Brussels, 07 Jul 2004
The establishment of innovative public-private partnerships in strategic areas of research through the use of so-called technology platforms is a stated Commission priority, and the latest players to take the initiative are the chemical and biotechnology industries.
Having recently taken a leading role in establishing a public-private partnership in plant biotechnology, the European association for bioindustries, EuropaBio, has now teamed up with CEFIC, the European chemical industry council, to establish a technology platform for sustainable chemistry.
With the support of the Commission's Research DG, the two organisations produced a report outlining their rationale for establishing the platform and inviting other stakeholders to play an active role. The document notes that while Europe is still a world leader in chemical production, controlling 28 per cent of the global market, that figure has already fallen from 32 per cent ten years ago.
As a result, the report argues that: 'There is an urgent need to boost chemical research and innovation in Europe. It is recommended to establish a European Technology Platform on Sustainable Chemistry to galvanise and focus collaborative research, development and innovation activities relating to the European chemicals industry.'
According to the vision laid out by EuropaBio and CEFIC, while the technology platform will be industry led, it will also feature strategic partnerships with academia, research centres, financial institutions, and regulatory authorities 'in order to foster the whole innovation process from idea to product launch.'
The platform will actually consist of three sub-platforms focussing on three separate areas considered crucial to Europe's chemical industry: industrial, or 'white', biotechnology, materials technology, and reaction and process design. Each sub-platform will develop a strategic vision and action plan of its own, while the technology platform as a whole will address issues and barriers common to all three areas, such as education and skills, knowledge and technology transfer, infrastructures, and raising public awareness.
Speaking about white biotechnology in particular, Johan Vanhemelrijck, secretary general of EuropaBio, said: 'Today we recognise that there are several life science revolutions taking place and that biotechnology has an important contribution to make to a sustainable and competitive chemical industry. [...] This technology is helping to improve the quality of life in a sustainable society.'
A high level advisory council within the platform will take responsibility for developing an overall long term vision for sustainable chemistry, encouraging coordination between the sub-platforms and providing a policy interface for the platform with public institutions.
Ultimately, it is hoped that the technology platform will lead to breakthrough innovations in chemical products and processes, securing Europe's future leadership in the field and making the chemical industry more sustainable, eco-friendly and competitive.
Introducing the platform at a press conference in Brussels on 6 July, Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin said that the Commission supported the initiative and would help to facilitate its establishment. 'The next call for proposals under the Sixth Framework Programme foresees the financing of certain actions of the technology platform,' he said.
'The launch of the technology platform for sustainable chemistry is an important pilot initiative, both in terms of its scope and its contribution to European competitiveness,' Mr Busquin concluded.
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