SusChem 2016: Sustainable Chemistry – Innovation for Competitiveness


The 2016 SusChem Stakeholder event that took place in Brussels on 16 June once again showed that SusChem is a strong platform supporting a strong industrial sector. The platform acts as an effective bridge between the sustainable research and innovation needs of the chemical industry and European Commission policies.

The debate demonstrated the excellent fit between the SusChem Strategic Innovation and Research Agenda (SIRA), its technologies and priorities, including a sustainable bioeconomy, materials for energy management, processes and catalysis, ICT for processes, and water, and European Commission initiatives such as the Energy UnionDigitisation and the Circular Economy. Despite SusChem having no direct funding for R&I activities the influence of the technology platform is huge. At the event two new members of the SusChem community of national technology platforms were introduced: SusChem Austria and SusChem Greece.

With some 230 delegates registered from 18 European Member States the 2016 annual SusChem stakeholder event demonstrated once again the role of the platform in building a sustainable future for the European Chemical Industry. The video below give a quick overview of the whole event.

The event was also a big hit on social media with tweets using the hashtag #suschem2016 reaching over 25 700 users and with over 101 000 tweet views estimated. The three 'top tweets' from the day are republished below. 

In an opening presentation, strategic topics related to the SusChem programme were addressed by Rudolf Strohmeier (above right), former Deputy Director General of DG Research and Innovation, and a good friend and supporter of SusChem since its inception. He highlighted the recent Competitiveness Council of 26 May which for the first time had endorsed the “innovation principle” that the impact of regulation on innovation activities must be taken into account in all EU policy-making. This was a very important positive point for industry moving forward he believed. But he argued that in order to show European decision-makers and investors the value of innovation required sound business cases to be presented.

Implementing the new SIRA: Status and priorities

SusChem Chairman Dr Klaus Sommer (above left) reviewed the progress of the technology platform over the past year. He also noted that the sector had effectively decoupled energy intensity from production growth. He saw an excellent fit between the SusChem Strategic Innovation and Research Agenda (SIRA), its technologies and priorities, and numerous European Commission initiatives such as the Energy Union, Digitisation and the Circular Economy. There were currently 70 open calls across various parts of the Horizon2020 programme that were relevant to the SusChem community. Despite SusChem having no direct funding for R&I activities the influence of the technology platform was massive.

In the coming year Dr Sommer looked to SusChem intensifying its input for future work programmes through thematic workshops and also linking through the Chem21 project into the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) for work on healthcare and well-being issues. In addition work on synergy between the BBI JU and SPIRE cPPP would be pursued, a project brokerage workshop was being organised in Seville on 13 September 2016 within the EuCheMS 6th European Chemistry Congress, and new lighthouse projects needed to be identified.

Priorities and platforms

Updates on the five main SusChem thematic priorities were given by the responsible Cefic Innovation Managers.

Work on the Sustainable Bioeconomy was described by SusChem secretary Flavio Benedito (above left) and Materials for Energy Management was presented by Anne Chloe Devic (above, middle left). Martin Winter (middle right) covered two priority areas: Processes and Catalysis, and ICT for Processes. The final topic presented was Water with Henk Pool (above right).

You can download the presentations made by Dr. Sommer and the Innovation Managers here. You can also download factsheets on the five SusChem Innovation priorities here.

Eric Firtion of SusChem France and the French Chemical Industries Union (UIC) introduced presentations on activities from a selection of SusChem's national technology platforms (NTPs). These included two new NTPs: Andreas Falk described SusChem Austria and Stelios Bikos outlined SusChem Greece’s ambitions (second and first right below respectively).

Other NTP presentations were made by Suzanne Coles (SusChem UK), Cristina Gonzalez (SusChem Spain), Eric Firtion (SusChem France), Alexis Bazanella (SusChem Germany), Tine Schaerlaekens (SusChem Belgium), Ladislav Novak (SusChem Czech Republic), and Nico Versloot (SusChem Netherlands) pictured from left to right above.

Panels debate Circular Economy, Energy Union

After lunch two panel debates took place involving European Commission and industry representatives. The first focused on SusChem and the Circular Economy and was moderated by Pierre Barthélemy, Executive Director of Research and Innovation at Cefic (pictured below, right). The circular economy could boost Europe’s global competitiveness, growth and jobs. SusChem had produced a position paper on the Circular economy calling for a sustainability based approach. Innovation is key to achieving a circular economy but this needed to be accompanied by a clear regulatory framework to ensure deployment stated Barthélemy.

The panel members were Reinhard Buescher, Head of Unit 'Chemicals' at DG GROW (middle right above); Waldemar Kuett, Head of Unit ‘BioBased Products and Processes’ at DG Research and Innovation; Gloria Gaupmann, Public & Regulatory Affairs Manager, Biotechnology and Renewables at Clariant; Reinier Grimbergen, Director Science to Innovate at DSM; Anton Valero, General Manager at Dow Chemical Ibérica (left above); and Greet van Eetvelde, Head of Energy & Innovation Policy at INEOS (middle left above).

The second panel discussion covered two topics – SusChem and the Energy Union and SusChem and Digitisation – and was moderated by Alexis Bazzanella, Head Research & Project Coordination at DECHEMA e.V. with panel members Eva Hoos, Policy Officer at DG Energy (middle above); Helene Chraye Head of Unit 'Advanced Materials and Nanotechnologies' at DG Research and Innovation; Khalil Rouhana, Director for 'Components & Systems' at DG CNECT (left above); Jens Rieger, Senior Vice President at BASF (right above); Henrike Gebhardt, Senior manager Scientific Relations at Evonik Industries AG; and Nicolas Cudré-Mauroux, Research & Innovation Group General Manager (CTO) at Solvay.

From the two panel discussions on the ‘Circular Economy’ and on ‘Digitisation’ and the ‘Energy Union’ the role of the chemical industry as an amazing enabler for innovation was clear, but there was a need to ensure enhanced collaboration along and across value chains to maximise the impact of the sector’s innovations on the wider economy. Sustainable chemistry has a key role in maximising use of resources (including water) and energy both within our own sector and across other industrial and manufacturing sectors. 

Concepts such as industrial symbiosis, advanced digital technologies, and recyclable and renewable materials innovation pioneered by the chemical sector would be essential in enabling Industry 4.0, the circular economy and other sustainable development initiatives while maintaining competitiveness, jobs and growth in Europe.


Summing up the day Dr Klaus Sommer said that the clear link between competitiveness and innovation had been demonstrated, but he stressed the need for establishing sound business cases to ensure innovation can gain investment and move to implementation. Future SusChem priorities had been described and he called on all interested stakeholders to get involved with the relevant working groups. He concluded by stating that SusChem was still a strong platform supporting a strong sector and acting as a bridge between our research and innovation needs and European Commission policies.


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