The SusChem News Interview: Joanna Dupont-Inglis


SusChem was created with a mission to revitalise and inspire European Chemistry and Industrial Biotechnology research, development and innovation in a sustainable way to respond to pressing societal challenges. Industrial Biotechnology has always been a significant key enabling technology for SusChem and the Bioeconomy a priority policy area. And this continues as the platform works towards a new strategic innovation and research agenda for Horizon Europe.

EuropaBio was one of the founding partners of the platform. SusChem News recently caught up with Joanna Dupont-Inglis, Secretary-General of EuropaBio to get her views on SusChem’s achievements and what the future may hold for the platform.

Joanna has been a tremendous supporter of SusChem and its initiatives for many years and has recently stepped down from the SusChem board. Agnes Borg, EuropaBio's Director of Industrial Biotechnology, is now the organisation's representative on the SusChem management board.

Joanna has worked in Brussels for almost 20 years for a variety of industry groups, including CEFIC sector groups. A UK/Irish national with a background in Environmental Science and European Studies, she became directly involved with SusChem when she was appointed as Communications Manager with EuropaBio in 2009. Her role increased when she became Director of Industrial Biotech in April 2011. In 2016 Joanna was appointed as chair of the EU Bioeconomy Stakeholders Panel and since September 2018 Joanna has been EuropaBio’s Secretary General.

SN: How has SusChem been for you?

JDI: Being part of SusChem over the last ten years has been a great privilege, having given me the opportunity to work with experts, sometimes from quite different perspectives, who share a collective passion for the potential of Chemistry and Biotech.

The platform has grown and integrated a wider European community of industry, technology platforms and academia that is working to provide sustainable solutions to European challenges. SusChem successfully expanded the breadth and range of people involved in its work through its stakeholder engagement events encouraging cross-disciplinary work, helping to form consortia and reaching out along value chains to other organisations and initiatives. The network of SusChem National Technology Platforms, incorporating 17 countries across Europe, has been really significant  here too.

A big success for SusChem has also been its role to capture and articulate the benefits that sustainable Chemistry and Biotech to many of the major challenges facing our society and to global targets such as the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. It has done this by boosting awareness and visibility of research and innovation initiatives in sustainable Biotech and Chemistry.

SN: What do you see as the main ‘concrete’ achievements of the ETP?

JDI: The establishment of the SPIRE Public Private Partnership (SPIRE) and the BioBased Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI JU) are major achievements which SusChem helped work towards establishing. Many members of the SusChem board and the wider SusChem community were active and effective in advocating for the solutions and advantages that could be delivered via these two PPPs.

It’s really rewarding to see the hundreds of projects, focused on renewability, resource efficiency and climate change mitigation, that are now being delivered through these two initiatives and the valuable role of SusChem in helping to contribute to these two strategic research and innovation frameworks. The research and innovation outcomes from SPIRE and BBI are also demonstrating huge value-added potential for sustainable Chemistry and Industrial Biotechnology by boosting jobs and growth in Europe while also ensuring environmental benefits.

The PPPs are helping Europe to remain at the cutting edge of technologies in these and other areas. They are bringing people together in new and novel partnerships and establishing links that continue beyond the projects themselves.

SN: How has SusChem influenced research and innovation activities in the EU working towards a functioning bioeconomy?

JDI: The impact and influence of SusChem’s research and innovation agendas are reflected throughout the European Commission’s Framework programmes FP7 and Horizon 2020.

SusChem’s research and innovation agendas have also been a major help here in laying the foundations of the bioeconomy by highlighting relevant technology priorities. SusChem has had a direct input through its own ‘SusChem inspired’ projects in FP7 and Horizon 2020 and also in its influence in supporting the agenda for the BBI’s work programme.

It’s work on sustainable chemistry applications, in topics such as renewable feedstock, holds great potential for benefiting rural and coastal communities through the development of their local and regional bioeconomy in terms of jobs and growth.

SusChem has also been impactful in advocating the link between resource efficiency and the bioeconomy, providing the basis for synergies with the circular economy.

SN: How do you see the platform’s role developing in Horizon Europe?

JDI: The new SusChem’s SIRA, to be published in light of Horizon Europe, will be really important here.  On a personal level, I’m excited to see how in the future SusChem will change the perception of CO2 and CH4 from being ‘’problem GHGs’’ to valuable feedstocks. Although the exact nature and functioning of Horizon Europe’s missions are still to be clarified, their raison d’etre is to use research and innovation to deliver tangible benefits that citizens are looking for to provide a healthier, more sustainable future for them and generations to come. Consumers are becoming more and more engaged in sustainability issues and, therefore, in what they buy and use. SusChem could have a role here through engaging with the public to showcase what can be achieved; demonstrating the options and impact that sustainable Chemistry and Industrial Biotechnology can deliver.

The platform also has a role in encouraging academia to provide the courses and resources to ensure we are giving people the right skills and knowledge to enable a more sustainable society.

SusChem is very well placed, thanks to its collective expertise, to contribute to these missions. Indeed, it is hard to imagine how many of the proposed missions could succeed without input from Biotech and sustainable Chemistry. SusChem can deliver on these urgent needs and will continue to play a key role in the movement to ensure society uses our natural resources as sustainability as possible going forward for the benefit of everyone.