Innovation is an essential element in sustaining the competitiveness of the European chemical industry. Developing an appropriate framework for encouraging innovation is, therefore, a priority for Cefic. Innovation inspired by the chemical industry is often a driver for product development in downstream sectors. These downstream users of the products and services of the chemical industry are increasingly becoming directly involved in the innovation process in the chemical industry. This requires the industry to adapt its business and partnership models.
Cefic and the value chain
The European chemical industry, as a producer of enabling products, depends on its downstream value chain partners to incorporate its chemical products into final consumer items. Value chain partners are therefore important to the industry as both direct customers and also as contacts with the end consumers of chemical products. Through their behaviour, policies, buying power and communication activities (especially with end consumers), value chain partners have a significant influence on the success of chemical innovation. Value chain partners (both upstream and downstream) need to be involved in the development of chemical industry innovations to ensure their success and improve competitiveness. These value chain partners can also be potent allies in improving the general political framework for innovation in Europe.
Early contact and networking with value chain partners can facilitate innovation - for example in large-scale ‘lighthouse’ projects to ensure a reliable supply base or by identifying barriers to market entry. Confidence, acceptance and early application of innovative chemical solutions in the value chain are needed to provide the industry with a competitive edge (for example by shortening time-to-market). However, the right framework to facilitate fruitful cooperation between the industry and value chain partners in pre-competitive areas is needed.
Cefic’s contribution to value chain innovation
The importance of cooperation along the value chain for innovation was identified as a critical factor by the European Commission’s High Level Group on the Competitiveness of the Chemical Industry.
Cefic is providing guidance and support to facilitate cooperation by starting a dialogue with associations and companies as well as other bodies representing value chain industries. The aim is to show how the chemical industry provides solutions to downstream user problems and thus generates mutual competitive success. In order to achieve this, we must share knowledge and ensure co-operative exchange to develop chemical solutions that can generate confidence and acceptance with partners and consumers. Issues around appropriate information exchange along the value chain will need to be addressed in relevant industry fora.
Technology platform cooperation
Closer co-operation between the European Technology Platform for Sustainable Chemistry (SusChem) and other technology platforms is already being undertaken - for example a recent collaboration agreement with the Water Supply and Sanitation Technology Platform (WSSTP). Further topical networks, technology clusters and lighthouse projects involving value chain partners are also envisaged. Future research and innovation funding from the European Commission is likely to be increasingly linked to a value chain approach in applications to funding calls.