SPIRE PPP - Interview Ludo Diels

December, 2013, Brussels, Belgium

Interview with Ludo Diels of VITO. VITO is one of the participants within the REP (REP is driver behind SPIRE PPP) 

Q - Within the SPIRE PPP several industrial partners and technology platforms are aiming to tackle resource and energy efficiency challenges to develop a long-term sustainable Europe. What exactly are the actions the SPIRE PPP is taking to meet these challenges?
A - SPIRE had drawn up a full roadmap with a strong emphasis for all topics on trans-sectoral approaches for energy and resource efficiency. Based on this roadmap, several calls of Horizon 2020 are now labelled as SPIRE and will be funded under the PPP conditions.
The topics in question are linked to new feedstock for industry, process intensification and process technology, waste to resource, and applications. Further horizontal actions are also foreseen.

Q - In view of the fact that many sectors have reached their technical limits with regard to energy efficiency (and this in a period when the effects of the economic crisis are still being felt) and knowing that technical breakthroughs are crucial to success, which technical breakthroughs, in your opinion, are feasible within the time frame of Horizon 2020 and which are possible over a longer time frame?
A- SPIRE was created precisely to overcome these technical limits by devoting attention to the cross- sectoral approach. This innovative approach is based on the fact that, for instance, industries such as the steel industry produce large amounts of excess heat and can deliver this to speed up chemical reactions. But in order to implement this, we will need to develop a modular and mobile chemical production system. We cannot relocate two major plants. But if one of these plants is mobile, cross-sectoral implementation can become a reality.  For this reason, SPIRE is devoting considerable attention to modular decentralized systems. We also think that modular chemical production systems will now become an example for other industrial sectors to follow and evaluate, to see if this approach could work for them, particularly for high added value materials production.

Q - Why is it important to invest in such a partnership between public and private partners? What is the added value?
A - Nowadays, the risks for investment in innovative technology are high. The cost of such investment in Europe is also extremely high, whereas the real market is now located in Asia. This means that the urgent need for investment can only be solved by combining private and public money to reduce risks and cut costs. It is also important that several private companies should invest together in a single value chain.

Q - Are there any pitfalls the partnership needs to consider, which might prevent it from delivering significant results by 2020?
A - Cross-sectoral collaboration between industries is by no means evident. It is a real challenge to build a demonstration plant in one geographical location for several different actors/players in industry. We have to realize that a strong industrial cluster, spread over several regions, is the basis for Europe's future reindustrialization and that the physical location of the investment cannot be the priority concern. The fact that the investment takes place is crucial; where it takes place is less important. 

Q - In view of the fact that the PPP is a partnership between public and private partners, how will this partnership be funded by each partner and how will the upcoming calls be funded?
A - SPIRE will invest in RT&I via Horizon 2020, as well as via the strong involvement of its industrial partners. Eight industrial sectors have already committed themselves to invest, especially in the topics foreseen in the roadmap and in collaborative ventures with the EC for pilot and demonstration plants. The eight sectors are chemical, steel, engineering, minerals, non-ferrous metals, cement, ceramics and water.

Q - From 2014 onwards, SPIRE will launch calls for proposals. What are the main objectives and which stakeholders does the partnership want to reach?
A - In 2014 four calls will be launched under the umbrella of SPIRE and several others are additionally supported by SPIRE. At the same time, other calls from other PPPs will also be launched, as well as under the LEIT program (Leadership in Enabling and Industrial Technologies). The four SPIRE calls will deal with :
- Integrated process control
- Adaptable industrial processes allowing the use of renewables as flexible feedstock for chemical and energy applications
- Improved downstream processing of mixtures in process industries
- Methodologies, tools and indicators for cross-sectorial sustainability assessment of energy and resource efficient solutions in the process industry

What is SPIRE PPP?

The public-private partnership (PPP) SPIRE - Sustainable Process Industry through Resource and Energy Efficiency - is organized within Horizon 2020, the next EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation. This partnership aspires to address the major societal challenges that are defined within the EU 2020 Agenda. The decoupling of economic growth from resource impact and the better understanding and development of the role of the process industry in resource and energy efficiency to meet sustainable development needs are the main objectives of this PPP.

The driving force behind the SPIRE PPP is the Resource and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REP). REP is an informal group which is active in more than ten major process industry sectors. Group members include companies like Arcelor Mittal, BASF, DSM, Solvay, Tata Steel, etc.; research institutions like TU Delft, SINTEF, VITO, CEA Tech; and technology platforms like SusChem, CLIB and Eurometaux. The complete list of participants in the partnership can be found on the SPIRE website: www.spire2030.eu.

All of the above mentioned partners are heavily involved in process manufacturing. These partners will help the SPIRE PPP to define the PPP’s work package structure, as well as its multi-annual roadmap and the consortium structure. The novelty of SPIRE is that it brings together for the first time all actors along the full value chain: from different types of feedstock through industrial transformation to intermediate and end-products.