Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Biobased Future: BioCouture

The ‘Leading IB: A UK Showcase’ event that took place in London on 22 – 23 January highlighted many inspirational developments and opportunities in industrial biotechnology, biobased products and sustainable manufacturing. But one presentation in particular took SusChem’s eye as an excellent insight into the possibilities that new biobased materials can bring to high fashion and design.

Suzanne Lee is founder and Director of BioCouture Limited, a small UK-based fashion business, which has a literally huge potential for growth. Her fascinating presentation on the future for biobased materials from a design perspective was a highlight of the second morning of the ‘Leading: IB’ event.

Suzanne was until recently a Senior Research Fellow in the School of Fashion and Textiles, Central Saint Martins London and her BioCouture project was initiated there working with scientific colleagues at Imperial College London.

Green tea
The biobased material that Suzanne uses to assemble her clothes has the texture of fine leather but is grown by the bacteria that are usually used to turn green tea into the fermented beverage kombucha. As the bacteria digest sugar added to a fermenting broth of green tea they produce a mat of cellulose (the same base material of fabrics such as cotton), which Lee harvests and dries. Suzanne talks about the process in a video recorded at a TED event in 2011 below.

The resulting fabric, a flexible ‘vegetable-leather’ that has a novel skin-like texture and appearance, can be moulded or sewn into apparel such as shirts and coats. It can also be easily dyed using, for example, iron pigments or indigo.

A current drawback is the hydrophilic nature of the material, but that is being worked on with expert advice from Imperial College and others on using alternative bacteria to introduce hydrophobic properties and also to better align the cellulose molecules as the fabric grows.

Biobased beauty
But the fabric has excellent sustainability credentials. Although the volumes of material being produced are, at the moment, small and Lee uses them to produce apparel and luxury products, the resources needed to make the fabric are minimal: just a few microbes that can multiply and feed on waste.

The process is considerably lighter on resources than conventional textiles. If you compare a BioCouture jacket with one made with conventional cotton the BioCouture item uses around 50 litres of water compared to many thousands of litres used in the normal process.

From all angles BioCouture looks like a potentially smart and sustainable addition to the global wardrobe.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Inspiration for Europe!

Members of the European Parliament, senior European Commission officials and a packed meeting room of stakeholders, supporters and the public participated in an inspirational lunch debate on the proposed SPIRE PPP on Thursday 24 January. The potential value of SPIRE to lead a new industrial revolution in Europe for sustainable growth, jobs and competitiveness was outlined. Through its ambitious, but achievable, research and innovation agenda to improve resource and energy efficiency in the process industries, SPIRE can make a huge difference to Europe. And it is ready to run now!

The lunch time debate was hosted by Amalia Sartori, MEP chairwoman of the ITRE (Industry, Research and Energy) Committee of Parliament in association with A.SPIRE (the European Association for Sustainable Process Industry through Resource and Energy Efficiency) the organisation that is managing and coordinating the Public Private Partnership (PPP) proposal.

The debate was entitled a ‘New industrial (R)evolution through the SPIRE Public Private Partnership’. Opening the debate Madame Sartori (below, left) outlined the EU’s priorities to regain high rates of employment, boost competitiveness and ensure greater social cohesion. Within this strategy a rejuvenated industrial policy was essential.

“We need to have a new industrial revolution that gives voice to the manufacturing system that is the real economy of Europe,” said Mme Sartori. “We need the will and resources to bet on the sectors that can make the difference [to competitiveness].”

“We must fill the gap between the market and research and the creation of a PPP is one way to fill this gap,” she added. “We need instruments that can increase our competitiveness and allow us to address the great challenges that face our continent: we need industry - and industry needs us. SPIRE is perfectly aligned with Europe's needs – the European Parliament will pay strong attention to the outcomes of this debate.”

Reduce, reuse, replace, reinvent
A.SPIRE President Klaus Sommer of Bayer (above, right) responded by outlining the ambitions and objectives for SPIRE. He suggested that SPIRE’s coherent and integrated vision could help “close the circle” of the various European policy proposals in research, innovation and competitiveness.

