'Towards a New SusChem SIRA' Workshop: Post-Event Report


SusChem stakeholders met on 16 and 17 May in Brussels to work on the next SusChem Strategic Innovation and Research Agenda (SIRA), reflecting on the new opportunities and challenges to be faced in the next European research and innovation framework programme: Horizon Europe. This SusChem SIRA-dedicated workshop brought together members of the SusChem Board, the SusChem NTPs and experts from across Industry, Academia and SMEs, to finalise the technology content of the SusChem SIRA. The SusChem community continued a process that was initiated at the SusChem Stakeholders 2018 meeting, followed by nominations of experts and two consultation rounds. The communication of the new SusChem SIRA is expected at the upcoming 2019 SusChem Stakeholder meeting on 27 November 2019.

SusChem has been working on identifying technology priorities along its three main technology pillars: Advanced Materials, Advanced Processes and enabling Digital technologies. The ‘Towards a New SusChem SIRA’ workshop was a follow up to prior consultation rounds that were initiated after the SusChem 2018 Stakeholders meeting. The new SIRA will reflect on the overall strategy and role of Sustainable Chemistry and Industrial Biotechnology in boosting innovation in Europe and tackling global challenges, in the context of Horizon Europe.

On day one, participants focused on four cross-cutting topics of high relevance for SusChem: 'Circular Economy', 'Process Intensification', 'Sustainability Assessment Innovation', and 'Safe -by-design innovation'.

Delegates joined roundtable discussions, moderated by experts, focussing on a specific sub-topic within one of the four areas and considered the current state-of the-art and grand challenges. From that analysis they then selected key priority areas for research and innovation in the timeframe of Horizon Europe. A key output was the likely impact of research and innovation. Horizontal impacts and requirements, such as education and training, were also discussed.

For the Process Intensification session, the sub-topics were: reaction engineering, digitalisation, electrification, modularisation, and materials. In the Safe-by-Design session research and innovation themes relevant to process and materials innovation as well as methodologies towards improved safety and sustainability were discussed. The Circular Economy session looked at biomass valorisation, CO2 valorisation, waste valorisation, circularity-by-design and water circularity. Finally, the Sustainability Assessment Innovation session discussed methodologies, data, tools and uptake issues to ensure the measurable and sustainable impact of the developed technologies.

SusChem key enabling technologies in Horizon Europe

The second day of the workshop began with a summary of the outcomes of day one, followed by a panel discussion on strategic research priorities for Sustainable Chemistry and Industrial Biotechnology in the context of the transition to Horizon Europe.

Contributions were made by SusChem board members Dr. Jens Rieger of BASF, Dr. François Monnet from Solvay, Dr. Deirdre Black of the Royal Society of Chemistry and Dr. Fernando Moreno of Solutex, with Jürgen Tiedje representing the European Commission DG Research & Innovation. The panel debate was moderated by Dr. Pierre Barthélemy of Cefic and also a member of the SusChem Board.

Jürgen Tiedje opened the discussion with an update on Horizon Europe. He noted that there was a basic agreement between the Commission, Member States and the European Parliament on the framework programme, although the budget is still to be finalised. The Commission is moving ahead with implementation to ensure calls would be available in 2021.

He described the changes in areas relevant to industry in Horizon Europe as “not a revolution, but a big change nonetheless” and he emphasised the need to highlight the impact of any proposed research and innovation calls. In June the Commission will publish strategic plans describing “what do we want to achieve” in Horizon Europe, again with a clear emphasis on increasing impact. A widespread consultation on the document will follow and the plan will be discussed at and finalised after the next EU Research and Innovation Days on 24-26 September 2019. He also noted that the Commission has just published a call for experts to join the new Horizon Europe Mission boards and invited SusChem stakeholders to be involved in all the above-mentioned steps of stakeholder consultation. In general, he thought that the outcome of the SIRA workshop would be an excellent basis for SusChem input to the Horizon Europe debate.

The panel discussed the significant impact of SusChem and the previous SusChem SIRA under Horizon 2020, and how this raised the platform’s ambition for Horizon Europe. The SusChem Board highlighted how this could be achieved through SusChem’s considerable experience as a multi-stakeholder platform and an advisory forum on technology priorities to address EU challenges.

The panel discussion ranged across the role of the European Research Council in the programme, how to support SMEs’ involvement and the role of the SusChem NTPs in achieving this, and Horizon Europe’s aim to provide new open infrastructure such as facilities for innovation testing and demonstration.

The SusChem Board members highlighted the need to make the best use of the collaborative synergies and experience established by SusChem that could be very useful in achieving, for example, a true Circular Economy faster. They also emphasised how both vertical and horizontal technologies will contribute to achieving high-impact goals with digital technology being both enabling and transformative.

Jürgen Tiedje reminded the audience that the last work programme for Horizon 2020 would be published soon and would feature a wide-ranging call on circular economy topics which would emphasise inter-topic connection. “It is important to start to look beyond individual topics to leverage impact,” he concluded.

The final working session was devoted to three parallel sessions in which participants considered gaps and prioritisation for research and innovation topics under the three SusChem technology pillars: Advanced Materials, Advanced Processes and enabling Digital Technologies.

Over the two days of the workshop a considerable number of ideas and initiatives were discussed and captured. Existing input from expert groups and the wider consultation process were reviewed and validated and technology gaps were identified with relevant input suggested. All-in-all an excellent basis for refining and completing the revised SIRA.

Next steps?

The input from the SusChem SIRA workshop will be analysed and incorporated in the earlier consultation input. As of June, the technology priorities will be structured into SIRA chapters that will relate to the structure of Horizon Europe (clusters and intervention areas). Targeted involvement of SusChem experts will be used to build the SIRA chapters. Once a full draft is assembled, the text will be reviewed by the SusChem Board and the SusChem NTPs for approval before sharing with all contributors for acknowledgement of the document by their organisation.

An expected communication of the new SusChem SIRA towards Horizon Europe (2021-2027) will take place at the 2019 SusChem Stakeholders meeting on 27 November 2019. Save the date now – and see you there!