Saturday, 14 June 2014

#SusChem10 Day 2: Sustainable Chemistry defining the Next Decade

The second day of SusChem's 12th Stakeholder Event was packed with presentations and discussions on a variety of new opportunities for sustainable chemistry research and innovation ranging from the new ability to combine funding available through European Union initiatives to the challenges for Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) to enable increased energy and resource efficiency in the chemical and wider process industries. The afternoon brokerage session saw project presentations and 'speed-dating' as SusChem stakeholders looked to initiate collaborative contributions to the next round of Horizon 2020 calls and kick-off the next 10 years of SusChem success!

In his concluding remarks Chairman of the SusChem board, Dr. Klaus Sommer summed up the first decade of SusChem saying that: "When we started SusChem we had a lot of ground work to cover, but we  were successful in establishing SusChem as a voice to be taken seriously."

He praised SusChem's achievements including its three flagship projects under FP7 and its significant contributions to establish two PPPs - the SPIRE PPP and the BBI JTI - under Horizon 2020. Today the platform is working broadly with a number of other relevant European initiatives, such as the European Innovation Partnerships (EIPs), and is renewing its strategic plans via a new Strategic Innovation and Research Agenda (SIRA) that reflects the new needs and challenges following the start of Horizon 2020, SPIRE and BBI.

Dr Sommer stressed that SusChem needed to be more proactive about communicating the benefits of sustainable chemistry and its beneficial impact for society. "The chemical industry represents some 11% of all the economy in Europe – essentially nothing works without chemistry," he said.

SusChem needed to fight continuously to ensure that the competitiveness of the European chemical and biotech industry is not weakened and must continue to drive SusChem strategy, develop our national technology platform network to establish an excellent strategy that can really improve European competitiveness. "Lets start the success for the next 10 years now!" he concluded.

Combined funding
The morning had started with a panel discussion on new innovation opportunities through combined funding. Doris Schroecker of DG Research (below, second left) described the new innovation investment eco-system in the EU that was aiming to help achieve a full and sustainable recovery and new growth for the European economy. She recognised that the chemical industry was a sector that is innovative and invests. Her emphasis was on funding instruments under Horizon 2020 but she also stressed the opportunities for synergies with structural funds for investment projects.

The synergy aspect was reinforced by Heidi Moens of DG Enterprise and Industry (above far left) who described the practicalities of combined funding. For work in key enabling technologies the European Regional Development Funds (ERDF) were now that are funded to the tune of € 110 billion and the general idea was to provide funding instruments that can cover all stages of the innovation chain with optimal use of resources.

There were two main principles to combining funding:
  • No substitution, i.e. the funding could not act as a substitute for national or private contributions to Horizon 2020
  • No double financing, i.e. no two EU funding instruments could cover the same cost item.
A new guide on the practicalities of combining funding would be published by the Commission in the very near future.

Olivier Debande (second right above) of the European Investment Bank (EIB) described its role in financing innovation.The EIB had recently received a boost to its loan capital to € 71 billion and a new toolbox of instruments for investment in innovation (InnovFin) was to being launched today (12 June).

Thomas Goergen (far right above) from Bayer Technology Services gave a couple of practical examples of projects that had benefited from combined funding including the F3 Factory project where the project itself was funded via FP7 while the construction of its backbone infrastructure facility (INVITE) was partially funded by German regional government funds.

The key was to produce a 'Master Plan' for funding that showed how different funding sources were to be used to ensure transparency and avoid double funding.

Future Technologies
Ales Fiala of DG CONNECT (below) described the Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) component of Horizon 2020 which covered some 3.5% of the Horizon 2020 budget under the Excellent Science theme.

FET was about visionary ideas, emerging concepts, and building new communities and under Horizon 2020 it had a new mandate that goes beyond ICT to bridge from excellent science to exciting technology futures and turn the EU into the best place for dynamic ideas.

FET has three elements:
  • FET Open - for early ideas, bottom up projects on novel ideas for radical new technologies
  • FET Proactive - involving a top-down process with topics specified by development communities and focusing on emerging innovation themes and communities. These has two strategic objectives: coordinated exploration of directions to build a pool of knowledge and new research alliances.
  • FET Flagships – large-scale programmes on grand challenges that were long term (10 year). For example the Graphene Flagship with a focus on moving from academic laboratories to establishing a European 'graphene' industry.
Education and ICT
After coffee two parallel sessions took place. The 'Integrating Higher Education, Business and Research for Sustainable Chemistry Innovation: EIT’s next steps' session (below) looked at the role of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology  (EIT) Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) . KICs are seen as an ideal way of involving SMEs in collaborative innovation. A new KIC on Advanced Manufacturing will be launched soon and the Climate Change KIC is supporting some CO2 utilisation projects that are of great interest to SusChem and SPIRE.

KICs had a very useful role in shaping the workforce of tomorrow and enabling industry to interface with education. They were a very flexible funding format.

The second session on 'ICT in Chemical Processing' (see below) also produced a "vivid discussion" and yielded the message that "data will be the new oil".

ICT is already essential for advanced process control in industry and will become even more important in the future as an enabler for improvements resource and energy efficiency. It is therefore very important that the sustainable chemistry community can articulate its needs, knowledge gaps and challenges to guide research and development in this area. There was a clear window of opportunity for chemical process issues to be addressed in DG CONNECT.

Feedback from the two parallel sessions was relayed by rapporteurs Rodney Townsend (KIC-EIT, centre below) of RSC and Andreas Foerster of Dechema (ICT, right below) before SusChem chairman Klaus Sommer concluded the main proceedings and thanked the organising team.

Towards the next 10 years
Dr Sommer (below)  picked up a number of points from the two days of discussion in his concluding remarks including the need for incorporating ICT issues into the SusChem SIRA and helping to integrate the farming and forestry sectors with the bioindustry – here he thought joint BBB - SPIRE projects would be very useful.

Many of the challenges, for example in chemical energy storage, needed to be demonstrated practically at large scale not just in the laboratory and he also welcomed the ideas for greater coordination between classic chemistry and the pharmaceutical industry in formulation sciences.

Brokerage bonanza
After lunch the Horizon 2020 Brokerage session was kicked off by a presentation by Soren Bowadt of DG Research and Innovation (below). Soren focused on the experienced gained from the results of the first calls for SPIRE PPP, which had been some of the first to be evaluated under the new European Commission programme.

The success rate for the first SPIRE calls had been 16% success rate and he anticipated a similar rate for future calls.The call had resulted in a main list of 11 projects worth € 58.4 million and a reserve list of six projects worth € 39.1 million.

He emphasised that the calls under Horizon 2020 are challenge based with a strong focus on innovation outcomes and the potential emphasis of the results. Including an outline business in a proposal was important to demonstrate impact - and this could include ideas for further funding under ESIF etc. It was also to respect the TRL level of the call and to demonstrate the credibility of all collaborative partners.

For various reasons the deadline for 2015 calls was likely to move backwards from mid December 2014 to early February 2015. This would be announced officially once the Horizon 2020 Work Programme had been adapted to reflect the change.

The Brokerage presentations were split into two parallel sessions covering waste and/ or side-stream valourisation (10 project presentations) and Materials and Processes for Improved Capacities (9 project presentations). In addition six groups presented their ideas and capabilities via a poster session during the speed-dating session.

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