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Monday, 27 May 2013

SusChem: ready and set for Horizon 2020

The clear message from the SusChem Stakeholder event that took place in Brussels on 14 and 15 May is that the Technology Platform is already working to engage with Horizon 2020 – the European Commission’s next major Research and Innovation Framework Programme. Over the past year SusChem stakeholders have been contributing to the development and launch of a range of exciting European initiatives that can help stimulate competitiveness, growth and jobs in the European Union. SusChem looks forward to continuing to support the European chemical, industrial biotechnology and process communities in pursuit of sustainability and competitiveness as a ‘model’ ETP 2020.

The theme of this year’s SusChem Stakeholderevent was ‘The root of EU Growth and Jobs: Innovative Materials and Processes’. The meeting was held at the Sofitel Europe Hotel in Brussels.

Welcoming almost 200 delegates on the first day Dr Klaus Sommer of Bayer Technology Services and Chairman of the SusChem Board outlined SusChem’s achievements over the year and the challenges it faced in the near future.

He stated that SusChem is vital for promoting competitiveness and growth in Europe – and cited the F3 Factory results as clear proof. SusChem is also leading the two Public-Private-Partnerships (PPPs) - SPIRE (Sustainable Process Industry through Resource and Energy Efficiency) and BRIDGE (Biobased and Renewable Industries for Development and Growth in Europe) and is heavily involved with the European Innovation Platform (EIP) on Raw Materials, the Smart Cities and Communities EIP, and the EIP on Water.

This widespread involvement not only showed the critical role of sustainable chemistry in many key areas but also the value of SusChem to the successful implementation of Horizon 2020. Dr. Sommer noted that added value proposals from SusChem were found in 30% of NMP calls in 2007-2011 for FP7 and there was a very high participation in FP7 from SusChem members.

F3 - creating the future of production
Just prior to the SusChem Stakeholder meeting the F3 Factory project held an event to mark the end of this important FP7 project. A report of this event is here and more details of the project itself can be found on the F3 Factory website.

The methodology and outcomes of the F3 Factory is of great interest to the SusChem community and the wider chemical and process industries as we enter Horizon 2020. In essence the project demonstrated that large-scale collaborative projects involving multiple large industrial enterprises can be successfully run in a pre-competitive environment and demonstrated that ideas can be quickly moved from laboratory to demonstration stage.

Further details of specific case studies will be released over the summer but the potential impact of the project is clearly huge. For example analysis of preliminary results show that capital expenditure can be reduced by up to 40% by implementing F3 Factory results. According to Cefic facts and figures capital expenditure in the chemical industry in western Europe (EU-15 plus Norway and Switzerland) alone was US$ 50.4 billion (€39 billion) in 2011.

EU Industrial Policy
A series of presentations relating to EU industrial and research policies followed Klaus Sommer’s opening presentation. Bonifacio García-Porras from the European Commission DG Industry and Entrepreneurship gave an overview of Industrial Policy in particular the Task Force on Advanced Manufacturing. The priorities of the task force were chosen in terms of the impact they could have on the current economic crisis.

Paul Rübig MEP (above) made the case for growing the manufacturing base in Europe. He stated that an additional target should be added to the EU 20-20-20 target – to boost the industrial manufacturing contribution to the EU’s GDP to 20%. He called for new ideas from business to stimulate policy and politicians to create jobs and growth as well as protect our environment.

Waldemar Kütt from the Cabinet of MáireGeoghegan-Quinn Commissioner for Research,Innovation and Science also talked about the economic crisis, Horizon 2020 and the need to invest, reform, and transform to maintain and enhance the EU’s competitive position. He argued that the need to produce more with less required innovation – and SPIRE would be a great help here.

Some of the research policy priorities of the Lithuanian Presidency of the EU were outlined by Osvaldas Šmitas from the Permanent Representation of Lithuania to the EU. Lithuania will hold the presidency of EU in the second half of 2013 and the work of the Competitiveness Council will be an essential priority.

The view of a successful SME was given by SusChem board member Fernando Moreno of Solutex. Fernando believes that there is an urgent need for a policy of reindustrialisation based on knowledge in Europe. He stated that a strong SusChem ETP can help as an extraordinary tool to enable SMEs to rise to a high innovation level.

Debate in the Valley of Death
The afternoon was concluded by a panel debate involving figures from the European Commission, Industry and Academia moderated by Tim Reynolds of Inta Communication Ltd. Tim is editor of the SusChem News blog.

The panellists were Jose-Lorenzo Valles of DG Research, Prof. Ulrich Schubert from the Technical University of Vienna and President of EuCheMS, Frederique Backaert from Ghent University and leader of the European Young ChemistsNetwork, Jose Cubillo Capuz of construction materials group AccionaInfraestructuras, and Paul-Joel Derian from Suez Environnement and former chair of the SusChem board.

The debate ranged widely over issues such as perceived skills gaps, our perceptions of the innovation problem and society’s view of risk and benefit balance in terms of innovation. A range of views and inputs came from the audience too.

