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Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Can the EU Chemical Industry go Carbon Neutral by 2050?

The chemical industry’s ambition is to play a leading role in the transformation of the European economy to a sustainable low-carbon and circular economy by creating innovative climate and energy friendly solutions, both for its own processes and for many other industries through chemical products. A new report 'Low carbon energy and feedstock for the European chemical industry' from SusChem founding partners Dechema and released via the European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic) explores how the chemical industry can become carbon neutral by 2050. 

The Dechema study analyses the technological options available for the chemical industry and outlines the conditions necessary to facilitate the transition of the European chemical industry to carbon neutrality.

As well as giving a first full overview of all available technologies for the main chemical production processes, it describes what is needed to refurbish the industrial base we know today in Europe, in a world of shale gas and low oil prices:
  • Abundant low-carbon electricity in much larger volumes and at competitive prices;
  • Availability of alternative feedstocks (e.g. bio-based raw materials, CO2 or industrial waste gases).
  • An enabling fiscal structure to modernise ageing production facilities and equipment or build new plants;
  • Government or public-private support to scale-up technologies and share investment risk for those technologies that are first of a kind or high risk
  • Innovation and research into new chemical technologies that help overcome these challenges.
  • Enabling business models to enhance cross-sectoral collaboration to find sustainable ways to re-use CO2
Role for SusChem and SPIRE
The report concludes that, in order to achieve the EU’s 2050 objectives, an ambitious research and innovation programme will be essential to improve the potential of required advanced technologies, and public-private-partnership efforts will be critical to enable fast deployment and risk sharing for the investments needed. 

In addition, industrial symbiosis opportunities and sustainable materials recycling options should be further explored in order to improve energy and resource efficiency beyond sectorial boundaries. 

Clearly these areas where SusChem and SPIRE are currently working hard to advance sustainable chemistry and sustainable process industry technologies.

Energy intensive
The chemical industry has already halved its energy intensity and greenhouse gas emissions since 1990, but producing chemicals remains one of the most energy intensive industrial processes. Making the sector carbon neutral while retaining its competitiveness in a full circular economy in Europe is a significant challenge, which cannot be solved by the industry on its own.

In an interview with Politico Energy Marco Mensink, Cefic Director General, said that the fact that the industry is looking at how to cut carbon emissions shows that it’s embracing the need for change, “I think we have always taken the position that we are very energy-intensive and that there are huge challenges to become energy neutral,” he said. “But this is a different stance.” Why? Because the attitude of the sector is changing, because the Paris climate agreement has become a reality, and because time is ticking, he added.

The main findings of the report are that the implementation of the technologies investigated in the study would allow for a very significant reduction of CO2 emissions in 2050 (up to 210 Mt annually under the maximum scenario). And including the production and use of fuels related to the pathways considered in the study, the additional CO2 abatement potential in 2050 exceeds the chemical sector’s current emissions even under the intermediate scenario.

Commenting on the report, Marco Mensink said: “Many promising low-carbon technologies are available at a relatively advanced stage of development. The industry will need to find the way to overcome the investment, raw material and energy challenges for them to be implemented on a large scale in Europe.” 

Kurt Wagemann, Executive Director of DECHEMA added: “The implementation of the technologies investigated in this study would allow for a very significant reduction of CO2 emissions of the chemical industry by 2050 even under the least ambitious scenario.”

However, such a transition to carbon neutrality will entail huge challenges for the European chemical industry including availability of low carbon energy, availability of alternative feedstock, investments in new assets that far exceed the typical level of investments in the recent years, uncompetitive production costs. 

The report
The report Low carbon energy and feedstock for the European chemical industry looks into technology options and pathway scenarios to ensure a low-carbon, yet competitive European chemical industry by 2050. The study focuses on the main chemical building blocks used in upstream large volume production processes (ammonia, methanol, ethylene, propylene, chlorine and the aromatics benzene, toluene and xylene), which represent about two-thirds of all GHG emissions in the chemical sector.

Friday, 14 July 2017

European Sustainable Chemicals Support Service Final conference

The European Commission and the European Chemical Regions Network (ECRN) invite you to the final conference of the European Sustainable Chemicals Support Service entitled: 'Boosting regional investments in sustainable chemicals' that is taking place on 14 September in Brussels. The Sustainable Chemicals Support Service initiative was organised by a consortium of Cefic, PNO and CIRCE.

