Friday, 30 September 2011

Klaus Sommer, new SusChem Chairman

At the SusChem Board meeting on 22 September Dr. Klaus Sommer, Head of Business Management at Bayer Technology Services was appointed as the new Chairman of the board. He succeeded Dr Paul-Joël Derian who has recently moved from Rhodia to a new position with Suez Environnement.

Klaus has been intimately involved in the founding and evolution of SusChem – in particular through leading the Reaction and Process Engineering workgroup and working to realize the SusChem F3 Factory visionary project and several other strategic initiatives for SusChem.

SusChem News caught up with Dr. Sommer after the board meeting to find out his thoughts on the future direction of SusChem and his immediate goals for the technology platform.

SN: What are your plans for SusChem as its new chairman?

KS: As you know SusChem is a multi-stakeholder organization and relies on the work of many committed members, including the board members, from industry, academia and other research institutions. Over the years SusChem has managed to increase its visibility and its effectiveness by defining positions for the Chemical and Biotechnology Industry with respect to programmes and projects based on European Commission funding.

The ultimate aim for SusChem is to contribute to strengthening the competitiveness of Europe. Innovation and Technology are the two key elements in maintaining and improving competitiveness and SusChem has highlighted the critical role of sustainable chemistry and industrial biotechnology in delivering new technological solutions and innovations along the value chain.

We are now at a crucial point since the new Common Strategic Framework for research and Innovation – Horizon 2020 - is currently being defined by the European Commission and the European Parliament. SusChem has two main focus points in this context.

First, to continuously give input for the content and the calls of the Common Strategic Framework and, secondly, to launch significant programmes such as Public Private Partnerships (PPP) or make a significant contribution to European Innovation Partnerships (EIP) in collaboration with other European Technology Platforms. It is my priority to support SusChem in both focus areas.

SN: Do you have some specific programmes in mind?

KS: As I already indicated SusChem will have to develop a strategic plan for Horizon 2020. This would be similar in spirit to the original SusChem Strategic Research Agenda but adapted to recognise the new Societal Challenges like resource and energy efficiency

SusChem is strongly supporting PPPs and EIPs, such as “Sustainable Process Industry through Resource and Energy Efficiency”, “Water Efficient Europe”, “Critical Raw Materials” and “Smart Cities”. These set our priorities for the near- and mid-term.

SN: Do you have any specific expectations from the policy makers?

KS: I can say that SusChem has – over the years – established a very effective dialogue with the policy makers. This goes right back to the original reason why this European Technology Platform was set up namely to establish a body that can coordinate, align and deliver positions in Research, Development and Innovation for the Chemical and Biotechnology Industry. Our expectation is that the dialogue continues and that our positions, together with that of others, are recognized and considered in shaping future policies.

One additional specific point is that tools and workflows need to be continuously simplified so that it becomes even easier to have access to the European Commission Programmes. The formal requirements to engage with European programmes are still often considered to be too high and this acts as a barrier to participation. We have recently seen some encouraging communication and commitments; Horizon 2020 is a great opportunity to implement steps in the right direction.

SusChem has raised the profile of the sustainable chemistry, biotechnology and process engineering over the past few years. It has had a tremendous success in developing a specific research agenda and initiating a range of related projects. I believe that it has even greater opportunities ahead with the innovation agenda and I look forward to leading our technology platform, jointly with the SusChem board members, in these challenging times.

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