IMPORTANCE OF KNOWLEDGE AND TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER IN PROCESS INTENSIFICATION
EUROPIC puts process intensification in a European perspective
Process Intensification was born in the British chemical industry, it has gradually spread on other countries and has created a fertile research soil for industry and academia alike. The importance of knowledge transfer for speeding-up industrial implementations of novel PI-technologies had been recognized very early and national Process Intensification Networks were established, first in the U.K. later in the Netherlands and in Germany.
By Andrzej Górak, Christophe Gourdon, Frans Spits, Andrzej Stankiewicz
(European Process Intensification Centre, www.europic-centre.eu)
EUROPEAN ROADMAP FOR PROCESS INTENSIFICATION
The European Roadmap for Process Intensification (http://efce.info/EUROPIN.html) in 2007 identified the limited awareness of available and developing PI technologies within the industry as the most important barrier hindering their practical implementations. A clear example of the lacking information at that time was the Roadmap Report on Rotating Packed Beds. The report mentioned twelve commercial-scale applications of that High-Gravity technology in China alone, of which the European industry had been fully unaware.
Triggered by the Roadmap, three European universities (Delft, Dortmund and Toulouse) developed a concept of a new, industry-driven platform for knowledge and technology transfer in the field of process intensification. The concept was very well received by the industry and in September 2008 the representatives of nine multinational chemical companies gave the formal go-ahead to the establishing of the European Process Intensification Centre (EUROPIC) which has been registered in the Netherlands as a non-profit foundation. Since then, the Centre has been growing up steadily and it currently comprises 20+ member companies.
So, how the knowledge transfer in Process Intensification can be realized? EUROPIC exploits three mechanisms of knowledge transfer:
- knowledge transfer from world's leading process intensification experts to member companies
- knowledge transfer from the open information world to member companies
- knowledge transfer between the member companies.
EXPERT-TO-COMPANY KNOWLEDGE TRANSFER
The transfer of expert knowledge on process intensification takes place at different levels. The most basic one is realized via introductory PI courses aimed at new, young engineers in the member companies, who have had no or little experience with PI so far. The lectures discuss the underlying generic principles of Process Intensification and its four elementary domains (spatial, thermodynamic, functional and temporal). The lectures are richly illustrated with various examples of PI technologies addressing those four domains. Additionally, industrial experts present successful application of PI technologies in their companies. The courses are held each year at the INVITE Center in Leverkusen and attract in average 20-25 participants. More recently, introductory courses for employees in far geographical locations (Americas, Far East) have been introduced in the form of webinars.
The next level includes Advanced Workshops held annually at various European locations. Each of those workshops is dedicated to one specific PI-topic (e.g. PI in solids processing, HighGee, modularization, etc.) and targets the respective specialists in the member companies. Advanced Workshops give their participants an extended opportunity for discussions with the lecturers - world leading experts in the area (both from academia and industry).
Technology Reports present another form of expert-to-company knowledge transfer. Each year EUROPIC invites 10-15 experts worldwide to write reports on specific PI technologies. Topics of the reports are selected by the member companies. Reports are regularly updated, usually in 2-year intervals.
KNOWLEDGE TRANSFER FROM THE OPEN INFORMATION WORLD
This type of knowledge transfer includes the database of research groups active in the field of process intensification and the database of PI technology providers. Both databases are continuously updated. Additionally, an overview of new scientific publications in the field of PI is presented quarterly to EUROPIC members. Also quarterly the New Technology Scouting reports are published. These reports are based on screening various open information sources including professional magazines, press releases, technical brochures, patents, internet, etc. They provide short descriptions of new commercial implementations or breakthrough research achievements in the field of PI. Patents highlights are also included.
COMPANY-TO-COMPANY KNOWLEDGE TRANSFER
This type of knowledge transfer is mainly realized via the so-called “Expert Meetings" during which PI-specialists from our member companies have the opportunity to meet each other and discuss various issues, related to specific PI-technologies, their application barriers, etc. Expert meetings also include visits to the industrial host facilities, presentations by external experts - authors of Technology Reports and presentations by interesting technology providers.
KEY SUCCESS FACTOR
Summarizing, effective knowledge and technology transfer presents a Key Success Factor in boosting commercial implementations of process intensification. Its realization requires a multifaceted approach that utilizes three basic mechanisms: expert-to-company, open information world and company-to-company knowledge transfer.
PI-champions in chemical process industry are looking for “surprises" and “success stories" that could be used as foundations of their specific cases inside their companies. The multifaceted knowledge transfer developed and practiced at EUROPIC brings such “surprises" and “success stories" to the light, as illustrated by the four examples of PI developments in the earlier mentioned elementary domains - see the text boxes.