A national platform to promote a model of circular economy focussed on innovative, integrated and multisector value-chains: this is how the Italian National Technological Cluster of Green Chemistry SPRING presents itself, as created to foster Bioeconomy intended as territorial regeneration.
SPRING represents the entire Italian biobased value-chain, from agriculture to research in the field of chemistry from renewable sources and industrial biotechnologies, to the processing of materials and bioproducts, to industrial transformation and finally the disposal phase. Counting on the heterogeneity of its over 100 members (including big industrial players, SMSs, universities, private and public research centres, associations, foundations, innovation centres and other actors involved in environmental communication and technology transfer), the Cluster intends to revitalize Italian chemistry from the environmental, social and economic sustainability point of view, while stimulating research and investments in new technologies with an interdisciplinary approach and the creation of integrated biorefineries, starting from the valorization of local areas’ specificities while being in constant dialogue with local actors.
Local actors represented first and foremost by Italian Regions – in particular Basilicata, Emilia Romagna, Lombardy, Piedmont, Apulia, Sardinia, Veneto and Umbria: preferential interlocutors of the association, that from the very beginning have committed to supporting its activities through development strategies and planning measures in line with its vision and goals. Today, this dialogue has been further strengthened by the creation of a Cluster/Regional Governments Standing Working Group, that in the coming months will facilitate promoting the debate on strategic local planning and creating interregional partnerships, stimulating the relationship with Italian and European institutions and stakeholders while fostering positive effects for local areas and sharing of best practices in support of research and innovation activities.
If the Bioeconomy represents an incredible opportunity for the EU and its member states’ sustainable development – it is estimated that the European market is worth € 2 billion, employs more than 22 million people, thus 9% of the total jobs in the EU – the Regions will play a key role in this strategy. Regions that are asked to become “sustainable”, as already stated by the European Commission’ Bioeconomy Panel and during the 3rd Bioeconomy Stakeholders’ Conference in Turin in October 2014: that is, to have a leading role in a territorial regeneration that could multiply at a national level expertise and excellence case studies already available at a local level. How? By promoting the efficient use of resources, the development of low environmental impact processes and multidisciplinary technological innovation projects, while implementing an integrated economic and social growth respectful of ecosystems and encouraging the development of a shared Bioeconomy culture.
SPRING places itself at the service of the Regions and of this important role they have to play, thanks also to a Roadmap of Industrial Strategy and Innovation created in collaboration with the company D’Appolonia. The Roadmap is a strategic document defining the position of the Association with regards to the guidelines of the Bioeconomy sector development in Italy. On the one hand, it represents the expression of the Cluster’s stance on R&D – promoting the creation of partnerships and access to funding – and, on the other, the tool for political/institutional dialogue that the Cluster has adopted to foster the implementation of the regulatory framework in support of the Bioeconomy, highlighting its positive aspects in terms of competitiveness, development, employment and sustainability. In line with EC and local policies and in a coherent development framework of the national Bioeconomy, the Roadmap guarantees access to wider growth opportunities, even at a European level, as a “national system”, promoting the activation of virtuous interregional value-chains, while optimizing the complementarity between technological supply and demand within the biobased sector.
The event “Dialogue among Spring and Regions on the Bioeconomy and Sustainable Strategies” – held in Terni on 29th June at Confindustria’s local seat, and that thanks to the support of Regione Umbria and the regional cluster Umbria SPRING support gathered the Regions’ representatives and a large number of stakeholders of the Italian chemistry from renewable sources supply-chain – was an opportunity to present the progress of these actions, as well as the state of the art of the four national R&D and training projects funded by MIUR (Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research) and of the local activities supporting chemistry from renewable sources.
The particular attention paid by SPRING to the local areas fits within a wider context stimulating this sector and steering it towards a model of circular economy, more and more dynamic both at an Italian and European level. Just remember, at national level, the existing ministerial directives in terms of sustainability (CAM – Criteri ambientali minimi, Environmental minimum criteria), the recent institutional event “Towards Paris 2015 – General Assembly on Climate Change” held on 22nd June in Rome and chaired by Premier Matteo Renzi, and the future finalization and promulgation of the Green Act by the Italian Government; at a European level, the already launched “Framework Strategy for a Resilient Energy Union with a Forward-Looking Climate Change Policy”, the COP21 -– United National International Climate Change Conference Paris 2015 scheduled for this coming autumn – and the Circular Economy Package, the European Commission’s forthcoming new proposal. Ever changing scenarios and challenges in which in the coming months SPRING aims to officially present its strategic Roadmap to the main National Ministries.
The National Technological Cluster of Green Chemistry Green Chemistry SPRING
Born as a response to the 2012 call by the Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research, with the aim of creating a national platform for green chemistry that could act as engines for the sustainable economic growth of local areas and of the entire national economy system, the National Technological Cluster of Green Chemistry SPRING (Sustainable Processes and Resources for Innovation and National Growth) was formally established in 2014 as a non-profit association by the initiative of four founding fathers: Biochemtex, Novamont, Versalis and Federchimica.
Fostering the growth and development of the Italian biobased sector through a holistic approach to innovation, SPRING intends to support research, demonstration, technological transfer, dissemination and training activities encouraging the creation of biorefineries and multisector integrated value-chains, thus becoming a reference interlocutor for the Bioeconomy and for the portfolio of EU and national policies concerning biobased industries.
With its current 103 members – 43% of which are industrial players (from spin-offs to SMEs and big industrial players in the field of chemistry from renewable sources), 29% are research centres and 28% other types of institutions; 60% are located in Northern Italy, 24% in Central Italy and 16% in Southern and Insular Italy – SPRING is managed by a Board of Directors, made up of representatives elected by four Committees, respectively from the industrial, academic, non-profit and Regional Institutions worlds.
Each of the four projects of industrial research, experimental development and training funded and activated within SPRING at the beginning of 2014 (ALBE – Alternative Biomasses for Elastomers; BIT3G – 3rd Generation Biorefinery integrated in the local area; LIDIA – Development of Second generation Technologies for Converting Organic Derivatives into Green Dicarboxylic Acids, as building blocks of renewable origin for synthesising chemicals and polymers; and REBIOCHEM – Biochemicals from Biomasses: Integration of Bioconversions for Producing and Exploiting Biochemicals from Second Generation Biomasses from renewable sources), focuses on a specific area within the transformation through highly innovative processes of sustainable biomasses in high-added value chemicals and products. They are carried out through partnerships based on a multiregional logic and expertise integration and on the collaboration between the industrial and the research worlds. Each one is also paired with a specific training project for young researchers with multidisciplinary skills and expertise in order to cover all aspects of the biorefinery development sector.