The eight industrial sectors involved in SPIRE all have a clear commitment and track record in innovation: the essential bridge from research to the market. The SPIRE proposal exploits the synergies and commonalities between sectors that represent 20% of the EU’s economy with a focus on innovation for resource and energy efficiency.

“SPIRE is also a partnership involving industry, academics and research and technology organisation as stakeholders,” said Dr. Sommer. “The PPP is the glue.”

“Reduce, reuse, replace, reinvent are the four words that summarise SPIRE’s research and innovation road map,” stated Dr. Sommer. “Our aim is to decouple economic growth from use of resources.”

Summarising the SPIRE PPP Dr Sommer stated” “SPIRE is a broad commitment from eight industrial sectors in Europe representing a combined turnover of some € 1.6 trillion. SPIRE will help Europe's competitiveness through its focus on societal needs. If the policy environment is also prepared then SPIRE is ready to go!”

Future trend
Enrico Gibellieri, Member of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) described how SPIRE resonated with the opinions of the Consultative Commission on Industrial Change (CCMI) within EESC.

He stated: “The SPIRE PPP is the most important initiative in this field. It is changing the approach to research and innovation policy in Europe and showing the future trend.”

Mr. Gibellieri (above, left) commended this bottom-up approach – initiated by the establishment of technology platforms, such as SusChem, in 2003-4 – as the way to ensure that the real needs of industry and society were at the heart of research and innovation policy.

“These initiatives are important to re-establish industry at its rightful place in Europe,” he concluded.

Research efficiency
The final speaker was Waldemar Kutt (below), Deputy Head of Cabinet with Research Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn. He described the value of SPIRE with respect to another limited resource: public finance. “Research efficiency and resource efficiency are important for all areas,” he said. “We have to do more with less.”

He agreed that SPIRE is fully in line with a range of European policy initiatives. “Only through working closer with industry will we manage to bridge the innovation gap in Europe,” he said.

He praised the ability of SPIRE to coordinate a single voice for whole industry and articulate clearly what is needed for industry to successfully innovate – this was very constructive. Clear measurable objectives were needed to demonstrate the success of the PPP and other policy requirements outside research and innovation, such as standards, were needed to make sure the road to market was clear.

“Co-operation with SPIRE is on a good track,” he concluded and he looked forward to a successful outcome for the PPP.

A lively question and answer session followed that reinforced the compelling arguments for the SPIRE approach and the remarkable consensus that has developed between policy makers and industry about the need to improve the way we manage resources and energy, especially when these are rare or finite.

Industry has a responsibility and a unique ability to respond to these challenges facing society. This lunch debate showed that it is responding in an innovative, open and transparent way.

A number of MEPs contributed to the discussion. Lambert van Nistelrooij was very supportive and congratulated all those involved on the SPIRE initiative. He described the PPP as: “Absolutely necessary and a first for industrial leadership to bring sectors together in such a way for innovation along the value chain.”

Van Nistelrooij also reminded participants that regional funding for smart specialisation and innovation should also be a key element in an integrated approach to industrial innovation. “The SPIRE PPP can do a lot but in a comprehensive, European way,” he concluded.

Maria Da Graça Carvalho also praised the initiative and applauded the increased prominence of essential industrial priorities into the research and innovation agenda. She approved of improving existing industrial processes but asked if new processes were envisaged?

Klaus Sommer replied that initially cross sector communication would bring transfer processes across sectors but new, disruptive processes were also envisaged. Gernot Klotz of Cefic added that SPIRE would also take the first steps to achieve a “negative CO2 economy” – one in which carbon dioxide was used as a feedstock.

SPIRE’s high ambitions are matched by strong industrial commitment on an unprecedented scale and, through it, Europe can make a giant leap to enhance its competitiveness and sustainability and achieve its goals for smart, inclusive and sustainable growth.

