Monday, 14 October 2013

Chemical Innovation to play a critical role in Smart Cities

Today (October 14) the High-level Group (HLG) of the Smart Cities and Communities (SCC) European Innovation Partnership (EIP) presented its Strategic Implementation Plan (SIP) to the European Commission. Chemical innovation can provide a range of concrete solutions to the challenges of improving our urban built environment and infrastructure and enable the realization of the truly Smart Cities of tomorrow.

With about three-quarters of European citizens living in or around cities, it is essential that Europe gets this right. “We need more structured EU dialogue on how to balance the diversity and complexity of city requirements with the industrial needs for a broader market scale of integrated technological concepts, from the retrofitting of buildings to ICT-enabled buildings to create a European market of affordable solutions,” said Dr. Gernot Klotz, Executive Director for Research and Innovation at Cefic and a SusChem board member. “A potential 50 000 individual solutions for the needs of 50 000 individual cities is an unsustainable path. There is a clear need to bring cities together to enable industry to supply broader affordable solutions.”

Strategic plan
The Strategic Implementation Plan (SIP) marks a major milestone achievement for the Smart Cities and Communities High-level Group. The group brings together cities, industries and stakeholders across Europe to discuss ways to improve the standardization of innovative new solutions for urban districts and to accelerate their deployment across European cities.

The meeting (above) was hosted by Commissioner Neelie Kroes (Digital Agenda) and statements were made by Commissioners Siim Kallas (Transport), G√ľnther H. Oettinger (Energy) and Johannes Hahn (Regional Policy). The chemical industry is represented on this important policy group by Giorgio Squinzi, CEO of Maipei and recent past president of Cefic.

The SIP outlines eleven ambitious targets in three specific areas that are expected to contribute to the broader development of sustainable mobility, sustainable districts and built environments, and integrated infrastructures and processes across Energy, information and communication technologies (ICT) and Transport.

“We appreciate the efforts and the result of the High Level Group in having a strategic implementation plan delivered within six months, on an extremely diverse and complex topic such as the future of cities in Europe” continued Dr. Klotz.

Chemistry: concrete contributions
Chemistry lies at the very heart of the built environment in every city and provides the fundamental building blocks for ICT, Energy and Transport. For example, new advanced materials for housing such as smart coatings and insulations are making houses more energy efficient, while advanced light-weight materials and printed electronics for mobility are making cars more connected, safer and more energy efficient.

These applications are expected to make a significant contribution towards the EIP’s goals. It is hoped that the SIP proposals will be implemented in full to address the full scale of “smart” city enabling technologies and to prioritize the creation of jobs and growth in Europe.

The Chemical Industry is ready to engage longer-term in the work of the EIP and has offered five concrete solutions for Chemistry-based initiatives for energy efficiency in buildings, which were selected as top key innovation by city officials at the last Smart Cities and Communities Stakeholder Platform conference.

The five key chemistry-based products proposed by SusChem to help improve building efficiency and help reach the EU 20-20-20 targets are:

  • High-reflectance indoor coatings
  • High-reflectance and durable outdoor coatings
  • High-performance insulation foams 
  • High-performance vacuum insulation panels
  • Phase-change materials (PCM)

These five key chemistry-based products have been adopted as a Key Innovation by the Smart Cities and Communities Stakeholder Platform. Combined these products can offer substantial energy savings of up to 40% at an acceptable investment.

“All these solutions are assessed for technical feasibility and impact. What remains is the real life testing of these technologies in European cities and the chemical Industry is ready for this next step,” said Dr. Klotz.

Urban opportunity 
This Smart Cities and Communities EIP offers a great opportunity to reduce the complexity of city requirements and creates a market pull along industrial value chains as well as accelerating the creation of jobs and growth in Europe.

“It is only by working together that we can bridge the innovation gaps and stimulate the convergence of industrial value chains in the Energy, Transport and ICT sectors to find and implement the best solutions for smart cities. This is Europe’s unique strength and competitive edge over other regions of the world” concluded Dr. Klotz.

The EIP still has to improve its potential by including manufacturing as well as services in order to stimulate innovation for a broader European economy. This can happen through creating market pull and improvement to the SIP by giving manufacturing a more prominent role.

A public launch event for the SIP is being planned for 26 November in Brussels that will outline European funding and business commitments.

This is just the beginning of a large scale programme of work by all the partners and many others. An important part of that work will be the "Lighthouse Projects" - cities which will demonstrate and deliver Smart City solutions on a large scale. These Projects will be partly financed by the European Commission's Horizon 2002 Research Funds. Further business and public funding will help to spread these new solutions to other cities and economies of scale will help to make these "innovative" and "high tech" solutions the norm and available more easily to all cities and neighbourhoods.

The Commission is expected to invest around €200 million to create Smart Cities projects in the next two years.

Smart Cities
The Smart Cities and Communities EIP (SCC) is a partnership across the areas of energy, transport, and ICT with the objective of catalyzing progress in areas where energy production, distribution and use; mobility and transport; and ICT are intimately linked and offer new interdisciplinary opportunities to improve services while reducing energy and resource consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) and other polluting emissions.

The HLG acts in an advisory role to the Commission and consists of senior representatives of industry, cities, civil society, relevant EU initiatives in this area and member s of the European Commission as members. The group is led by the three European Commissioners for Energy, Transport and the Digital Agenda.

For more information on SusChem activities in support of the Smart Cities and Communities initiative, or to discuss potential collaborations in this area, please contact SusChem Coordinator Jacques Komornicki at Cefic. The new SusChem report can be downloaded here.

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