2011 was an extremely active year for SusChem. The technology platform was at the centre of the chemical community’s work to lead innovation and boost competitiveness in Europe. The efforts of SusChem stakeholders during the International Year of Chemistry have set a sound basis for continuing success during 2012. SusChem News talked to recently appointed chairman of the SusChem board Dr. Klaus Sommer (right) about his highlights of 2011 and what SusChem needs to do in 2012.
SusChem News: Dr. Sommer, how do you see SusChem’s progress during 2011?
KS: During 2011, SusChem further increased its visibility and its effectiveness by defining positions for the Chemical and Biotechnology Industry with respect to many programmes and projects based on European Commission funding.
In particular, SusChem and its partners have established the basis for four major innovation initiatives in the areas of process efficiency, water, raw materials and smart cities that we feel can make a major contribution to strengthening the competitiveness of Europe.
Innovation has now become a major part of SusChem work, in addition to our traditional role of facilitating and promoting the chemical and biotechnology research agenda in the EU.
SusChem News: What are SusChem’s priorities for 2012?
KS: SusChem is thinking already established within the scope of the next EU Strategic Framework for Research and Innovation: Horizon 2020. In areas such as the Key Enabling Technologies (KETs) and Industrial Technologies SusChem has a great opportunity to ensure the central science – chemistry – is at the heart of the programme calls currently being defined by the European Commission.
SusChem will support policy makers to make Horizon 2020 an effective initiative to support sustainable growth for Europe. In particular we will continue work with our partners on the innovation initiatives on “SPIRE - Sustainable Process Industry through Resource and Energy Efficiency”, “Water Efficient Europe”, “Raw Materials for a Modern Society” and “Smart Cities”. These will set our priorities for the near- and mid-term.
SusChem News: What is the importance of SPIRE PPP proposal?
KS: The SPIRE proposal pulls together input from 15 European Technology Platforms and Associations and is therefore broadly based on the input from across many process industries in Europe. These industries represent about 20% of Europe’s production and provide 6.8 million jobs. It also focusses on the complete value chain from (bio-based) raw materials through processes, end products and recycling. If ultimately successful, this PPP can be a very significant platform for driving innovation in the chemical and other process industries so we continue to gather support from the European Commission, the European Parliament and national institutions.
SusChem News: What other areas will SusChem be active in?
KS: In addition to the focus on our four innovation initiatives we will continue to facilitate the chemical community’s input to FP7 during 2012. Our brokerage events during 2011 proved to be more popular than ever and showed the relevance of the calls to our stakeholders. We anticipate that our events in 2012 will prove to be as popular and useful.
2012 is International Year of Sustainable Energy for All and European Year of Water and SusChem will be contributing to activities in these two areas during the year. Both are highly relevant to our innovation activities.
A major activity will be our 10th Stakeholder event that takes place in April in Brussels. Its theme will be ‘Partnering for Sustainable Innovation through Chemistry’ and will emphasize SusChem’s collaborative innovation initiatives and bring stakeholders up to date on progress with our programmes.
SusChem News: Are there new SusChem communication initiatives?
KS: We will launch a new SusChem website in February with enhanced functionality and systems in place to ensure that it is always up to date. It is important that news about and from SusChem is available to all interested parties and delivered in a timely manner, therefore we will also be publishing regular SusChem e-newsletters. The SusChem News blog and twitter feeds will remain important parts of our news dissemination and we aim to develop further new tools during 2012.
A significant priority for the SusChem board is to enhance our communications with our stakeholders and the rest of the world. SusChem has been working very hard during the International Year of Chemistry 2011 and it is vitally important that all our stakeholders know what is happening – this is especially important at Member State level.
I believe that our efforts to date and through 2012 will be critical not only to the future well-being of the chemical and industrial biotechnology communities in Europe, but also for the quality of life for all citizens. It is important that chemistry makes its case clearly and coherently – emphasizing the benefits that chemistry brings to everyone’s daily lives and how we can provide solutions for current societal problems.
SusChem News: How would you summarize your main message for 2012?
KS: Europe needs to be more innovative to regain competitiveness and rise to the grand challenges facing society. Sustainable chemistry – SusChem thinking - is a critical element in ensuring that we can achieve these objectives. The important transition for 2012 is to make sure that SusChem thinking becomes SusChem doing – to translate our thoughts into large-scale concrete actions that can make a real difference. To do this requires wide-scale cooperation and participation. We all have a part to play to create this success and I look forward to working with SusChem stakeholders to shape and implement our initiatives.