Calls to increase EU chemical competitiveness

By Kirsty Barnes

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Chemical industry, Chemistry

A Strategic Research Agenda (SRA) was launched last week in a move
to bolster the chemistry and biotechnology industry's contribution
to European growth and competitiveness.

The SRA was unveiled at the European Technology Platform for Sustainable Chemistry (SusChem), a multi-stakeholder forum developed as part of a new EU initiative to define and implement areas for future development and growth in European chemical sciences.

>SusChem​ - a joint initiative of the European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic) and the European Biotechnology Industry Association (EuropaBio) - aims to facilitate partnerships within the EU chemical sciences industry to encourage them to work together for the good of Europe as a whole.

European enterprises produce 31 per cent of the world's chemicals and the EU's chemical industry is the third largest manufacturing industry, generating 1.7 million jobs and more than 3 million jobs indirectly. The biotechnology sector itself employs close on 100, 000 people in core biotech companies.

However, Europe's proportion of global trade has dropped by 4 per cent over the past decade and investment and competitiveness within these industries is becoming a major issue as the EU chemical sector only spends 1.9 per cent of its sales on research and development (R&D), less than the US (2.5 per cent) and Japan (3 per cent).

The time has come to take action, according to the two industry bodies.

"In this global market, we can't expect to be competitive if other countries are investing more in R&D and launching their products onto the market first,"​ Caroline De Bie, communications manager, research and sciences, Cefic, told In-PharmaTechnologist.com.

"We need to keep ahead of the innovative curve to improve the economy and boost employment in Europe,"​ said De Bie.

SusChem also seeks to address future societal challenges, such as an ageing society with increasing reliance on healthcare, by using chemical innovations as part of the solution.

"Chemistry is the pinnacle of many industries. Anything that benefits the chemistry industry has the potential to benefit society as a whole,"​ said De Bie.

The three main areas of future focus for the industry were identified as white biotech, defined as biotechnology within the chemical industry; reaction and process design, referring to innovations in more efficient chemical design processes; and material innovations, such as nanotechnology.

These areas of the industry are set to receive a boost in activity and increases to funding over the next few years.

To encourage this, SusChem have been working with the Framework Program of the EU to make more funds available to bring forward the SRA, and advance research, development and education in these identified key areas.

SusChem highlighted several scenarios demonstrating the value of innovations in chemistry including the use of future nano-and biotechnologies to help accelerate medical intervention using remote monitoring and intervention systems; improving diagnostics through advanced medical imaging techniques; and reducing the overall intrusiveness of medical treatment.

SusChem also believes innovations in chemistry will help reduce the dependence of manufacturing on fossil resources, as industrial biotechnology will transform biological inputs into energy and materials, thereby also potentially reducing emissions and waste in the industrial process.

Suschem was first developed in 2004 as a vision for the EU chemical industry. The launch of the SRA signals that the process is well underway and an implementation plan is now expected by the end of third quarter 2006.

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