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China is a priority region for collaboration in sustainable chemistry

The International Sustainable Chemistry Collaborative Centre (ISC3) is a new, independent institution dedicated to shaping the transformation towards sustainability in the chemical sector and all application fields using chemicals. At AchemAsia, it will launch a new international competition, the ISC3 Innovation Challenge. We asked Dr. Alexis Bazzanella, Co-Director of the ISC3 Innovation Hub, on its aims and tools and why China is so important for the ISC3.

The ISC3 has been founded in 2017. Could you describe in a few words the general idea of this initiative?

We promote Sustainable Chemistry as a new holistic approach and foster innovation assessing the whole life cycle of products and advancing new sustainable business models and services. We work on five levels: collaboration, innovation, education, research and information. Together with the Innovation Hub at DECHEMA and the Research & Education Hub at Leuphana University, as well as the new Regional Hub in the US at University Massachusetts Lowell and our network of experts and partners, we engage on different levels in the international dialogue and the sustainable innovation agenda.

Making a chemical process sustainable probably requires high-tech and according investment – isn’t that something only industrialized countries can afford?

With the global shift of chemicals production and consumption towards the Global East and South, sustainable chemistry innovation can have a particularly high leverage effect to change existing unsustainable practices in those regions to the better. This does not necessarily require high-tech solutions. Remarkable impact is achievable by relatively minor means, especially in developing countries: avoidance of waste or waste treatment, water purification, intelligent use of fertilizers, substitution of hazardous components etc. I want to highlight that we are not aiming only at process innovations, but also at new products and services, covering the entire lifecycle of chemicals used in virtually all downstream sectors and applications affected by the use of chemicals, including building and construction, transport, agriculture, food and water supply, healthcare and many more. ISC3 recognizes that and puts a special focus on the cooperation with developing and emerging economies via capacity building, support of local solutions and technology transfer via partnerships with industrialized countries.

Why is ISC3 a global rather than a national or regional initiative?

We believe that Sustainable Chemistry is a long-term global process that requires the commitment of all stakeholders and sectors using or dealing with chemicals. Only the global, cross-sectoral dialogue and collaboration can transform the chemicals sector and move entire supply chains towards sustainable solutions and circular economy. To give an example: One priority field of sustainable chemistry is combating climate change and enabling process technologies with low greenhouse gas emissions and products with low carbon footprint that help saving energy. Climate change is a prime example of a global challenge that cannot be solved based on isolated regional or national activities. Other examples are urbanization, securing food supply and health for an increasing world population. Chemistry is a solution provider for all these challenges.

At DECHEMA, you are responsible for the “Innovation Hub”. What is the role of this hub within ISC3?

The Innovation Hub initiates and supports sustainable innovation and entrepreneurship in the chemicals and chemicals-related sectors. It acts as an innovation promoter and aims to shape the transformation towards sustainability across countries and along value chains whenever chemicals are applied. At the heart of our innovation activities lies the ISC3 Global Start-up Service with its goal to help entrepreneurs in becoming Sustainable Chemistry Changemakers. The main objective of the Service is to contribute to the global breakthrough of sustainable chemistry by supporting innovators along the entire innovation chain.

What role does China play in the context of ISC3?

China is one of the largest and fastest growing economies worldwide. This includes a booming chemicals market and corresponding requirement for more production capacities for petrochemicals, commodities and specialty chemicals. The potential impact of innovations in China is therefore particularly high. Greenfield investments in China provide unique opportunities for realizing latest state-of-the-art process technologies with high energy and resource efficiency and low environmental impact. The automotive sector or the construction sector, just to name two, are booming and so is the market size for potential benefits of more sustainable chemical products in China. I mentioned climate change earlier: emission mitigation measures without China are unimaginable and effectively useless. On the other hand, there is a growing start-up and innovation ecosystem in China, and we want to raise awareness for the huge opportunities for sustainable chemistry among these innovators. Given these facts, I think it is obvious why China is a priority region for ISC3.

What are your expectations from AchemAsia? And whom would you like to meet at your stand during the show?

At AchemAsia we hope to engage in conversations on the sustainable chemistry landscape in China and win potential partners for the ISC3 Spiderweb Network – our global network of partners that foster sustainable chemistry innovation in their regions.  Of course, we also hope to meet entrepreneurs in sustainable chemistry-related fields that we could invite to and support with our Global start-up Service. Last but not least, we would like to spread awareness about our new ISC3 Innovation Challenge, which will be launched here at AchemAsia. With the ISC3 Innovation Challenge, we seek to engage, award and promote Sustainable Chemistry innovators from around the world; this year’s challenge will call for innovations in the field of Sustainable Building and Living.  Finalists will get access to our global start-up support programme and the winner of the challenge will additionally be awarded with an innovation price of 25000 €.  We believe that this challenge also provides opportunities for Chinese start-ups developing new construction materials, paints, coatings, additives, ingredients etc. and we hope to attract many applications.

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