SusChem was well to the fore at the European Commission’s conference on the competitiveness of the chemicals industry in Brussels on February 10. This one-day meeting emphasized the urgency of implementing the recommendations of the report of the High Level Group to preserve and extend Europe’s position in this vital global market. The conference focused on two key drivers for competitiveness: innovation and human resources
The High Level Group on the Competitiveness of the Chemical Industry (HLG) issued its report containing 39 recommendations in July 2009. The key objective of the February 10 meeting was to review how implementation is going.
A Commission working paper reviewing implementation was published on 4 February. In it SusChem gained praise for its actions in orientating research initiatives and supporting the participation of chemical companies in EU R&D programmes, refocusing its activities over the full knowledge triangle (research, innovation and education), and increasing co-operation to address sustainability across sectors. This type of integrated approach will be important for the upcoming Innovation Partnerships initiative (EIPs – see below) .
Opening the conference EC Vice President Antonio Tajani (below left) pointed out that the HLG’s recommendations were a road map for the sector's competitiveness and that, although the work is off to a good start, "there is still a lot to be done". He stressed that the Commission is working alongside industry and will assume its responsibilities but "we also call on all other players to continue and step up their efforts".
The EU chemicals sector has to face increasing global competition especially from emerging countries in recent years. "The market is changing fast, which obliges us to give thought to how to keep our leadership on the global market," said Giorgio Squinzi, president of Cefic, the European Chemical Industry Council (above right).
Squinzi praised the “many positive elements in the Commission’s communication ‘Innovation Union’” and called for rapid implementation of the European Innovation Partnerships (EIP) described in the communication.
“The chemical industry is determined to lead the future of innovation with other sectors through the innovation partnerships,” said Squinzi. “The chemicals sector stands out as a solution provider to major societal challenges. We believe our sector has a unique position and a natural fit for a leadership role that frames the partnerships.”
Chemical Innovation Partnerships
The potential for the chemical sector to take a leading role in European Innovation Partnerships was further highlighted by Gernot Klotz, Executive Director Research and Innovation at Cefic.
His presentation focused on what the sector can contribute to EIPs with SusChem’s thinking and leadership as key themes. Klotz’s presentation covered the industry’s commendable track-record in innovation, broadening engagement and sharpening skills.
The industry has four priorities for Innovation Partnerships: a Water Efficient Europe, Raw materials for a modern society, Smart Cities, and Resource Efficiency in the Process Industries.
He argued that the chemical industry in the future would be recognised for its clear value to society. This would need a mind shift within the industry to greater pre-competitive cooperation and open innovation along the value chain.