International cooperation for sustainable chemistry

The chemical sector produces many innovative solutions. An international centre is working to ensure that these solutions also benefit people and the environment.

Products of the chemical industry are present in almost all everyday products – from fabrics to food, almost nothing works without chemicals. 

Although the chemical sector consumes large quantities of raw materials and produces greenhouse gases and pollution, sometimes with hazardous substances, it is this very industry that is finding important solutions such as biodegradable materials or laying the foundations for using renewable energy. 

This is where the idea of sustainable chemistry comes in – it sees processes and products as part of a circular economy right from the start and considers alternative business models and social and ethical aspects. The International Sustainable Chemistry Collaborative Centre (ISC3) has the task of promoting sustainable solutions. The competence centre founded in 2017 is run by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH on behalf of the German Federal Environment Ministry and the German Federal Environment Agency. The project partners are the German Society for Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology (DECHEMA) and Leuphana University Lüneburg.

Start-ups are key drivers of innovation in the chemical sector too. ISC3 is starting here and is already supporting over 80 founders with the first global start-up service for sustainable chemistry. The centre is helping the companies to sharpen up their sustainability profile and establishing an international platform to bring investors and founders together. The start-ups receiving assistance include a Peruvian company that produces vegan leather, a new Indian firm that transforms collected plastic into high-quality products and a Kenyan initiative that manufactures a cooking fuel from used nappies. ISC3 has also launched an innovation challenge that recognises start-ups with a well-founded sustainable approach each year.

University study and vocational training are other areas where sustainable chemistry can be established in the industry. ISC3 has taken the initial step of setting up the world’s first Master’s course in Sustainable Chemistry at Leuphana University in Lüneburg, which kicked off in March 2020 with ten international students. 

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