The event aims to present the results of the European Sustainable Chemicals Support Service initiative 'Six Model demonstrator regions for sustainable chemical production', that was funded by the European Commission. It will feature success stories and best practices from the six regions, selected by the European Commission as 'model demonstrator regions' in Europe for a sustainable chemical industry.

The regions are:

  • Andalusia (Spain)
  • Groningen-Drenthe (The Netherlands)
  • Kosice (Slovakia)
  • Scotland (United Kingdom)
  • South and Eastern Ireland
  • Wallonia (Belgium)

The Conference will also present the publicly available self-assessment tool, developed by the initiative, which aims to support all European regions to assess their investment readiness level to produce chemicals in a sustainable manner.

This event is free of charge and will be held in English.

Sustainable chemicals
The aim of the European Sustainable Chemicals Support Service initiative was to encourage investments in sustainable chemicals production in Europe that will contribute to the development of the circular economy, for example by taking advantage of domestically available feedstock such as biomass, waste or CO2.

Cefic and SusChem have been very supportive of collaboration within and between chemical regions based on concepts such as Industrial Symbiosis. This was demonstrated by Cefic-SusChem participation in the Chemical Regions for Resource Efficiency (R4R) FP7 project and expressed in the 2015 SusChem position paper on Circular Economy.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

SusChem F3 Factory shows synergy of EU Funding

The SusChem flagship F3 Factory project was in the spotlight at the European Commission’s Research and Innovation conference on “Shaping our Future” as an example of how to leverage EU research funding with the use of the Structural Funds. This is one of the key recommendations in the report of the High-Level Group led by Pascal Lamy, released at the conference on 3 July, to launch the debate on the next EU Framework Programme, FP9. Entitled ‘LAB – FAB – APP: investing in the European future we want’, the report delivers a strong message that investing in research and innovation is crucial for the future of Europe in a rapidly globalising world.

To shape our future together, we need to imagine, invent and create. We need research (“Labs”), innovation competitive fabrication (“Fabs”) and applications for the benefit of all (“Apps”). Hence the title of the report: Lab, Fab, App: investing in the future we want.

Launching the report European Commissioner for Research and Innovation Carlos Moedas underlined the crucial role of research and innovation for the future by saying: “Without science and innovation there is no growth. Without science and innovation there are no jobs.”

Reacting to the report on behalf of industry, Jean Pierre Clamadieu, CEO of Solvay and President of the Cefic council, told the conference: “Together with Commissioner Moedas, we can imagine a new FP9 that nurtures a European-based research, innovation and science ecosystem linked to industry".

F3 Factory success
The SusChem visionary project ‘The F3 Factory’ was highlighted at the conference by Marc Lemaitre, Director-General the Commission’s DG REGIO, as a success story showing how research and innovation projects can be combined with EU structural and investment funding and thus achieve rationalisation of EU funding schemes. This is one of the key recommendations of the LAB-FAB-APP report, echoed at the conference.

This F3 Factory FP7 initiative showed how it was possible “to leverage all assets in Europe” said Lemaitre (speaking above). The €30 million F3 Factory project, implemented between 2009 and 2013, was conceived and developed by a SusChem working group and looked to create the future of [chemical] production. The project was hugely successful in developing new modular production processes.

The German region of Nordrhein-Westfalen was then able to use money from the EU Regional Development Fund, and through its smart specialisation strategy has been able to form a new project in order to bring the F3 Factory concept closer to commercialisation for pharmaceutical processes.

The MoBiDik project scaled-up and validated the F3 Factory results showing a potential 40% reduction in capital costs and a 30% reduction in energy consumption. The work is continuing through the MoBiDik Pro project funded by Bayer.

Double R&I budget
The LAB-FAB-APP impact report focuses on proposing guiding principles for designing the post-2020 EU programme for research and innovation; provisionally entitled FP9. The 11 recommendations of the report aim to maximise the impact of future EU research and innovation programmes and each is exemplified by a key action.

