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.

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