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Game Changer

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Game Changer

December 04, 2013 - 13:10

By Mark Rushton, Editor PPI and RISI

PPI: What is the overall mission of the Two Team Project?

Marco Mensink: CEPI launched the 2050 Roadmap (“Unfold the future”) to see if it was possible to follow the EU ambition to decarbonise the economy by 80%. We added the second target of an increase of 50% added value in the industry. The Roadmap was a success story with thousands of copies distributed and recognition from the European Institutions. We found that to meet the carbon reduction challenge, breakthrough technologies are needed. CEPI chose to put two teams in competition to see if we could identify the disruptive innovations needed to achieve this long term target. This open-innovation process was called the “Two Team Project”.

What sort of response have you had from CEPI members?

Marco Mensink: From the beginning, the Roadmap process and its follow-up have been inclusive. All CEPI members have shown great interest and support for the initiative. Several of CEPI members have been involved at different stages of the process, be it in the teams themselves, or in the pre-jury that did score the concepts, or in the jury that decided on the winning idea.

How did you go about getting the nominations in?

Bernard de Galembert: To ensure the right “cocktail” in the teams, CEPI approached the best experts in various competences. We didn’t limit ourselves to the paper family, but went beyond our borders to make sure that a real “out of the box” thinking would happen. Suppliers of machines, fillers and chemicals, scientists, researchers, professors, paper and pulp makers, and others were contacted and, for most of them, did accept to dedicate time and energy to this project. They deserve all our gratitude. Each team - the red and the blue one – count 16 to 17 people. They were both given a captain to lead and a mentor to guide. The seats were allocated with a view to mix different expertise and different nationalities in the same team.

How did the teams come to propose four concepts each?

Bernard de Galembert: Over 10 months, the teams met regularly, usually in places where they could be inspired. After the inauguration meeting in the Atomium in Brussels, the teams had a chance to see textile fibre made from wood in Austria, steel-making in the Netherlands, research on algae’s for fuel in Spain, district energy in Finland, chemicals production in Germany. Each meeting was composed of an open conference on innovation, followed by separate meetings of the teams. Between the meetings, the teams kept in contact and further developed their ideas. Progressively, they aligned their thoughts and by chance were left each with 4 breakthrough technology concepts that have the potential to decarbonise significantly the industry. It is important to say that the Two Team Project was run under a very safe and enabling set of legal conditions, with respect to both confidentiality and intellectual property rights. This legal framework made it easier for the participants to share their reflections and speak freely.

Do you think the concepts made by the teams could REALLY change the pulp and paper industry?

Marco Mensink: Yes we do! The eight concepts submitted by the teams show great potential in reducing the energy needs of the industry and its carbon emissions, while reducing costs or increasing value at the same time. The eight concepts, if implemented, will dramatically change the way to make pulp and paper and new products in the future. From changing the raw material mix to making paper without water, from new drying techniques to revolutionary pulping techniques, these leapfrogging ideas are fully addressing the ambitions that the industry set for itself. Moreover, many of these concepts can be combined with each other, hence allowing for even more of the expected benefits. The proposed ideas have the potential to deliver a range of co-benefits, e.g. in functionalizing further paper or offering new applications, solving some recyclability and food contact issues that the industry has been facing, improving the logistics, reducing waste, reducing as well the size of upfront investments, etc.

The pulp and paper industry has historically been slow to embrace change; do you think the Two Team Project will change this?

Marco Mensink: Implementing all the identified innovations won’t happen overnight. That was not the goal. The way to innovate a sector is to make sure breakthroughs are ready when the next investment decisions have to be taken. That is rebuilds in the 2030-2050 period. The merit of the project is that it allowed identifying options for the future of the industry very quickly and very early. It therefore gives some time for further research, development, pilot and demonstration of the concepts to take place before delivering their full potential. We know that investments in the paper industry are massive. Decisions to switch to others technologies are not easy ones. But we strongly believe the concepts we are submitting today have a lot of attractiveness for the industry. The Roadmap has been triggering a transformation process. To a certain extent, policy constraints are further incentivising a change. The European paper industry in 2050 will look significantly different than today.

What does the winner actually receive?

Bernard de Galembert: From the beginning, the participants to the Two Team Project know that there is no prize to expect from the process, but “eternal fame”. Next to the satisfaction of having participated in the project and the recognition of the sector, the participants may expect to be part of research consortia that will develop the concepts further and – who knows? – make them become reality.

Is there any help from CEPI in bringing the winning technology or the finalists’ entries to the commercial market?

Bernard de Galembert: CEPI’s mission doesn’t provide for bringing innovation to the market. What CEPI can do is facilitate further development of the identified technologies as they come out of the Two Team Project. CEPI strategy aims at identifying funding opportunities in the various EU budgets for research and innovation and make them accessible to the sector. Horizon 2020, the new framework programme for research, but also the Biobased Industries Public-Private Partnership, or European Innovation Partnerships are such opportunities.

What next? Will you be having another Two Team Project in the near future?

Marco Mensink: One of the merits of the Two Team Project is that it was the first project of this kind, at least in industry, and that it managed attracting a lot of interest and attention. The composition of the teams, the legal environment, etc. made it a unique process. Doing something similar too often would probably dilute its merits and assets and would reduce the interest for a process which, in itself, was disruptive. The Two Team Project indeed has been a disruptive approach for disruptive innovation. But, one never knows whether there won’t be a priority topic for the industry that may be solved with a similar approach. What we will do is to update the roadmap in the coming years, to be ready for the different future we now know can become reality.