Brussels, 19th December 2007
Research and innovation key to
competitiveness of chemicals industry
To maintain the world leading position of the
European chemical industry various measures should be taken, like a
strengthening of innovation networks, increasing the spending in Research and
Development (R&D), a better developing of human resources and improving
information and communications. These measures are proposed in a first set of
recommendations, done by the High Level Group on the Competitiveness of the
European Chemicals Industry, yesterday at a meeting. The chemical industry is
currently facing unprecedented challenges to maintaining competitiveness. The
challenges include coping with increasingly costly energy and feedstock (mainly
oil and gas), helping to mitigate global environmental pressures in particular
from climate change and facing strong competition from emerging countries (e.g.
China, Middle East and Russia). The chemicals industry is well placed to bring
solutions to these problems and to exploit new opportunities. It provides
innovations to most other industries and is a key component of value chains that
end with the great majority of consumer products. To help the industry to
overcome the present challenges and to exploit related opportunities, the High
Level Group (HLG) however has made these first recommendations.
Commission Vice-President Günter Verheugen, responsible for enterprise
and industry policy said: “Europe must retain a strong manufacturing
base in chemicals, not only because of its own huge contribution to wealth and
jobs, but also because of its ability to generate innovations throughout
industry as a whole. We need to promote innovation and competitiveness to ensure
that the chemicals industry will always have a strategic placer the EU’s
Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potočnik, who chaired the
specific session of the High Level Group dedicated to research and innovation,
said: "The future of the chemicals industry in Europe will depend ever more
on its ability to innovate. Research plays a huge role in that. We are working
with industry in a variety of ways to promote investment in research. Today's
meeting will be another piece of the puzzle, which once completed will show a
picture of a high performing, innovative and competitive chemicals industry in
The overall purpose of the HLG on the Competitiveness of the European
Chemicals Industry, set up on 14 June 2007 by the European Commission, is to
conduct a sound economic and statistical analysis of the factors determining the
rapid structural change in the chemicals sector, and the competitive position of
the European chemicals industry.
At its meeting on 18 December 2007, the HLG underlined that the numerous
examples of best practice show that Europe’s chemicals industry and its
strong research infrastructure are capable of meeting the innovation challenge.
To address the challenges the sector is faced with, the HLG has formulated a
first set of recommendations:
1. Strengthen innovation networks
- Industry, in cooperation with governments, should set up topical
innovation networks to promote key strategic innovations and foster best
practices knowledge exchange. One such network should deal with “energy
and climate change”.
- Industry and public authorities at all levels should strengthen
clusters which facilitate co-operation across sectors and across borders,
with the aim of further stimulating and facilitating cross-cutting innovations
throughout the value chain.
- As part of the further strengthening of existing networks, the European technology platform for Sustainable
Chemistry (SusChem) should develop a wider mandate covering the full
scope of innovation, and reaching out to an increasing number of Member States,
regions and enterprises, in particular to Small and Medium Sized Enterprises
2. Increase quantity and effectiveness of research and
- The private sector should accelerate its efforts to speed up
innovation. Companies are urged to upgrade their R&D plans, promoting
"open innovation" schemes and extending corporate research programmes to medium-
and long-term objectives.
- The public sector should provide effective support to the efforts of the
3. Developing our human resources should start in
- Member States should step up promotion of chemical and science education
starting with the primary schools.
- Chemistry or/and chemical engineering faculties should define the
profiles of new professions in cooperation with industry e.g. "product"
engineers, toxicologists, nanotechnologists, and should develop new curricula to
keep pace with the development of the chemicals sector.
- Industry should intensify efforts to forecast their requirements of human
resources at various locations and regions. SMEs, which have comparatively
greater difficulties in attracting essential skills, should be fully involved.
4. Improve information and communication
- The chemicals industry needs to develop a more effective dialogue
with society based on mutual understanding and trust.
- The Commission and Member State authorities should improve communication
with industry and other stakeholders to facilitate proper understanding and
observance of regulatory requirements. The needs of SMEs should be especially
considered in that context.
- The Commission should ensure that impacts on innovation and any further
research needs are adequately addressed in impact assessments accompanying