Modelling tools to assess product performance, high through put/experimental design tools for formulation development and product and process sustainability have been recognised by the formulation industries as the top three areas in greater need for innovation. These and other findings from the public consultation will become the starting point for the definition of themes and activities to be targeted by a common strategy for the formulation industries as a whole.
Purpose, elements and target groups of the public consultation
The public consultation was conducted from February to June 2017 with the purpose of identifying common technological and industrial challenges faced by the European Formulation Industry in the context of the two mega trends Circular Economy and Industry 4.0. The consultation comprised two elements: i) an online web-based survey and ii) targeted one-on-one stakeholder interviews to gather deeper insight. It also targeted, in the first place, representatives from the six target formulation industries, namely: Home, Industrial & Personal Care; Pharma & Health Care; Agro Technologies & Plant Protection; Coatings, inks, lubricants, adhesives & chemical industries; Food & Drink; and Advanced materials. In addition, the consultation targeted as well industrial organisations along the value chain such as well as consultants, research organisations and academics.
The online web-based survey was made available to relevant stakeholders via direct e-mail invitations. During the consultation period, a total of 106 answers were submitted via the online survey and 24 representatives from different organisations and sectors were consulted via one-on-one interviews. Close to 50% of the people consulted represented industrial/commercial organisations producing formulated products for direct or downstream use. The other 50% consisted mainly of people working in academia (13%), research institutes (12%) or for speciality chemical suppliers (8%).
Market sector(s) that organisations targeted.
Through the consultation it was possible to gain insight into the challenges and needs of formulation industries targeting a wide range of market sectors
Analysis of data gathered
Results extracted from the public survey have been used to get a quantitative overview over the standpoint of the formulation industry sector on questions of technical and business nature. As such, these results are meant to represent the views of different actors across the six target industrial sectors. Additional insight into the specifics behind the tendencies identified as well as on sector-specific needs was obtained from comments provided by people consulted through the on-line survey or through the one-on-one interviews. All results have been compiled into a report submitted to the European Commission on August 31st, where both the identity and affiliations of the people consulted/interviewed are not disclosed explicitly. Here we share some highlights on some of the generic challenges identified while information on the drivers, challenges and technical needs for the individual target sectors will be made available during the next phases of the project.
A number of common, generic challenges were identified for the formulation industries sector both in the context of the Circular Economy and Industry 4.0 trends. These represent the starting point for the definition of themes and activities to be targeted by a common strategy for the formulation industries as a whole. In this respect, the three common areas in greater need for innovation are, in order of importance:
- Product performance/quality - predictive/assessment/modelling tools
- Formulation development - High through put/experimental design tools
- Process/Product sustainability
3 areas considered the greatest need for innovation in relation to formulated products
Other common areas in need for innovation included process control, plant automation and production scale up.
The majority (67%) of the people consulted are familiar with the term “Circular Economy”. Industrial organisations are working actively with many different aspects encompassed by the Circular Economy trend, the most common ones among all being the sourcing of raw materials from sustainable sources and waste management during the production process. At the same time, a real Circular Economy approach is lacking due to both lack of awareness and the absence of channels that enable the necessary cross-sectorial collaboration along the value chain.
Not surprisingly, the level of Industry 4.0 awareness within the formulation industries as a whole is also rather low. This is likely related to the “reactive” rather than “active” role of the formulation industries in regards to digitalization technologies.
Collaboration in the Formulation Industries
The great majority of the people consulted indicated that their organisation´s technical needs regarding formulation are only partly covered by existing networking and information sharing events. There is a clear need for additional collaboration in connection to the three areas identified to be in greater need of innovation (see previous section). In terms of how best to organize collaborations related to formulation, participation in collaborative R&D projects, formation of long-term strategic alliances and information events across sectors are the three highest ranked alternatives. However, flexibility in collaborative projects is considered essential for enabling industrial participation.
The extent of current technical needs of organisations met by existing training programs/formal university education/networking or information sharing events
Technical needs regarding formulation are only partly covered by existing networking and information sharing events.
The findings from the survey will serve as the basis for a cross-sector roadmap or strategic research agenda (SRA) for formulated products. This SRA will be developed and validated within the context of coming and planned activities in the AceForm4.0 project. To help to develop a bigger picture thinking that may not necessarily be covered by the views of the self-selecting formulation community targeted by the public consultation, engagement with the following players during the next phases of the project will be essential:
- Contract Research Organisations
- Manufacturing contractors
- Equipment and instrumentation suppliers