Europe has set up ambitious policies under the Europe 2020 strategy to develop into a smart, sustainable and inclusive region within an increasingly competitive global playing field. In this context, European Member States and the European Commission identified Key Enabling Technologies (KETs: nanotechnology, advanced materials, photonics, industrial biotechnology, micro and nanoelectronics, and advanced manufacturing systems) as an indispensable route towards the delivery of these objectives through innovation. Mastering KETs is expected to contribute to the built-out of a more competitive, resource efficient and environment-friendly economy, to the creation of sustainable jobs, and also to help deliver affordable and high-value consumer goods.

To achieve this, we have to use as best as we can, the European strengths and articulate a European model that incentivises and speeds up innovation. Chemistry, the root and driver of the key enabling technologies, does not only provide Europe with raw materials for products but also enables the development of:

  • Advanced materials (lightweight materials, advanced materials for tissue engineering, energy recovery and storage, water treatment, etc.),
  • Advanced process technologies enabling more flexible production with more efficient use of energy, feedstock and water;

It also helps improve the recyclability of products and materials and increases the use of renewable feedstock.

Celebrating the International Year of Chemistry and building up on the recent chemical sector’s activities within the Innovation Union Initiative, the debate addressed some of today’s challenges and how best to tap chemistry’s innovation potential for appropriate European policies and instruments.

Issues we face today - Resource efficiency, water efficiency, smart mobility and housing, sustainable agriculture have been identified as priority areas to be addressed by the European Commission and the European Parliament through the recent initiatives on the Innovation Union, Industrial Policy and Resource Efficiency initiatives. To build up a sustainable European innovation model, competitiveness for ideas / solutions and speed are crucial to create added value for private and public investments. It is therefore imperative that the traditional sectorial model be complemented by a new political approach and thinking that simultaneously incentivise innovation and cooperation, both through policies and funding (e.g. FP7, CIP and Horizon 2020), at crucial stages of the value chain. More specifically, the following questions were raised;

  • What are the technological barriers that have to be overcome for the delivery of the expected political objectives?
  • What are the non-technological / policy bottlenecks that have to be addressed for a coordinated and effective European innovation modus operandi?
  • How should a “European model” be designed in order to create more synergy across the value chain and create efficient public private partnerships?
  • How can existing and/or future EU policies and (funding) instruments support innovation and its implementation in different sectors across the value chain and encourage long-term vision for joint strategic cooperation?