Thursday, 7 March 2013

SusChem shaping Horizon 2020 material innovations

SusChem held its first Materials Technology workshop within the frame of the platform’s new strategy on 5 March 2013. Bringing together experts and knowledge from several European chemical companies and research and technology organizations, the workshop aimed to define SusChem’s key priorities for materials research proposal development in the forthcoming Horizon 2020 programme.

The goal of the meeting was to identify the areas of high interest for SusChem stakeholder in materials technologies whether linked to a specific value-chain or of more widespread or cross-cutting interest.

With the underlying objective of updating the SusChem Implementation Action Plan (IAP) on materials technology, the workshop addressed those themes with high market prospects for the chemical and process industries with a strong focus on sustainability and the potential to guarantee excellent science, European industry leadership and tackle societal concerns.

To fulfil these goals under Horizon 2020 Dr Helge Wessel, from the European Commission’s DG Research Industrial Technologies Directorate, stated the need to maintain and reinforce the fruitful collaboration with European Technology Platforms (ETPs), such as SusChem, to define research needs and highlight material priorities. Furthermore, Dr Wessel indicated a number of focus areas where the chemical industries could play an active role in ensuring innovation in sustainable materials.

Value chain strategy  
In preparation for Horizon 2020, SusChem has designed a new strategy based on a value-chain approach that encourages collaborative innovation with stakeholders along the chain to accelerate time to market.  SusChem intends to enhance collaboration between companies and value chain sector experts by the creation of specific teams within the materials working group.

These teams will tackle four key areas where the sustainable chemical industry can play a leading role:

  • Building and construction
  • Automotive
  • Energy, and 
  • Cross-cutting areas with a wide range of application. 

In this context, the working group will identify a series of domains where the chemical industry can develop ambitious targets. These breakthrough targets, some with a clear cross-cutting character and others at an early stage but with strong innovation features, will help to feed the “focus areas” of Horizon 2020.

At this initial workshop some 35 themes within the chemistry application areas of construction, automotive, energy and some general areas were reviewed. The areas with highest interest were highlighted and further work will incorporated them into a revised SusChem IAP for submission to the work programme formulation process for the early calls (2014-2015) of Horizon 2020.

Specific themes 
Within the area of construction, refurbishment was felt to be the highest priority in terms of application demands with also potential to work on specific materials solutions for stationary energy storage. A highly strategic area was defined as 'the circular economy' which would need to be applied to various value chains including the construction / refurbishment value chain, energy and other sectors.

For automotive a variety of material projects were discussed including advanced (carbon) reinforced composites for lightweight structural parts of vehicles, exploration of possible combinations of polymer-based products and metallic solutions. Fibre reinforced materials are considered a cross-cutting technology useful for other value-chains like construction and can include the use of natural fibres and other biobased materials. Another key area of interest is the development of renewable source polymer applications in automotive.

In energy, several challenges were identified in the wind turbine industry, while solar photovoltaic also has major requirements. For thermal solar energy the opportunity lies in ‘third generation solar cooling systems’. For solar concentrated power plants, the challenge for materials is the design of high performance thermal fluids.

The area of waste energy recovery was also highlighted as an important area: both for the potential role of enabling materials and also a process opportunity for chemical industry facilities with substantial excess heat that could be recovered.

What’s next?
The SusChem materials working group will now prepare a revised Strategic Research Agenda for Materials Technologies and will present this to the European Commission in the coming weeks.

If you want to join the SusChem materials working group and share your expertise and knowledge to enhance the materials of the future then please get in touch with SusChem coordinator Jacques Komornicki at Cefic.

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