To find more information on the SPIRE project, its objectives and how you could be involved, visit the SPIRE website or contact the A.SPIRE secretariat.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

MatVal launches in Rome

A new SusChem-supported FP7 project will hold its launch conference in Rome on 7 and 8 February. The MatVal project was initiated by the Alliance for Materials (A4M): the grouping of European Technology Platforms (ETPs), including SusChem, that are working together to collaborate and coordinate their strong materials research and innovation agendas. The Rome launch conference promises to be one of the major events of the European materials community this year!

Through the A4M organization and the MatVal project Europe is now equipped with a multi-stakeholder forum to develop and share a single view on materials needs and accelerate the implementation of material innovations towards the end-user market applications. A4M is a new way of thinking: a partnership and networking initiative for materials research and innovation.

The two-year, €1.3 million MatVal project aims to integrate requirements, ideas and solutions in materials across sectors to create synergies and develop a truly coordinated and competitive materials R&D programme for Europe.

Two days, two venues
The MatVal launch conference event will take place at two venues in Rome over the two days. The conference will open on the afternoon of 7 February at MAXXI – Italy’s new National Museum of 21st Century Arts and continue on 8 February at the National Research Council (CNR). The event will bring together policymakers, R&D experts, material manufacturers and end-users.

Opening speakers will include Maria Da Graça Carvalho, MEP, a member of the European Parliament’s ITRE (Industry Research and Energy) committee and rapporteur for Horizon 2020, and Herbert von Bose, Director of Industrial Technologies at DG Research.

The first day will set the scene for A4M, describe the European materials research, development and innovation (R&D&I) landscape with respect to the forthcoming Horizon 2020 programme and outline the value chain approach to materials R&D&I including a presentation of SusChem activities by Jacques Komornicki, Innovation Manager at Cefic.

The value chain approach is a key element for A4M that can drive synergistic benefits through a common path which integrates players, resources and strategies starting from fundamental aspects of materials science up to the industrial systems that turn materials into valuable products.

The second day will examine issues with materials R&D&I along a number of value chains: energy, transport, construction, health and the creative sector. The conference will conclude by discussing and outlining the next steps for A4M and the MatVal project.

The conference will also offer some great networking opportunities – including a private tour of the MAXXI museum.

What is MatVal?
The MatVal FP7 project aims to develop an integrated and efficient materials R&D programme for Europe by answering questions such as:

  • How best to move from research to innovation in materials R&D?
  • How can Europe cluster R&D along value chains?
  • What are the implications and opportunities of the EU initiative on raw materials?
  • How can we create strong and durable partnerships in the European materials community?

Essentially MatVal aims to be the crossroads where materials developers, manufacturers, suppliers and end-users meet to improve efficiency in European materials innovation and boost competitiveness.

MatVal’s key objectives include:

  • Contributing to the implementation of the A4M view and strategy
  • Integrating the diversity of ideas in Materials across ETPs
  • Promoting the Value Chain concept as a main driver for integration.
  • Accelerating industrial exploitation of materials
  • Supporting the European Commission in establishing R&I priorities.

Get involved
The MatVal project is funded by the European Commission’s FP7 programme. Its full title is ‘Alliance for Materials – A Value Chain Approach to Materials Research and Innovation’. More information on the MatVal project can be found on the Cordis website.

For more information on the MatVal launch event in Rome, please contact the organizing secretariat Giorgia Camilla Gelati.

For more information on SusChem and chemical industry involvement in MatVal and A4M, please contact Jacques Komornicki.

Monday, 14 January 2013

R4R to build Regional Resource Efficiency

Mid December saw the launch of a new European project focused on regional initiatives for resource efficiency in the chemical sector. SusChem is taking an active role in the R4R project that is looking to spread innovative ideas that can lead the way to zero-waste and resource-efficient industries across Europe.

The chemical and process industries in Europe are geographically widely distributed and are also often fragmented in their approach to improving resource efficiency and addressing similar societal challenges.

However, R4R believes that addressing energy and resource efficiency offer significant opportunities to rejuvenate and transform the industry into an eco-efficient and high-tech solution provider across the continent. This can be achieved through switching to bio-based feedstock, by improving efficiency of industrial processes, by recycling and reusing waste materials and by looking at the sector as an integrated system as opposed to a collection of independent sites.

