Brussels, 6 July 2004
Although Europe is a world leader in chemical production, holding 28% of the world market, its proportion of global trade has dropped by 4% over the past decade. Today in Brussels chemical and biotechnology sector organisations CEFIC and EuropaBIO, with the support of the European Commission, launched a European “Technology Platform on Sustainable Chemistry” for establishing a long-standing public-private partnership to increase investment on research and innovation and to boost European competitiveness in this sector. The platform brings together industry, research centres, the financial world and regulatory authorities at European level to tailor a strategic research agenda for the sector. Issues to be addressed include three key technology areas for Europe: industrial biotechnology, materials technology, reaction and process design, and an area for cross-cutting issues including the environment, health and safety, education and skills, research infrastructures, and access to risk capital.
“Research is the primary source of innovation in the knowledge-intensive chemical industry and is driving the sector forward,” says European Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin. “The European chemical industry has an impressive track record of developing new products and manufacturing processes, but the challenge is to improve the transformation of laboratory ideas into new sustainable products and services to boost EU competitiveness. The EU chemical sector only spends 1.9% of its sales on R&D, less than the US’ (2.5%) and Japan’s (3%). The new platform will facilitate the establishment of public-private partnerships to address the barriers to innovation and encourage the industry to invest more in research to overcome these challenges and improve the industry’s competitiveness.”
The future: a question of balance
Europe’s trade in chemicals has grown from €14 billion in 1990 to €42 billion in 2002, with some 25,000 enterprises employing 1.7 million people. But to sustain this growth, it is vital the industry finds a balance between long-term technology driven and short-term market-driven research. Three strategic technology areas for European innovation have been identified: industrial (white) biotechnology, materials technology and reaction and process design.
These technology areas have a large potential for transforming the chemical industry and creating many opportunities for new European enterprises. In addition, due to their many applications they have the potential to make a significant impact on our society and promote the development of new sustainable technologies.
Managing risk and promoting innovation
The Platform will also address public concerns about the effective management of risks to both human health and the environment, together with issues that slow down the innovation process, ranging from access to risk capital, stimulation of chemical research careers and facilitating industry-academia research collaborations, to aspects of public awareness.
One of the main goals is to maintain and strengthen the competitiveness and sustainability of the chemical industry in Europe by providing the technology base for more sustainable chemical production, products and services as well as improving the infrastructure and financial conditions for innovation.