#suschem2018 starts defining technology priorities for Horizon Europe


On June 20, at its 16th Annual Stakeholder event (#suschem2018) in Brussels, the European Technology Platform for Sustainable Chemistry (SusChem) started the collaborative process to build a new Strategic Innovation and Research Agenda (SIRA) for Horizon Europe.

The SusChem stakeholder event was a great opportunity to underline SusChem’s role and vision under Horizon Europe. The keynote speech given by the European Commission presented the novel elements and opportunities in the new framework programme (2021-2027). Focusing on priorities for advanced materials, advanced processes and associated digital technologies, the initial task of identifying technology priorities was initiated. The SusChem innovation ecosystem was also boosted by the addition of three new National Technology Platforms (Bulgaria, Finland and Sweden). The day was completed with a lively and provocative panel discussion on how to leverage the strength of the innovation ecosystem as a whole to boost the competitive position of Europe in Research and Innovation.

An opening keynote speech by Markus Steilemann, CEO of Covestro and SusChem chairman, described the role of SusChem as:

“Responding to global challenges and EU priorities” by providing “innovation solutions based on sustainable chemistry.”

He also emphasised SusChem’s significant role in enabling a highly collaborative research and innovation environment by bringing together industry including small and medium-sized enterprises, academia and Research and Technology Organisations (RTOs) at a European level whilst connecting with regional and national programmes through its expanding network of National Technology Platforms (NTPs).

Steilemann called on all SusChem stakeholders to voice their priorities and help define the technology priorities for the next SusChem SIRA. The next SIRA will be a solid base for advising the European Commission on high-impact missions and priorities for Horizon Europe. SusChem will remain an active and engaged partner of the European Commission.

“We have demonstrated that SusChem enables the development of sustainable technologies that lead to sustainable products,” he concluded.

Horizon Europe
A second keynote speech was given by Ms. Signe Ratso, Deputy Director General at the Commission’s DG Research & Innovation, focusing on the proposal for the next Research Framework programme: Horizon Europe.

Ratso sees Horizon Europe as our chance to shape the future:

“Europe has world-class research and strong industries – our knowledge and skills are our main resources – but Europe fails to transform leadership into leadership in innovation and entrepreneurship.” Horizon Europe – although an “evolution rather than revolution” aimed to address that.

Key novelties in the programme proposal were the increased support for breakthrough innovation (via mission-oriented research), the ambition to create more impact, and a more strengthened international cooperation. Horizon Europe also aims to reinforce openness.

In terms of the ‘missions’ concept, Ratso underlined the need for missions to connect with citizens and be “bold and inspirational” while having measurable goals that could be achievable in around a ten-year timeframe. Activities in missions should be across-sectors, involve actors from different disciplines and work along value chains. She invited all partners to work together on further shaping Horizon’s Europe missions and looked forward to SusChem’s input to the programme.

Defining priorities
One of the main focus points of the event was to start the consultation process to build the new SusChem Strategic Innovation and Research Agenda (SIRA).  Two parallel breakout sessions covered advanced materials and advanced process technologies. Both sessions considered the role of Digital Technologies as an enabler for designing better performing materials and processes. More specifically, the sessions initiated the debate on technology priorities and looked to identify experts who could contribute to the development of the next SIRA.

The materials session focused on three thematic clusters: circularity for materials; energy storage, production and efficiency; and functionality and performance. The advanced process technology themes were: digital technologies for process design and control, waste as feedstock, fossil-based feedstock, biobased feedstock, and CO2 as feedstock. The sessions identified technology clusters that require further attention as well as the following broad issue areas: sustainability assessment; skills, consumer awareness, and education and training.

All the input gathered at #suschem2018 will be assessed and processed further to form the basis of the new SIRA together with additional expert input from Suschem working groups that are currently being set-up.

Expanding ecosystem
The SusChem National Technology Platforms discussed how they approached stakeholder engagement in their countries and gave examples of the successful formation of consortia and transnational collaborations. Moreover, they reflected on how to enhance their role even further together with the SusChem ETP. Representatives from nine of SusChem’s 17 NTPs were involved in the debate moderated by Susanne Coles (SusChem UK).

The session was also a great opportunity to present the three new national platforms – Bulgaria, Finland and Sweden - that wereapproved for membership by the SusChem board the day before the event. SusChem also welcomed Andreas Falk (SusChem Austria) as the new Chair of the NTPs network for the following year.

#suschem2018 concluded with a wide-ranging debate, led by Marco Mensink Director General of Cefic, which explored the priorities required to maintain Europe’s leading role in global innovation and how the structure of Horizon Europe can mobilise our innovation ecosystems. The panel included Peter Dröll, Director Industrial Technologies at Commission’s DG Research & Innovation, Prof. Ferdi Schüth, Vice-President of the Max-Planck-Society, Kateřina Šebková, Director of the Stockholm Regional Centre for Central and Eastern Europe, Martin Stephan, Deputy CEO of CARBIOS, and Olaf Wachsen, Head of Group Process Technology, Clariant.

Panel members called for the continuation of enduring partnerships and collaborations created through programmes like Horizon 2020, which were considered more valuable than the funding per se. They suggested that Horizon Europe could be seen as a part of the EU’s vision to reindustrialise Europe.  The continuation of Key Enabling Technologies (KETs) and the need to bring together all of the bright minds of Europe, were other prominent points stressed by the panel, no country can bring about change alone.

Future path
#suschem2018 has successfully set the course to develop the next SusChem SIRA. It has continued the vibrant dialogue with our platform’s stakeholders and the European Commission on future orientations for sustainable chemistry research and innovation to enable the development of technologies and that will meet EU global challenges.  

The process continues at the next major SusChem event: our 2018 Brokerage event that will be held on 23 October 2018 at Hotel Le Plaza, Brussels and will cover later sustainable chemistry relevant calls for Horizon 2020. Save the date!