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Tuesday, 8 July 2014

#SusChem10: SIRA, ICT and Combined Funding

The main topic of the 2014 SusChem Stakeholder event in Brussels on June 11 and 12 was the new SusChem Strategic Innovation and Research Agenda (SIRA). The underlying structure of the document is designed to match key societal challenges under Horizon 2020 with SIRA priorities and SusChem's enabling technologies. The SIRA covers some new topics and, with new combined funding possibilities envisaged by the Commission, will cover potential projects further along the research and innovation chain.

Parallel breakout sessions over the two days of the SusChem event explored priorities and issues in all the SIRA topics including two new areas: ‘Health and well-being’ and ‘Information and Communication Technologies (ICT)’. Brief descriptions of the current main SIRA priority areas are given at the end of this article.

ICT and process control
The ICT topic was the subject of a particularly useful discussion on June 12. ICT is essential for advanced process control in industry and will become even more important in the future as an enabler for improvements in resource and energy efficiency. It is therefore important that the sustainable chemistry community can articulate its needs, knowledge gaps and challenges to guide research and development in this area.

Topics discussed at the stakeholder event included:
  • Fundamental and data-driven modelling (molecular, processes and equipment, applications)
  • Material, product and process design
  • Process engineering techniques
  • Process and equipment monitoring and maintenance techniques
  • Data handling and data analysis techniques
  • Process control, including hardware and software
“ICT already plays a critical role in developing and maintaining chemical products and processes,” explains Pádraig Naughton, Innovation manager at Cefic. “However, in many cases the application of ICT is still conducted in a discrete way throughout the various development and production steps. Huge potential exists to apply ICT technologies across the complete development chain, in a closed loop, leading to an integrated, more efficient and more profitable approach.”

As new process technologies are developed, new ICT technologies will need to be developed and applied. For example, trends towards modular, flexible processing will require an innovative ICT approach to control and monitor variable systems. In addition, with the advent and growth of renewable feedstocks and energy, new challenges arise in the field of ICT to ensure sustainable development.

The session certainly stimulated discussion between industry, academia and the European Commission and a number of priority topics were outlined which will drive developments in this field for the chemical industry at European level. It was concluded that there is a clear window of opportunity for chemical process issues to be addressed in forthcoming Horizon 2020 calls coordinated by DG CONNECT.

Guide to combine funding
The second day of the event also looked at new opportunities for innovation through combined funding within the EU. Presentations described the new innovation investment eco-system in the EU focusing on funding instruments under Horizon 2020 and the opportunities for synergies with structural funds for investment projects that could provide funding instruments that can cover all stages of the innovation chain with optimal use of resources.

A new guide on the practicalities of combining funding described at the Stakeholder event has just been published by the European Commission.

The guide entitled ‘Enabling synergies between European Structural application: and Investment Funds, Horizon 2020 and other research, innovation and competitiveness-related Union programmes’ describes the synergies now available between ESIF (European Structural and Investment Funds) and Horizon 2020 and other EU programmes for innovation and competitiveness.

The 125 page guide contains explanations on the basic rules and principles for obtaining synergies and combining the different funds, and contains recommendations for relevant actors. It is accompanied by descriptions of the various programmes (Annex 1) and guidance via a set of scenarios designed to “inspire programme designers and implementers” with respect to the potential to combine schemes (Annex 2).

The European Investment Bank (EIB) also described its new toolbox of instruments for investment in innovation (InnovFin) that was launched during the SusChem event.

SusChem already has experience of combining funding sources as Thomas Goergen from Bayer Technology Services explained at the event. In the our flagship F3 Factory project the project itself was co-funded via the European Commission FP7 framework research programme while the construction of its backbone infrastructure facility (INVITE) was partially funded by German regional government funds and remains a valuable asset for future collaborative research and innovation projects.

SIRA Outlined
SusChem has just published a new video interview with SusChem coordinator Jacques Komornicki. In the video (below) Jacques describes some of the thinking behind the new SIRA programme and the future direction of SusChem activities.

The SIRA is structured around seven sections:
  • Climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials’ tackling priority areas in raw materials and feedstocks; water conservation, recycling and reuse; waste reduction and recovery; climate action through energy efficiency in the chemical industry; and the chemical plant of the future.
  • A sustainable and inclusive bioeconomy’ looking at sustainable agriculture and forestry; and the establishment of sustainable and competitive bio-based industries.
  • Secure, clean and efficient energy’ dealing with energy efficiency in the chemical industry; products for energy efficiency; competitive low carbon energy production; and enhanced energy storage technologies.
  • Health, demographics and well-being’ focusing on personalised diagnosis using imaging; responsive materials for prosthetic devices; and formulation technologies.
  • Smart, green and integrated transport’ covering green vehicles; materials for reduced energy consumption; materials and systems for sustainable design; and the achievement of a more sustainable internal combustion engine.
  • ICT and the chemical industry: smart processes and smart materials’ exploring the connections between the Information Communication Technologies (ICT) domain and sustainable chemistry that, on the one hand, could boost the overall performance of all the process sectors and, on the other hand, provide new technologies and materials for ICT exploitation.
  • Horizontal issues’ covering four important areas: building skills capacity in Europe; developing a robust definition of sustainable chemistry; accelerating societal uptake of innovation; and developing new innovative business models.
An executive summary of the SIRA can be downloaded here.

For more information on SusChem activities and the new SusChem SIRA contact Jacques Komornicki, SusChem Coordinator at Cefic.

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