Amongst the 11 recommendations in the report are proposals to double the budget of the post-2020 EU research and innovation programme, foster ecosystems that will promote and invest in innovative ideas with rapid scale-up potential through a European Innovation Council, and modernise the education and training of people for a creative and innovative Europe. Other actions look to further simplify EU R&I funding schemes and instruments, stimulate the involvement of citizens, and communicate the results and impact of EU R&I funding better.

The high level group that produced the report was led by Pascal Lamy, former European Commissioner and President Emeritus of the Jacques Delors Institut, and comprised 11 eminent personalities from research, innovation and education including Martin Brudermüller, Chief Technology Officer for BASF.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Advancing Entrepreneurship and Start-up Initiatives for Sustainable Chemistry

Are you engaged in a start-up initiative in green and sustainable chemistry? And would you like to share your experience at an international workshop in September 2017 in Berlin? If so a workshop being organised by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Sustainable Chemistry Collaborative Centre (ISC3) on 14 September 2017 will be of interest to you.

On 14 September 2017, UNEP and ISC3 are jointly hosting a workshop to advance entrepreneurship and start-up initiatives for sustainable chemistry. Case studies will be shared and discussed to identify lessons learnt and generate policy relevant knowledge. 

The workshop is being organised back to back with the 150th Anniversary of the German Chemical Society (GDCh) and will bring together a small number of entrepreneurs from developed and developing countries, international organisations and other experts. Entrepreneurs interested in participating in the workshop and presenting their start-up initiatives and lessons learnt should send a brief statement of interest to UNEP by 25 July 2017. 

Selected candidates will present their case study at the workshop. Funding is available to support participants from developing countries. 

UNEP and ISC3 will be looking to support 6-8 young international entrepreneurs engaged in green and sustainable chemistry start-up companies to participate in two back-to-back events taking place in Berlin and seeking to advance a new innovation age for sustainable chemistry.

As well as the case study workshop on 14 September 2017, the other event is a 24-hour ‘Hackathon’ which takes place in the context of the 150th Anniversary of the GDCh on 12-13 September 2017. Selected participants will have the opportunity to participate in and will be sponsored for both events. 

Scaling up sustainability
Global momentum around the concept of sustainable chemistry is growing. In 2016, the concept was recognised for the first time by the United Nations Environment Assembly and work has commenced at the global level to identify best practises. 

As SusChem stakeholders know, an important dimension of sustainable chemistry is to scale up research, innovation and entrepreneurship to develop new and safer chemicals and production processes.

Start-up initiatives and companies can be a strong driver to nurture momentum towards sustainable chemistry, and help close the gap between science, innovation and business application. Yet, while certain sectors, such as the IT sector, are known for a thriving start-up scene, start-up initiatives in area of green and sustainable chemistry are less developed.

One of the topics pursued by the Global Chemicals Outlook-II, mandated by United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) in 2016, is to collect state-of-the-art knowledge and identify determinants which may advance (or impede) innovation to advance sustainable chemistry, including through start-up companies. 

Workshop goals
The overall aim of the workshop is to advance at the international level in scaling up innovation for sustainable chemistry and identify opportunities for action in this area. By bringing together green and sustainable chemistry entrepreneurs from developed and developing countries, together with other relevant experts, the workshop will present and review case studies with the goal to identify lessons learnt and generate policy relevant knowledge. Workshop outcomes will feed into UN Environment’s work on the update of the Global Chemicals Outlook in 2018, and other possible activities at the international level.

The Workshop will bring together approximately 10-15 participants leading (or supporting) sustainable and green chemistry start-up initiatives, including 3-4 entrepreneurs from developed countries (e.g. Europe/North America), 3-4 entrepreneurs from developing countries together with other relevant representatives from the private sectors (e.g. financing institutions), representatives of selected international organisations and selected experts. 

The one-day workshop will cover topics including the context of green and sustainable chemistry, knowledge-sharing about sustainable chemistry start-up initiatives, extracting determinants of success and generating policy insights, and identifying opportunities for further work and follow-up.

More information
The workshop is jointly organised by UN Environment, Economy Division, Chemicals and Health Branch and the International Sustainable Chemistry Collaborative Centre (ISC3) in cooperation with the German Chemical Society (GDCh) and the Freie Universität Berlin. Entrepreneurs interested in participating in the workshop and presenting their start-up initiatives as well as lessons learnt should send a brief statement of interest to UN Environment by 25 July 2017 including a brief description of their start-up initiative and how it contributes to advancing green or sustainable chemistry , together with a brief analysis of the useful lessons learnt in the initiative.

