barriers

The SusChem view on innovation was spelt out today (25 October) by Dr Paul-Joël Derian (right) at an Open Day on Advanced Materials held at the European Commission’s Madou building in Brussels.

Materials innovation was key to overcoming the challenges faced by the EU claimed Dr. Derian, and it was essential that the innovation process was accelerated considering the size of the challenge.

Stimulating innovation at key stages in the value chain simultaneously was a sound strategy to achieve this acceleration. He highlighted a number of critical stages of innovation including the early “scouting” stage which should determine the feasibility of a concept, define essential value chain partners and identify the barriers and incentives relevant to a project before any research was launched.

Demo funding
Dr. Derian called for more and better funded programmes for demonstration projects, as validation and scale-up were essential for proof of concept and technical maturity for successful market entry. Alignment of public innovation policy with private business models was needed and also smart regulation that worked with innovation – here he gave examples from the automotive and lighting industries that had accelerated innovative new products. Improving skills for innovation deployment was also essential.

Dr. Derian, who is group vice president R&D at Rhodia, was representing SusChem as Chairman of the Material Group. The Open Day is one of a series organized by the High Level Group on Key Enabling Technologies that was launched in July this year. Open days on Nanotechnology (27 October), Industrial Biotechnology (5 November), Photonics (10 November) and Advanced Manufacturing Systems (15 November) are yet to be held, while the Micro- and nanoelectronics open day was held on 18 October.

Gold mine
Earlier Dr. Marc Van Sande, executive vice president of Umicore had opened the meeting with a plea to exploit through effective recycling the “urban mine” of precious materials that is accumulating via consumer and other technologies. He pointed out that the average gold mine has to process a tonne of ore to obtain 5 grammes of gold. In contrast old mobile phones represented a resource with an average of over 200 grammes of gold per tonne, while some autocatalysts contained over 2 kilos of precious metals per tonne.

He prefigured Dr. Derian’s comments by saying that effective recycling of this material needed a well organized and dedicated recycling chain. The total efficiency of the recycling process was determined by the weakest step so a coordinated value chain approach would be needed.

For more information on the High Level Group on Key Enabling Technologies, including details of forthcoming Open Days, visit the DG Enterprise website.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Biotechnology in bonnie Scotland

EuropaBio's European Forum for Industrial Biotechnology (EFIB2010) meeting in Edinburgh takes place from 19 - 21 October. The meeting will feature a number of SusChem related initiatives.

Following the well-established model from previous years, EFIB 2010 will commence with two pre-conference workshops, followed by a two-day conference comprising two plenary sessions and three parallel tracks focusing on: Feedstock; Policy, Business and Finance; and Innovation.

SusChem input includes a presentation on the 'Bio Base Europe Pilot Plant: open innovation for the biobased economy' from SusChem board member Prof Wim Soetaert of Ghent University.

An overview of the SusChem innovation project 'BIOCHEM' will be given by Dr Steve Fletcher, the project coordinator from CIKTN in the UK.

The next generation of integrated bio-refineries: The EuroBioRef Concept will be described by Prof. Franck Dumeignil from the University of Lille.

In addition, SusChem management team member, Camille Burel will outline EuropaBio's policy guide: 'Building a biobased economy for Europe in 2020'.

More detail of EFIB2010 events can be found by downloading the conference programme.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

F3 Project Update

SusChem stakeholders wanting to catch up with progress on the F3 factory project can download the SusChem-inspired initiative’s first newsletter from the consortium’s website.

Launched last year, the F3 factory is a €30 million FP7 funded initiative that is developing faster, more flexible and efficient manufacturing methods. The project consortium consists of 25 industrial and academic partners.

In the newsletter a number of industrial demonstration projects are described that will be a key focus of activities. Eventually seven projects will cover the range of chemical production capacities from kilogrammes to thousands of tonnes in three key industry sectors: pharmaceutical intermediates, specialty polymers and large-scale intermediates. A number of industrial case studies are also being pursued.

