Competitiveness clusters & research: beyond borders

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The two competitiveness clusters AXELERA(Rhône-Alpes, France) and GreenWin(Wallonia, Belgium), with which Solvay has worked for years on research projects involving chemistry and the environment, have combined their skills and networks to foster Franco-Belgian cooperation.

The partnership was signed on January 29, 2014 in Lyon, at the meeting between the competitiveness clusters, and in the presence of political representatives of these regions and of Solvay. 

In this era of open innovation, research has become eminently collaborative. Solvay is active here, supporting numerous initiatives aligned with its research & innovation strategy, such as competitiveness clusters, which help identify potential partners for developing products and processes. 

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The Group is a founding member of AXELERA, created in 2005 in the Rhône-Alpes, and which specializes in chemistry and the environment (R&D funding support, assistance with responsible chemistry, etc.). For its part, GreenWin, based in Wallonia in Belgium, seeks to accelerate innovation in environmental technologies for materials that will help transform industry and make our world more sustainable. 

These competitiveness clusters align with Solvay’s strategic priorities in sustainable chemistry. Investing in such initiatives can also help in financing resources and equipment for collaborative projects. 

Why go international?

Such a ‘cross-borders’ approach has become necessary today: for instance, structuring with a wider base increases visibility and impact at European level. This is all the more important given the challenge posed by the European Union’s HORIZON 2020 program, which groups all EU research and innovation funding. Structured around three main priorities (scientific excellence, industrial leadership and societal challenges), the program has a € 79 billion budget for 2014-2020 to support the work of research and innovation organizations, higher education and research institutions, and commercial companies. 

New high performance polyamides for fuel tanks

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Competitiveness clusters accelerate economic development by acting as "marriage brokers" between potential partners in the search for a given solution. Example: the DURAMAT project, set up by AXELERA and carried by Solvay, in partnership with other large groups, but also with SMEs and external research centers. This partnership has made it possible to develop new impermeable materials for fuel tanks, which are more effective in terms of sealing, mechanical strength (shock resistance) and melt viscosity (for easier forming): a highly effective solution by GBU Engineering Plastics.

AXELERA presented a motorcycle tank derived from this research to the exhibition of objects from competitiveness clusters that was part of the "13th National Day of Competitiveness Clusters", held at the end of January 2014 at the Ministry of Production Recovery in Paris.

Florence Clément, head of the Polymers and Advanced Materials department at the Solvay Research and Innovation Centre in Lyons, presents research themes in biomaterials and composites at the inauguration of Axel'One, with (from left to right) Jean-Luc da Passano, SERL Group president,Gérard Collomb, Senator and Mayor of Lyons, President of the Greater Lyons region, and Jean-FrançoisCarenco, Prefect of the Rhône department. 

Open innovation and social responsibility in application

Companies have a responsibility for the economic revitalization of the regions in which they are located. Solvay is therefore keen to help build relationships, strengthen cooperation and create value for local SMEs. This has led to the Axel'One "projects hotel". One of its three platforms was recently opened in the “Chemical Valley” of Lyon: a collaborative platform where researchers from industrial companies, including Solvay and SMEs  work side by side with academics to accelerate the development of new materials, in particular bio-based plastics and high performance lightweight composites for transportation.  

The Axel’One platforms also host the researchers of the “Institut de Transition Energétique” IDEEL, an AXELERA collaborative project for the Factory of the Future, in which Solvay is strongly committed. The project aims to develop technologies that will help energy intensive industries, such as the chemical industry, become cleaner and less dependent on fossil resources.