03/01/2022 | Trends

Interview with Andreas Förster | DECHEMA

It’s been almost a year since Andreas Förster took over as the Executive Director of DECHEMA during a time of great disruption. He discusses what’s likely to shape the industry going forward.

ACHEMA Inspire: First of all, given your long history with DECHEMA, I’m intrigued to know what have been the things that have kept your there?

  • __Andreas Förster: I appreciate the opportunity to constantly deal with new topic and the extremely broad range of topics. The chance of shaping the future of the process industry and biotechnology and to help new technologies achieve a breakthrough motivates me. Besides that, it is very exiting to see how much more closely experts from universities, research institutes and large research facilities can now work together with colleagues from within industry today than 10 years ago.
    And above all, I enjoy the chance to work with the best experts: From the Board of Directors to the steering committees of ProcessNet and Biotechnology, the chairs and members of our committees, the event participants, along with the project partners and so many others – to experience such expertise and to make a difference together with them is what really motivates me.

ACHEMA Inspire: You come with what has been described elsewhere as a clear strategic direction. Can you elaborate?

  • __Andreas Förster: I am pursuing three central goals: 1. Strengthen the core of DECHEMA. It offers activities on its topics ranging from committees and events to projects and further training to services and commissioned studies. In the future, our products and services will be more integrated in order to make use of the synergies as well as to strengthen DECHEMA’s role as a contact point for the respective topics. Our members are the foundation of this non-profit association. They ensure the continuity of expertise in chemical engineering and biotechnology. In the future, they will be even more involved and better networked with each other in order to offer them the highest possible added value. 2. Strengthening the financial basis. Cost transparency and service orientation are prerequisites to ensure that DECHEMA can always offer the best possible service, internally and externally. They provide a guideline for the selection and design of our activities and the basis for always working professionally and efficiently. 3. Developing new sources of income. In order to maintain and expand financial leeway for non-profit activities, we will expand existing sources of income and develop new ones. This includes above all commissioned studies, analyses and consulting service for clients from industry, the financial sector, and from associations and other organisations.

ACHEMA Inspire: You will also now be embarking on a restructure project, part of which will involve greater networking. How vital is that in the current climate?

  • __Andreas Förster: Better networking is extremely important regardless of the current situation. This is also manifested in DECHEMA’s statutes: To foster and promote interdisciplinary co-operation between scientist and engineers from science, technology and government.
    Thus, it is of utmost importance for us to intensify co-operation between our disciplines, as it is precisely at the interfaces that new topics and challenges emerge. One example is the synergy between the energy and water/wastewater sector, in which the energy transition is creating new challenges and opportunities. This also applies to our committees, where networking between the specialist groups is becoming increasingly important. We already have joint events, papers and initiatives. In future, we will tackle this networking and thus the taking up of new topics, even more intensively by establishing our own task forces precisely for these topics.

ACHEMA Inspire: The world of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology is constantly developing. What do you see as the key challenges for 2022?

  • __Andreas Förster: Apart form the uncertainty about rising energy prices and pandemic-related supply chain issues, the chemical industry is undergoing a transformation. Challenges include strong international competition, limited resources and, above all, increasing pressure to intensify climate protection and the sustainability of processes and products.
    I would like to mention three. Firstly, Defossilisation of chemical products and production processes. The chemical industry will remain an energy and raw material intensive sector. Companies are developing new ways to produce chemical substances in a highly efficient, resource-saving, greenhouse gas-neutral and thus climate-friendly manner. This will continue to intensify.
    New technological solutions are needed to drastically reduce CO2 emissions. The use of renewable energy sources via the electrification of chemical processes (power-to-X), sector coupling and the closing of material cycles (from CO2 conversion to the recycling of polymers or mineral materials) will become increasingly important. Secondly, Circular Economy. The intensive use of alternative biogenic and renewable raw material sources, the development and recycling of waste streams and the substitution of chemicals harmful to the climate, the environment and human health are also necessary. Examples here are the intensive activities in CO2 conversion and utilisation, but also the chemical recycling of polymers. Finally, Making production more flexible. A great deal of added value lies in customised products including speciality and fine chemicals, pharmaceuticals and agriculture. To meet changing customer needs, a higher degree of diversification and digitalisation and, above all, the modularisation and use of process data by means of modern modelling, simulation and AI tools.

ACHEMA Inspire: And how vital a role does DECHEMA play in responding to this?

  • __Andreas Förster: It’s a catalyst for the rapid development and implementation of technologies. We pave the way through strategic analyses and the preparation of corresponding papers, developed together with the expert community. We help to prepare the content of public funding calls and are expert partners in R&I projects. And we support the dissemination of this newly acquired know-how through our conferences and activities for young scientists. For example, in defossilisation, we have already analysed and accompanied the development very early and continuously with our studies on CO2 use from 2008/2009, the Technology Roadmap “Energy and GHG Reductions in the Chemical Industry via Catalytic Processes” from 2012, the discussion paper “Electrification of Chemical Processes” 2015 and the studies “Low carbon energy and feedstock for the European chemical industry” 2017 as well as the Roadmap “Chemistry 2050” from 2019.
    DECHEMA co-ordinates and is a central partner in numerous R&D projects that drive the development and implementation of the necessary technologies. An example would be the Kopernikus project P2X. The goal is to enable the defossilisation of other sectors by decarbonising the electricity sector. Within the framework of two technology paths, electricity from renewable sources in converted into hydrogen or synthesis gas via water electrolysis or the co-electrolysis of water and CO2, and energy carriers as well as chemical products are obtained from this. The overarching goal is to achieve CO2 reductions in the above-mentioned sectors through PtX technologies. Another example is the H2Giga project. The challenge of scaling up electrolysis to the gigawatt scale requires a different production technology that must be suitable for mass production and should be cost-effective. This is the goal if H2Giga.
    Within the project scaling is being pursued with three technologies – alkaline electrolysis, PEM electrolysis and SOEC electrolysis. A separate consortium has been set up for each which will be networked with other activities within the H2Giga framework.
    The results are made accessible to the community with regular events within the framework and also publications from the projects. The results of P2X project, are also made tangible in an exhibition that is organised within the project “Science Communication Energy Transition”. Similar activities are also taking place for the other topics.

Author

ACHEMA Inspire staff

World Show Media

www.worldshowmedia.net

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#process industry

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