Research into developing green chemical processes to gain €200 million in funds over the next 4 years in France

Green chemistry is one of five technologies set to benefit from a €1.35 billion (£1.11 billion) cash injection over the next 4 years in France. The investment, which was signed off on 8 August, aims to accelerate innovation and deployment of green technologies, explains Daniel Clement, assistant scientific director at the French Environment and Energy Management Agency (ADEME). There is no set quota on how the money will be distributed between the five technologies, he told Chemistry World, ’but it can be argued that aid for green chemistry will exceed €200 million’.

One of the primary objectives of ADEME’s low carbon and renewable energy scheme is to stimulate research in chemical processes that start from plant raw materials. ’Eligible technologies are in the field of plant chemistry: biofuels, biomolecules, and building blocks,’ Clement explains. ’It may also include disruptive processes, with a high risk but a potential for improving energy performance and high environmental impact.’ 

The other four technologies gaining funding alongside green chemistry are solar power, marine energy, geothermal energy and carbon capture and storage.

Overall ADEME will hand out €190 million for the project in 2010, and then €290 million every year until 2014. Two thirds of this will take the form of loans, with the remaining third being grants, and the government expects to attract over €2 billion in extra investment from private institutions. 

The low carbon and renewable energy scheme was the first project to be signed off in an overall €35 billion strategic investment plan to boost the nation’s scientific and technological competitiveness announced by the French government in December 2009. 

James Clark, head of the green chemistry centre of excellence at the University of York in the UK, believes it’s essential for European countries to make this kind of investment. ’It’s fundamental,’ says Clark. ’Traditional resources are going to get so pricey and so unreliable.’ He points to a group of companies, associations and universities working on green chemistry in northern France called the IAR (Industries and Agro Resources) competitiveness cluster that he is collaborating with as a good example of the country’s approach. 

Such efforts gain particular importance, Clark says, when you consider countries beyond Europe, like Brazil and China who are already focussing heavily on green chemistry initiatives to meet local needs. ’The only way Europe is going to maintain a decent position is by being at the forefront of new technologies,’ he says. ’If we don’t get on with it, we’ll be overtaken.’

Andy Extance