Europe is at a crossroads. Improved competitiveness and economic strength are required. At the same time the consequences of climate change, an ageing population and dwindling resource supplies need to be addressed.
Breakthroughs are needed to cut emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants, develop sustainable energy sources, provide alternatives to scarce raw materials, increase our recycling of waste, ensure the quality of our water supplies and strive to improve our quality of life without compromising that of future generations.
To achieve this means that Europe must speed up its innovation process. A central element of the EUROPE2020 Strategy for smart, sustainable, and inclusive economic growth is the Innovation Union which promotes research, development and innovation initiatives as the tools to achieve these goals. A new European instrument, the European Innovation Partnerships (EIPs), based on the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model, has also been envisaged and designed specifically to tackle major challenges faced by the European society such as the need for raw materials, water efficiency, smart cities, agricultural sustainability, active and healthy ageing.
Sustainable innovation – our priority
Chemistry is the central science. The European chemical sector remains world leading and is already a critical driver of innovation across other industrial sectors. This puts the chemical community in a position to lead large-scale innovation initiatives that can provide sustainable solutions to Europe’s grand challenges.
SusChem fully supports the Innovation Union and the goals of the EUROPE 2020 Strategy. The SusChem priority areas follow therefore the path laid by the Innovation Union with four of them addressing direct technical innovation areas and two supporting areas.
- Resource and energy efficiency – the chemical industry has a long track record of ‘doing more with less’. By developing an integrated resource efficiency strategy throughout the process industries, input resources (including raw materials, renewable feedstock, energy, water), all processes, all output materials (including products, by-products, waste streams) and recycle options can be significantly optimised.
- Water – as one of the biggest water consumers and one of the largest providers of water treatment materials, chemistry can help boost innovation in various sectors by improving efficiency and management of abstraction, consumption and recycling of water for its urban, rural and industrial uses.
- Raw materials – to secure future supplies of raw materials requires increased reuse, recycling and intelligent substitution with new materials: all areas where sustainable chemistry is an essential element
- Smart cities – improved quality of life in urban areas can be achieved by deployment of low carbon and eco-friendly technologies, by boosting innovation in buildings and in energy generation, storage and use and by looking into innovative mobility concepts.
- Enabling technologies – SusChem’s three enabling technologies (Industrial Biotechnology, Materials Technology, and Reaction and Process Design) will be essential to support sustainable innovation in all areas of the Innovation Union.
- Education – developing programmes to ensure the European workforce has the right technical, business and personal skills is an essential step to delivering smart inclusive economic growth.
These strategic priorities can help deliver the boost to future competitiveness and sustainable growth that Europe needs.
Innovation for all
Rapid technical development is needed; however, successful innovation is not just about new technology and products: it requires a new approach, new thinking, new ways of working together and ways to remove non-technological barriers.
An inclusive approach is required. Europe must pool its resources and talents to achieve critical mass. The main priority must be to accelerate the rate at which new ideas in Europe can be brought to market as useful goods and services. Therefore, innovation must be incentivised and supported simultaneously at the various stages in the value chain (i.e. from the producers of the base materials to the final consumer product) and that collaboration between different industrial sectors is essential. Both public and private organisations need to be motivated and participate. Whole value chains need to be involved and collaboration encouraged between industrial sectors and across technical disciplines, regulatory bodies and government. Such an approach to innovation will build on Europe’s inherent strengths and offer the best chance of success.