For more information on the F3 project visit:

Chemical Innovation at EP Summit

SusChem’s ideas on a value chain approach to innovation were to the fore at the 2nd European Innovation Summit held at the European Parliament on 11 – 14 October.

Two SusChem board members - Prof Rodney Townsend of the RSC (below) and Gernot Klotz, executive director R&I at Cefic - took part in a lively debate on Sustainable Production for the Quality of Life on Tuesday 12 October. The debate was hosted by Herbert Reul MEP, Chair of the parliament’s Industry, Research and Energy Committee (ITRE).

The fresh ‘SusChem thinking’ on innovation and sustainability offered by the chemical community stood out in this debate, which was moderated by journalist Alex Puissant.

Gernot Klotz emphasized that innovation was all about creating value for society from ideas – not necessarily research - and that there was a clear need to speed up innovation in Europe and play to our strengths. “If you are already leading, you can dominate the race,” he said. Playing catch-up is not such a good option.

Rodney Townsend agreed saying that SusChem was uniquely placed in Europe to be able to take a “step back” and look at the whole value chain to identify where innovation can help along the chain and help provide the innovative drive. Stimulating simultaneous innovation at a number of places long the chain could really accelerate innovation and reduce the time to get ideas into the marketplace.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Innovation Union launched

Today (October 6) the European Commission launched its Innovation Union communication and announced the initial projects under its Innovation Partnership initiative at a joint press conference with Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn and Vice President Antonio Tajani (below) in Brussels.

The Innovation Union Communication sets out a strategic approach to innovation with high-level political support that will focus the EU's efforts on challenges such as climate change, energy and food security.

A key element will be European Innovation Partnerships that will mobilise a wide spectrum of stakeholders to tackle societal challenges where Europe has the potential to become a world leader.

A pilot Partnership on active and healthy aging will be launched in early 2011. More Partnerships will follow in areas such as energy, "smart" cities and mobility, water efficiency, non-energy raw materials and sustainable and productive agriculture.

SusChem with the chemical, biotechnolology and process industries is looking forward to playing a significant part in the successful development of this initiative and is ready and willing to contribute to and, where appropriate, lead Innovation Partnerships with other sectors and societal stakeholders.

Chemical innovation is key to meeting the major challenges of modern societies. Innovation driven by Europe’s chemical industry is helping to ensure further progress in people’s quality of life.

SusChem - Your innovation partner
SusChem has already established a number of significant collaborative research initiatives that will contribute to innovative new products and processes. Personalised Healthcare and Quality of Life were specific focus areas in the original SusChem Strategic Research Agenda (SRA) and subsequent Implementation Action Plan (IAP).

SusChem, with the support of the chemical industry, has already proposed a number of possible topics for Innovation Partnerships in areas that are essential to the EU2020 Strategy such as resource efficiency, sustainable mobility, construction and low carbon society. SusChem has a excellent track record of working with other key players and technology platforms along the value chain.

“Innovation is about exploiting knowledge and ideas for the benefit of society,” said Rodney Townsend, recent Chairman of the SusChem board. “SusChem greatly supports the establishment of Innovation Partnerships, in parallel with a comprehensive European research policy, as key to the future competitiveness of Europe.”

“To achieve the integrated sustainable solutions that society desires will require working along the full value chain concurrently. This means that to speed up innovation in Europe, innovation must be simultaneously started at various stages in the value chain. This can create a competitive edge by reducing time-to-market and ensuring the end results delivered to society are comprehensive, practical solutions,” Townsend continues. “Successful societal implementation needs an integrated approach using innovative business models that include non-technology and governance contributions. Collaboration between different industry sectors is the only way forward and the chemical industry is ready to take the lead to tackle societal challenges.”

Other elements of the Innovation Union - a flagship of the Europe 2020 Strategy - include the establishment of an Innovation Union Scoreboard, new measures to improve access to finance, a stepping up of existing research initiatives, a major research programme on public sector and social innovation, dedicated budgets for public procurement of innovative products and services, and the modernisation of Europe's intellectual property regime amongst ten main elements.

Further details can be found at the EU's Innovation Union website.