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Volume 87 Issue 24 | p. 9 | News of The Week
Issue Date: June 15, 2009

Future Factory Takes Flight

Europe-based group targets more efficient processes
Department: Business, Science & Technology | Collection: Sustainability
News Channels: Environmental SCENE
Keywords: F3 Factory, European Union, sustainable chemical processes, sustainability
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Noack (third from right), F3 Factory Coordinator Sigurd Bucholz (far right), and others at the consortium's launch.
Credit: Bayer
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Noack (third from right), F3 Factory Coordinator Sigurd Bucholz (far right), and others at the consortium's launch.
Credit: Bayer

Flexible, fast, and future are the watchwords of the new F3 Factory initiative launched by a group of 12 companies, seven universities, and six research institutes from nine European countries. Funded largely by the European Union, the consortium is looking to build a facility where it will develop more efficient and sustainable chemical processes.

The launch of the initiative marks the first time that leading European chemical companies have crossed competitive boundaries to collaborate on such a large scale, according to Achim Noack, managing director of Bayer Technology Services. The need for efficiency gains, along with faster and more flexible production methods, is being driven by climate change, economic concerns, and rising raw material costs, the partners say.

In addition to the Bayer subsidiary, which is coordinating the four-year, $42 million program, companies involved include Arkema, AstraZeneca, BASF, Evonik Industries, Procter & Gamble, and Rhodia.

The group will apply the principles of process intensification and continuous processing. Initial goals include building a modular continuous-flow plant for making existing products that will demonstrate the feasibility of the F3 Factory concept.

The European chemical industry could reduce its annual costs by about $5.25 billion by switching to the more economical and sustainable F3 Factory concept while opening up new markets, the consortium believes.

The group will develop solvent-free polymers, custom-tailored surfactants, high-value-added building blocks and intermediates for pharmaceuticals, and innovative materials based on renewable feedstocks. A development center will be built at the Chempark industrial site in Leverkusen, Germany.

As an industry, government, and academic alliance focused on sustainability, the effort is "quite impressive," says Joel A. Tickner, associate professor of community health and sustainability at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell. "In the U.S., there's nothing equivalent, where there is a clear research agenda for the nation with very strong social goals that involves collaboration among multiple institutions."

 

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