Networking cocktails
An evening cocktail reception concluded the first day of the stakeholder event. Over drinks and canapés delegates heard from Edit Herczog, MEP, (pictured below) who praised the economic and environmental record of the chemical and process industries in the European Parliament but called on the chemistry community to put more “fizz” in their communications and engage more with society and citizens.

Andreas Förster, Managing Director Process Net DECHEMA and a representative of SusChem National Technology Platforms (NTPs) concluded the formal presentations with a discussion of the role of NTPs into the future.

Day 2: Horizon 2020, PPPs, Education
At the start of day two Ron Weerdmeester of PNO Consultants took the audience through what is known about Horizon 2020, the likely timetable to the launch of the programme in January 2014 and how SusChem would be supporting consortium building.

To support brokerage for the initial Horizon 2020 calls SusChem will look to provide a three step process: Defining strategic SusChem innovations via SPIRE and BRIDGE PPPs and other road mapping initiatives, stimulating project generation including the use of SusChem webinars to inform stakeholders on calls and possible areas of interest, and full brokerage and proactive project follow-up. A first SusChem Horizon 2020 Brokerage event would be organised during Q4 2013 when the final timetable for the launch and initial calls was known.

A joint presentation by the two SusChem-inspired PPPs: SPIRE and BRIDGE highlighted the complementary nature of these important innovation initiatives and their synergies.

Joanna Dupont-Inglis from EuropaBio (pictured below left with fellow presenters Christophe Luguel of IARLoredana Ghinea of A.SPIRE and Pádraig Naughton from Cefic) stated that the main objective of BRIDGE was to effectively create value from waste and to develop a competitive biobased economy that has clear benefits for rural and underdeveloped areas of Europe.

A number of the value chain programmes would benefit from SPIRE activities and, similarly, developments in the availability of biobased feedstock was a key outcome from BRIDGE that would influence SPIRE. The PPPs have areas of common interest that may even result in joint calls and both have synergies with other EIPs and PPP initiatives in the SusChem portfolio and beyond.

Clearly the two PPPs are working closely together for mutual benefit. Developments pioneered by SusChem like the modular, low impact process systems coming out of the F3 Factory project are providing common foundations for success for SPIRE and BRIDGE.

EIP initiatives
Parallel sessions on other European initiatives also showed the tremendous amount of work going on across a range of societal challenge areas in preparation for Horizon 2020.

The session on Water was let by Gernot Klotz of Cefic and focused on advances in the ChemWater and E4Water FP7 projects that are contributing to fulfilling a number of the EIP on Water’s objectives. A key issue is how to replicate and deploy best practise and most appropriate technologies in water management across European manufacturing. There is a need to combat risk adversity and ensure that a clear direction is established to ensure actions now.

Robert Schröder from the European Commission discussed progress in the EIP. Its main aims are to identify barriers and develop policy recommendations while developing concrete and useful tools such as an online market place to be launched in August. Proposals for some 64 actions groups had been received and were being analysed. The EIP will hold its annual conference in November.

Renata Koerfer described the ChemWater FP7 project that is creating synergies between process industry and water industry. Its fifth workshop will be held on September 3 in Stockholm during World Water Week. Christina Jungfer described the E4Water project that is looking at six case studies in the chemical process industry with the overall idea to link tools and expected impact.

The session on Raw Materials was led by Antonia Morales of Cefic. This is a critical area for Europe as the EU is very dependent on raw materials. SusChem is working with the EIP on Raw Materials with the aim of removing barriers to innovation in this last area. The EIP seeks to reduce the import dependency of the EU on raw materials and a Strategic Implementation Plan (SIP) will be finalised in June and should be approved by the end of the year.

The session on Materials Technologies and Smart Cities was led by Jacques Komornicki of Cefic. The workshop discussed the revised priorities for Materials Technology in Horizon 2020 and the EIP on Smart Cities and Communities. The focus of discussion was on two recent reports: a SusChem Materials Working Group document proposing a number of priority topics for early Horizon 2020 calls and a SusChem / Cefic report highlighting currently available ‘Innovative Chemistry for Energy Efficiency of Buildings in SmartCities’.

Education: key factor
Concluding this year’s stakeholder event presentations, the Educate to Innovate project described progress in this initiative to use outcomes from FP7 projects – in particular the F3 Factory – to inform higher education.

Michaël Matlosz of University of Lorraine talked about the need to ensure students obtained a skill set that was appropriate for a more innovative and entrepreneurial work force. A pilot project was being undertaken with the F3 Factory project. This was a very bottom-up approach working with selected teaching staff from European universities to ‘show and tell’ the sort of knowledge and experience coming out of an FP7 project and see what they thought could be usefully adapted for student content.

Sue Fleet of Britest Ltd gave an overview of a recent two-day industry / academic meeting and workshop at the INVITE facility in Leverkusen with twenty “hand picked” teaching academics. The exercise had been very fruitful with the academics evaluating F3 Factory innovation themes and identifying suitable targets for translation into learning resources for specific academic outcomes. The project was now developing flexible and exciting learning resources that will be rich in content and easily accessible.

Summing up the Eleventh SusChem Stakeholder event Gernot Klotz of Cefic described SusChem as the “best technology platform in Europe” and looking at what has already been achieved and what the platform is planned for the future it would be hard to disagree!

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