For more information, please contact

Thursday, 6 July 2017

RoadToBio: Guiding the EU Chemical Industry towards the Bioeconomy

How can the chemical industry in Europe meet the challenges of global markets while at the same time becoming more sustainable? RoadToBio is an EU-funded project under Horizon 2020 that aims to pave the way for the European chemical industry to embrace a higher biobased portfolio and more competitive success. Despite considerable efforts over the past few years, the production and application of biobased chemicals is still limited. The roadmap developed in RoadToBio will specify the benefits for the chemical industry of moving from a fossil-based industry towards the bioeconomy to meet the societal needs of 2030.

Today (6 July) the project’s first expert workshop is taking place in Brussels to initiate a discussion on the biobased ‘sweet spots for the chemical industry and develop a list of criteria for biobased products and/ or the shift towards a bioeconomy in the chemical sector from the viewpoint of diverse stakeholders.

The results of the project, a Coordination and Support Action (CSA), first announced in the BBI JU 2016 work programme, will be of critical interest to SusChem stakeholders. The SusChem Strategic Innovation and Research Agenda (SIRA) focuses on a sustainable and inclusive bioeconomy as a priority and the outcomes of the project will inform future revisions of the SusChem SIRA.

The roadmap will also inform future work programmes for the BBI JU and SPIRE PPP, both SusChem inspired initiatives, and where SusChem takes role in coordinating work programmes and identifying synergies.

The roadmap
The roadmap will consist of two main components: an analysis of the most promising opportunities (the ‘sweet spots’) for the chemical industry to increase its biobased portfolio, and a strategy, action plan and engagement guide to overcome the existing and anticipated barriers and hurdles.

The analytical part of the project will take into account feedstock, technologies and markets as well as regulatory issues, societal needs, consumer acceptance and communication. Business cases will be explored that cover new feedstock for the chemical industry, new intermediates for and by the chemical industry, as well as new end-products.

The business cases will be analysed in detail to understand the market potential, the different up- and downstream actors in the value chain as well as the benefits for society based on techno-economic and life cycle assessments.

30% biobased share
The outcomes of the analysis will be used to formulate a strategy, action plan and engagement guide for the chemical industry. They will describe the actions that need to be taken by all stakeholders to achieve the objective of a 30% share of biobased products in the chemical industry by 2030.

To maintain a realistic perspective and gain the support and commitment of the key players, representatives of the European chemical industry and other stakeholders will be involved in the project from the very beginning, providing input and feedback.

This means the roadmap will be developed in consultation with stakeholders, and disseminated to a wide audience. Furthermore, RoadToBio will bring together different parts of the chemical industry, society, and governing bodies in order to start a dialogue and to create a platform where this action plan can unfold to its full potential.

The consortium of this two-year project that started in May 2017 consists of SusChem founding member DECHEMA eV., BTG Biomass Technology Group BV, E4tech (UK) Ltd., and the nova-Institut.

SusChem Brokerage 2017 is on 18 October

The SusChem 2017 Brokerage event which will take place on Wednesday 18 October 2017 in Brussels, Belgium at the Thon Hotel in the EU quarter. Don’t hesitate - register now! Participation in the event is free of charge, but prior registration is compulsory.

As always the SusChem Brokerage event will be the unique opportunity for SusChem stakeholders from industry, academia, SMEs and other sectors to present project ideas, develop consortia and submit funding proposals targeting the 2018 and 2019 calls for Horizon 2020 with deadlines falling in the late 2017 and early 2018.

The Horizon 2020 work programme for 2018-2020 is expected to be officially published in early October, but you can read a Commission document that describes the context for the entire strategic programming process, which will guide the preparation of the work programme itself, here.

During the SusChem brokerage event, you will have the opportunity to:

  • Get detailed views on the Horizon 2020 2018-2019 programme calls focusing on:
    • Advanced Materials Research
    • Process and Biotechnologies, and
    • Raw Materials calls in Societal Challenge 5
  • Present your project ideas to the SusChem stakeholder community
  • Meet consortia looking for partners, and
  • Interact with other stakeholders during the speed dating session.  

