Wednesday, 21 November 2012

SusChem: Skills for the Bioeconomy

SusChem presented its Educate to Innovate ideas to the European Commission’s conference "New Skills for a European Bioeconomy" on 20-21 November in Brussels. Gernot Klotz from Cefic outlined SusChem's new strategic approach and the role of education in the platform’s activities.

SusChem is a new form of Technology Platform which fully integrates researchers, academia, industries and skills argued Gernot Klotz. This integrated approach is needed to build a distinct European distinct innovation system that can compete in a global market.

Innovation requires not only technical and scientific skills, but also business and personal skills. Cefic and SusChem initiated studies to determine the critical skills (business, personal, scientific and technical) that scientists and engineers will need to boost innovation in the European chemical industry – a major driver of the future bioeconomy.

The study found a need for a broader scientific skill set that goes beyond traditional single discipline teaching: a multidisciplinary and broad skill set base, also business and personal skills for efficient interdisciplinary work and easy adaptation to new tasks, and strategic awareness of business and innovation management issues.

Educate to Innovate
But how can this be achieved in Higher Education Institutes (HEIs)? In many ways it is a matter of a different approach to teaching rather than teaching something different (in terms of content) suggested Gernot.

Business and personal skills can often be addressed through different teaching methodologies rather than additional courses or new curricula, and opportunities for context- and problem-based learning should be considered when developing new courses. Promoting multidisciplinary working is also important.

This needs a sound industry-academia collaboration to help fill the skills gap. Collaboration between industry and academia on research topics is already well developed. The SusChem Educate to Innovate programme seeks to exploit innovation outputs from SusChem’s Research and Innovation projects to enhance the innovation skills of future generations of scientists and engineers through effective engagement of industry and HEIs.

The programme is developing a framework that will capture examples of innovation and innovative approaches emerging from the SusChem projects and identify and engage with key stakeholders in European industry and academia.

The programme can facilitate constructive dialogue and exchange of ideas on the best ways to introduce key innovation themes into academic teaching. It will also design educational resources that can be used at undergraduate and masters level to develop the skills needed to enhance innovation in the chemical and industrial biotechnology sectors.

The recently adopted European Commission Communication "Innovating for Sustainable Growth: A Bioeconomy for Europe" aims to shift the European economy towards greater and more sustainable use of renewable resources, building on research, innovation and investment. Anticipating and upgrading knowledge and skills and better matching of skills and jobs are key to the success of the bioeconomy strategy in delivering growth and new employment opportunities in Europe.

The "New skills for a European Bioeconomy" conference organised by DG Research and Innovation brought together bioeconomy and education and training stakeholders to discuss skills development needs and employment opportunities rising from the transition to a bioeconomy.

For information on Educate to Innovate see the Education section of the SusChem website or contact Sophie Wilmet at Cefic.

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