Going beyond ‘traditional’ chemistry

Sustainable chemistry
iStock/Petmal.

The SusChem European Technology Platform advises public authorities on research and innovation priorities for sustainable chemistry.

Over the last 15 years the SusChem European Technology Platform (ETP) has grown into the reference network of stakeholders for research and innovation (R&I) in sustainable chemistry. SusChem is an open platform, including value chain partners, that develops and promotes R&I priorities that advance sustainable chemistry and deserve collaborative approaches and/or public funding. It brings together stakeholders from different horizons (such as academia, RTOs, large and small companies), that form a unique network of scientific and technical experts in green and sustainable chemistry across Europe.

The interest of SusChem extends beyond the strict definition of ‘traditional’ chemistry. For instance, industrial biotechnology can make significant contributions to improve the environmental performance of chemical production and is expected to yield more viable solutions. Therefore, industrial biotechnology falls under the scope of SusChem activities. The Brussels-based SusChem ETP is complemented by a network of SusChem National Technology Platforms (NTPs) in 15 Member States. They feed their national R&I priorities to SusChem, connect SusChem with experts across Europe and help disseminate the SusChem priorities at the national and regional levels.

The overarching objective of SusChem is to advise public authorities on R&I priorities for sustainable chemistry. A leading mission over the years has been to inspire the EU Framework Programmes for R&I (FP7, Horizon 2020 and now Horizon Europe) although the impact of SusChem has extended well beyond the EU level funding schemes.

Furthermore, the SusChem activities and its R&I agenda have inspired the creation of very successful, more focused initiatives, in which R&I stakeholders from the entire innovation ecosystem and from the chemical industry are strongly engaged:

  • The SPIRE Public Private Partnership (the partnership on Sustainable Process Industries through Resource Efficiency) – under which eight major industrial sectors work together to improve energy and resource efficiency of industrial processes,
  • The BBI JU (Bio-based Industries Joint Undertaking) aiming at developing new value chains from bio-based feedstock.

Why is sustainable chemistry important?

Today, sustainable chemistry and green chemistry have become familiar concepts for anyone interested in the development of advanced materials and technologies in connection with the pressing need to find solutions to the main societal challenges. The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide a framework to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. Sustainable chemistry is an essential contribution to achieve a large majority of the SDGs objectives. In Europe the strategic directions set by policymakers, clearly position Europe at the forefront of sustainability. Addressing the global challenges in line with the ambitious timescales considered, will require breakthrough technologies and disruptive models at a scale and at a pace never encountered before.

The pervasive influence of chemistry in all aspects of modern societies imply that the global chemical output will continue to grow strongly in the coming decades, best estimates indicate that it will double in value to some €6-7 trillion by 2030. Bearing that in mind, we have a common responsibility – researchers, industry, users, both the private and public sectors – to ensure that we reap the benefits of chemical products and technologies, and hence the benefits of advanced products and technologies that depend on chemistry, while managing the safe use of chemicals throughout the full life cycle.  Sustainable chemistry is a cornerstone of the journey to a more sustainable society and a more sustainable economy. In simple terms, sustainable chemistry is about maximising the benefits of chemistry while minimising possible side effects (i.e. the potential impact of chemicals on human health and on the environment).

R&I, which is the focus of SusChem, is certainly more and more necessary in our journey to increasing sustainability, nevertheless sustainable chemistry is a much broader concept as it covers also the safe management of chemicals including production, packaging, labelling, distribution, storage, the use phase and eventually the disposal at the end of life. In this regard, the concept of sustainable chemistry goes well beyond the 12 principles of green chemistry. In fact, green chemistry is a subset of sustainable chemistry and the 12 principles of green chemistry are part of the wider R&I agenda of sustainable chemistry.

What’s next?

SusChem has now engaged in a significant revamping of the SusChem Strategic Innovation and Research Agenda (SIRA). Although the SIRA had been revised in 2014, the pace of technological change and of the framework conditions are such that regular updates are necessary. The aspiration for more circular models, the need to address climate change, the trend to electrification, the switch to alternative raw materials (including waste, bio-based feedstock, CO2) are just a few examples. They require more advanced materials from the chemical industry, different materials to facilitate the design of products that can be recycled, new and improved processes to accommodate alternative raw materials.

Another very significant evolution is the impact of digitalisation on the chemical industry, and certainly on its R&I activities. Materials and process modelling, data analytics and artificial intelligence are set to revolutionise and accelerate innovation in the chemical industry. Consequently, the new SusChem SIRA will have a full chapter on digital technologies in addition to the usual chapters on advanced materials and advanced process technologies.

Anyone interested in sustainable chemistry, especially the R&I aspects, can join the platform simply by registering on www.suschem.org. SusChem is as strong as the support it receives from its members and its network of experts across Europe: members are invited to contribute to all SusChem activities including the development of strategic roadmaps, white papers and positions, workshops and various dedicated events.

 

Pierre Barthelemey

Executive Director of Research

and Innovation

The European Technology Platform for Sustainable Chemistry

SusChem

+32 (0)2 436 9418

suschem@suschem.org

Tweet @SusChem

www.suschem.org

Laboratory Supplies Directory - Now Live

4 COMMENTS

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here