Use Grant-It
Delegates are kindly invited to propose their project ideas for the 2018 and 2019 calls of Horizon 2020 on GRANT-IT - your one-stop access to funding opportunities from the European Commission and Regional and National governments in the field of sustainable chemistry.

SusChem members can use GRANT-IT resources for free to search for funding, identify project opportunities, propose project ideas and search for potential project partners.

Submitting your project ideas via GRANT-IT will make it available to the whole SusChem community and allow interested partners to contact you for meeting requests when the brokerage speed dating tool is open.

For additional information and for questions related to accommodation or how to access the venue, please visit the SusChem 2017 Brokerage event registration portal.

Do not miss this opportunity - register now for the SusChem 2017 Brokerage Event! 

Monday, 3 July 2017

Research & Innovation shaping our future: LabFabApp

The European Commission has published today the report from the High Level Group on maximising the impact of EU research and innovation. The group was led by Pascal Lamy and included eminent personalities from research, innovation and education. The report entitled ‘LAB – FAB – APP Investing in the European future we want’ delivers a main message that investing in research and innovation is increasingly crucial for shaping a better European future in a rapidly globalising world. 

Our success depends ever more on the production and conversion of knowledge into innovation. SusChem agrees.

The report was launched by Research and Innovation Commissioner Moedas and Pascal Lamy (below) at the Research & Innovation: Shaping our Future conference in Brussels today (3 July) and focuses on proposing guiding principles for designing a post-2020 EU programme for research and innovation. However, it does not propose priority themes or subjects such as health, energy, security, space or oceans.

The 11 recommendations of the report are addressed to the European institutions, national governments as well as to other stakeholders: companies, universities, research institutes, non-governmental organisations and all others engaged in research and innovation within the EU and beyond.

Citizen science
However the report also reaches out to a wider public. The report states that ‘Our society should increasingly become a living laboratory for innovative solutions to the many challenges we face in Europe – be they economic, environmental or social.’ Through broad-based, impact-focused research and innovation policy and investments, society can turn these challenges into innovation opportunities. This requires action and participation by many, if not all of us.

The report believes that we need to get rid of the notion that research and innovation is not relevant to society. To shape our future together, we need to imagine, invent and create. We need research (“Labs”), innovation (competitive fabrication (“Fabs”) and applications for the benefit of all (“Apps”). Hence the title of the report: ‘Lab, Fab, App: investing in the future we want.’

Commissioner Moedas said: "I am extremely grateful for the work of the independent group chaired by Pascal Lamy. The recommendations put forward are a very solid basis for our reflection on the orientations of the programmes that will succeed Horizon 2020."

Eleven recommendations
The report’s recommendations are aimed at maximising the impact of future EU research and innovation programmes and each is exemplified by a key action.

1. Prioritise research and innovation in EU and national budgets - Action: double the budget of the post-2020 EU research and innovation programme.

2. Build a true EU innovation policy that creates future markets - Action: Foster ecosystems for researchers, innovators, industries and governments; promote and invest in innovative ideas with rapid scale-up potential through a European Innovation Council.

3. Educate for the future and invest in people who will make the change - Action: modernise, reward and resource the education and training of people for a creative and innovative Europe.

4. Design the EU R&I programme for greater impact - Action: make the future programme’s pillars driven by purpose and impact, fine-tune the proposal evaluation system and increase flexibility.

5. Adopt a mission-oriented, impact-focused approach to address global challenges - Action: set research and innovation missions that address global challenges and mobilise researchers, innovators and other stakeholders to realise them.

6. Rationalise the EU funding landscape and achieve synergy with structural funds - Action: cut the number of R&I funding schemes and instruments, make those remaining reinforce each other and make synergy with other programmes work.

7. Simplify further - Action: become the most attractive R&I funder in the world, privileging impact over process.

8. Mobilise and involve citizens - Action: stimulate co-design and co-creation through citizen involvement.

9. Better align EU and national R&I investment - Action: ensure EU and national alignment where it adds value to the EU’s R&I ambitions and missions.

10. Make international R&I cooperation a trademark of EU research and innovation - Action: open up the R&I programme to association by the best and participation by all, based on reciprocal co-funding or access to co-funding in the partner country.

11. Capture and better communicate impact - Action: brand EU research and innovation and ensure wide communication of its results and impacts.