To improve its overall sustainability performance, the chemical industry, an innovation-driven sector par excellence, identified the need for disruptive technologies as well as for further improvement of existing technologies. To achieve this, investments in research and innovation (R&I) are essential. Investments can come from European innovation funding programs as well as from the sector itself, stimulating all relevant stakeholders.

R&I is the driving factor to maintain the sector’s competitiveness. In addition, R&I will enable the industry to provide solutions for challenges society is facing across the value chain of the products it manufactures.

R&I spending by the EU chemical industry

Capital spending on R&I in the EU chemical industry increased annually with an average of 1.7% between 2000 to 2020. In 2020, R&I spending reached €9.4 billion, the highest since 1991. However, the added value of the chemical industry increased by 2.2% annually over the same period, which indicates that there is a relative decrease in R&I investment compared to the industry’s added value created.

Key levers for promoting the sector’s innovation are:

  1. Improving sustainability performance
  2. Research on breakthrough low carbon and circular technologies, e.g.
    • Scaling up renewable hydrogen production with an innovative membrane
    • Inspired by nature: replicating photosynthesis to produce chemicals
  3. Involvement in international & intercompany research projects
  4. Increased collaboration in innovation ecosystems
  5. Digital transformation of industrial processes and operations
  6. Anticipating on emerging market trends and customer demands

Delivering the EU Green Deal

Becoming the world’s first climate-neutral continent by 2050 is a unique opportunity to modernise the EU’s economy and society and re-orient them towards a just and sustainable future.
Research and innovation will play a leading role in:

  • Accelerating and navigating the necessary transitions
  • Deploying, demonstrating and de-risking solutions
  • Engaging citizens in social innovation

In the EU Green Deal, R&I are regarded as the engine for green transformation with the chemical industry emerging as a sector that will play a crucial role in achieving these targets.

R&I spending in the Greek chemical industry

In Greece, the chemical industry is among the manufacturing sectors with the highest business R&D spending. In 2017, R&D spending by the chemical industry reached €24.3 million, which accounts for 8.3% of the overall R&D spending in manufacturing and 2.4% of total business R&D spending in Greece. In terms of R&D spending, the chemical industry holds one of the top positions, just behind the pharmaceutical and food and beverage sectors.

R&D spending by the chemical industry in Greece is rather low compared to more advanced chemical industries in Europe, where relevant spending ranged from €268 million (Spain) to €4.0 billion (Germany) in 2017.

Even if one takes into account the differences in the development of their economies – or specifically of the chemical industry between these countries – Germany continues to occupy the chemical industry’s top position in R&D spending intensity, either spending is adjusted for GDP (0.13%) or for the industry’s added value (8.16%), followed by the Netherlands. R&D spending, adjusted for added value, is 4 times higher in Germany compared to Greece and more than 2 times higher in France and the Netherlands.

The increasingly outward-looking Greek economy in which the sector plays a leading role, the achievement of sustainability objectives in combination with the need for human resources development and modernising education create a dynamic environment for innovative solutions in terms of sustainability.