Towards a Safe Chemicals Innovation Agenda
From Substitution to Safe-by-design
On 28 March 2018, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management of the Netherlands hosted, in cooperation with the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate, a workshop about the Safe Chemicals Innovation Agenda. This is a research agenda for safe chemicals, materials and products that can replace hazardous chemicals.
The workshop was attended by more than 60 policy makers (involved in chemicals and innovation) and scientific experts from industry, EU institutions, Member States, NGOs and research institutes.
The Safe Chemicals Innovation Agenda
The Safe Chemicals Innovation Agenda is a project that aims to identify opportunities for research for safe chemicals, materials and products that can replace hazardous chemicals. To this end, a proposal for a research agenda was developed that aims to serve as guidance for R&D policies at the EU and Member State level.
The government of the Netherlands has commissioned the consultants Wood plc and Centre for Strategy and Evaluation Services (CSES) to draft this agenda, in cooperation with stakeholders.
The workshop was part of the consultation process to discuss the content. The key questions were:
- For which research themes would R&D in a public-private context have dear added value?
- What are the crucial research questions for those themes?
The programme of the workshop can be found here
Mrs. Bougas, senior consultant Environmental Policy and Economics at Wood, UK, and Mr. Tickner, associate professor at the Lowell Center for Sustainable Production, UMass, USA, gave the morning presentations before the table sessions started. Their presentations can be found here:
Presentation Mrs. Bougas, Wood – Safe Chemicals Innovation Agenda
Presentation Mr. Tickner, UMass Lowell - Safer Chemistry Research in Context
In the afternoon Mrs. Stientje van Veldhoven, State Secretary for Infrastructure and Water Management of the Netherlands, addressed the attendees. Her speech can be found here.
Safe Chemicals Innovation Agenda: the report
The final report can be found here.
Regulations are usually seen as the main driver of substitution. They are effective, but have drawbacks, such as the time needed to establish hazards and risks, and the costs for industry to adapt existing processes and products. A problem is also that substitutes are often drop-ins that are not necessarily much safer.
This reinforces the need for safe design, where safety aspects (in terms of avoiding damage to human health and the environment) are taken into account at the design stage of chemicals and products. However, a study commissioned by ECHA reveals a disconnect between industry’s needs to identify alternatives to hazardous chemicals and the research base in academia and research institutes capable of identifying alternatives. A clear research agenda helps to strengthen this connection, as a complement to other initiatives aimed at the commercialization of existing safe alternatives.
The core of the proposed research agenda is a shortlist of priority themes where R&D in a public-private context would, according to stakeholders, have clear added value. This is particularly the case where there is synergy between relevance for health and environment, scientific opportunities and EU competitiveness.
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