The project has some specific targets for resource efficiency achievements in the chemical sector:

  • A 50% improvement in the process industry’s CO2 footprint by 2030
  • A 10-fold increase in the use of bio-renewable raw materials as feedstock by 2030
  • A 30% reduction in primary energy consumption by 2030
  • A 20% reduction in raw materials net use per end application by 2030

The objectives of the R4R project are well aligned with the proposed SusChem-supported SPIRE (Sustainable Process Industry through Resource and Energy Efficiency) Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) and will help build the basis of this ambitious multi-sector programme.

Regional focus
R4R brings together six complementary EU Regions (Aragon in Spain, Göteborg in Sweden, North Rhine–Westphalia in Germany, the Port of Rotterdam and the South-West regions in the Netherlands, and West Pomerania in Poland), each with their own public and private research and innovation expertise, for a three year project that will improve resource consumption and eco-innovation in the chemical sector. Participants from all six regions are pictured below at the Kick-off meeting.

Based on an in-depth mapping of innovation systems, research agendas, research, production and innovation capabilities and the stakeholders involved, the consortium will create a Joint Action Plan and related support measures. Special attention will be given to mentoring activities.

The project will achieve a major improvement in regional and transnational cooperation between the regions and leave a legacy of tools, case studies and good practice that can be disseminated and adopted by other regions across Europe.

R4R will also create a platform for international collaboration on resource efficiency issues in third countries to accelerate innovation and promote European eco-innovative technologies globally.

Get involved
The R4R project is funded by the European Commission’s FP7 programme. Its full title is ‘Chemical Regions for Resource Efficiency – Improving Research and Cooperation in the areas of Resource and Energy Efficiency in the Chemicals Industry’.

R4R aims to engage with a large number of chemical sector partners in regions across Europe. A website and partnering platform will be launched later this year, but if you want to get involved in the project right now contact project coordinator Anna Sager at SP Technical Research Institute in Sweden.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

SPIRE Goes To Parliament

A date for your 2013 diary. On Thursday 24 January 2013 MEPs will be talking SPIRE at a lunch time debate on innovation for resource efficiency at the European Parliament in Brussels. The meeting is hosted by Amalia Sartori, MEP and Chair of the ITRE (Industry, Research and Energy) Committee of Parliament in association with A.SPIRE (the European Association for Sustainable Process Industry through Resource and Energy Efficiency) and registration is open now.

The debate is entitled a “new industrial (R)evolution through the SPIRE Public Private Partnership’ starts at 13h00 and will include contributions from Madame Sartori (pictured left), A.SPIRE President Klaus Sommer of Bayer and Waldemar Kütt from Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn cabinet among others.

Compelling arguments and a remarkable consensus exist between policy makers and industry about the need to improve the way we manage resources and energy, especially when these resources are rare or finite.

Industry has a responsibility and a unique ability to respond to these challenges. Through an ambitious research and innovation agenda, the proposal for a public-private partnership for Sustainable Process Industry through Resource and energy Efficiency (SPIRE) is one of the instruments that can help achieve Europe’s aspirations in this area.

Commitment for competitiveness
SPIRE’s high ambitions are matched by strong industrial commitment on an unprecedented scale (at least 20% of total European manufacturing industry, both in terms of employment and turnover, are represented in the SPIRE consortium) and, through it, Europe could significantly enhance its competitiveness and sustainability and achieve its goals for smart, inclusive and sustainable growth.

The lunch debate will be an ideal opportunity to hear more about the proposed SPIRE PPP, discuss its aims and ambitions with leading members of the eight major European industry sectors that are support and developing the SPIRE initiative.

The ITRE Committee is meeting on 23 – 24 January and the latest study requested by the committee is ‘Resource Efficiency in European Industry’ so the lunch time debate is well timed.

For more information on SPIRE visit its website. To find out more about the lunch debate including registration possibilities contact the SPIRE secretariat.