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From molecule to enterprise in science and engineering

Figure 1: Group photo of (almost) all participants of ESCAPE-29

Figure 1: Group photo of (almost) all participants at the ESCAPE-29 conference

The yearly ESCAPE conference was held this year in Eindhoven from 16-19 June. It attracted 380+ participants from 44 countries and had a healthy balance of contributions from academia and industry. Topics ranged from molecular to enterprise level and showed the cross-fertilization between the Computer Aided Process Engineering Working Party (CAPE-WP) and other working parties, such as Quality-by-Design and Process Intensification. It also offered a platform for topics related to sustainable development, the food industry, energy transition, biorefineries, and micro/nano-scale processes and devices.

ESCAPE-29 was organized under the auspices of the EFCE, CAPE Working Party (CAPE-WP), NPT and Process Systems Engineering NL (PSE-NL). It benefited from the generous financial support of Shell, BASF, Process Systems Enterprise, DotX Control Solutions, Corbion, MDPI Processes, and Mobatec. It was jointly organized by a team of skilled professionals from The Netherlands, Germany, United Kingdom, and Hong Kong, with the scientific support of the International Scientific Committee consisting of 86 worldwide experts (group photo shown in Figure 1). 


ESCAPE-29 brought together researchers and practitioners of the CAPE community and provided a forum to present and evaluate emerging research methods and concepts and to learn from industrial case studies. The boundaries of CAPE have expanded. The research interests cover a wide range of interdisciplinary problems related to the current needs of the modern society and industry. The CAPE/PSE community plays a role in solving many of the world's problems such as environmental and societal issues, population growth, and limited resources. The event was therefore oriented towards sustainable development, covering a wide range of time horizons and scales from molecule to enterprise.

In the CAPE domain in The Netherlands some key changes occurred over the past thirty years (as shared by Prof. Johan Grievink and Jan van Schijndel, organizers of ESCAPE-12 in 2002). The predecessor of the ESCAPE series - COMCHEM-90 (The Hague, 1990) - was entirely driven by PSE professionals in the Dutch chemical process industry (CPI) who offered plenary, visionary talks and contributed financially. There was hardly any involvement from Dutch universities. The Anglo-Saxon domination of the PSE field (UK, USA) was overwhelming at time, with only few contributions from the German universities.

ESCAPE-12 (The Hague, 2002) was more balanced, and the organizing effort was evenly distributed between academia and the Dutch CPI, who also gave financial support.

A key addition was the inclusion of food processing industries and increased focus on the production of structured products. The domination of the Anglo-Saxon PSE groups was leveling off while more PSE groups in Scandinavia and Germany (including industrial players) showed their presence and research power. ESCAPE-29 was a truly international event by having many more people from all over the world. But the role of the traditional Dutch CPI was strongly diminished, while the Dutch food related sector was more diversely represented. A few industrial contributions are still maintained by BASF, Bayer, Corbion, Syngenta and Shell. Alas, there were no contributions by some other large companies. Overall, it seems that oil refining and large-scale petrochemical plants that brought about the rise of PSE have gone beyond technological innovations. PSE is becoming useful for other and more diverse branches of industry.


ESCAPE-29 attracted over 445 submissions out of which about 300 contributions were accepted. The proceedings were published in Computer Aided Process Engineering by Elsevier (vol. 46, ISBN 978-0-1281-8634-3).

Figure 2: Distribution of participants of ESCAPE-29
Figure 2: Distribution of participants of ESCAPE-29

The International Scientific Committee selected 5 plenary lectures, 24 keynote lectures and 96 oral presentations. The other contributions were presented as posters. Figure 2 shows the numerical, geographical and background distribution of the participants.

Figure 3: Distribution of contributions per theme
Figure 3: Distribution of contributions per theme

The contributions were grouped into seven themes (see Figure 3). The topics within these themes were formulated to allow researchers from CAPE-related sciences to present their results and exchange valuable knowledge and experience:

  • 1. Process-product synthesis, design and integration
  • 2. Methods, models and computational tools for PSE
  • 3. Process control and operations
  • 4. CAPE/PSE in sustainable development and food industry
  • 5. CAPE/PSE in energy transition
  • 6. CAPE/PSE in hi-tech micro/nano-devices and processes
  • 7. Education in CAPE/PSE & knowledge transfer

For details about these themes see

Awards were granted for best contributions (incl. a certificate, 400 EUR and a set of 3 books):

  • Best Paper Award: Paper 429 - Optimal operation and control of heat to power cycles: A new perspective using a systematic plantwide control approach, by Cristina Zotica, Sigurd Skogestad, Lars O. Nord and Jenö Kovacs;
  • Best Poster Award: Paper 437 - Novel strategies for predictive particle monitoring and control using advanced image analysis, by Rasmus Fjordbak Nielsen, Nasrin Arjomand Kermani, Louise la Cour Freiesleben, Krist V. Gernaey and Seyed Soheil Mansouri.


There were many interesting lectures, but we highlight only the 5 plenary lectures here:

  • Addressing energy and sustainability challenges in the digital age, by Dr. Joseph Powell (Chief Scientist at Shell, USA). Global energy systems are undergoing unprecedented rates of change to address increase in population and energy demand, climate and health risks from gas emissions, new opportunities driven by a reduction in cost for solar and wind energy as well as gas and oil from shale and the need to recycle or reuse plastics products. Systems modeling is an essential tool for selecting among scenario-specific pathways and process systems engineering across multiple scales will increasingly provide a key role in research, development and scale-up to fast track needed deployments. This presentation gave an overview of grand challenges in energy and chemicals, and the importance of PSE and modeling in addressing rapid technological change.
  • Quality-by-control approaches for process intensification in advanced pharmaceutical manufacturing, by Prof. Zoltan Nagy (Purdue University, USA). This lecture provided motivating examples of the next stage of innovation in pharmaceutical manufacturing, illustrating the potential benefits of the new quality-by-control (QbC) framework in improving product quality and process efficiency while reducing costs and time-to-market. The role of advanced feedback control concepts in improving the performance of batch processes, as well as enabling technologies in the paradigm shift from batch to continuous manufacturing were corroborated. Examples how advanced control can be used for process intensification and the improved production of pharmaceutical particulates were provided, with application to both continuous drug substance and product manufacturing.
  • Development, design and optimisation of integrated separation processes using CAPE tools, by Prof. Megan Jobson (The University of Manchester, UK). CAPE software is increasingly enabling design, retrofit and optimisation of integrated chemical processes. Machine learning and optimisation are also contributing to the development of industrially applicable methods and tools to bring energy savings, yield improvements and reduced CO2-emissions. This talk explored and illustrated how CAPE tools are being used for systematic design of integrated separation processes, for development of novel processes applying membranes, adsorbents and ionic liquids, and for process intensification.
  • Engineering success: What does it take to get PSE technologies used? by Prof. Sandro Macchietto (Imperial College London, UK). This presentation provided a personal overview of what it takes to go from novel research to final use of a technology and addressed how to tweak the odds towards engineering success by design. Based on 30-year experience of tech-transfer activities, the lecture touched upon things that worked and did not, are essential or unnecessary (or counter-productive), drawing on the experience of launching and managing companies in the PSE area, interdisciplinary consortia and applied research centers.
  • The comprehensive systems challenge for decarbonizing the industry, by Prof. Paulien Herder (Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands). Electrification is a key enabler towards reducing CO2-emission. However, the availability of renewable electrical energy does not remove the demand for fuels, chemicals and other materials. The variability of nature also calls for electricity storage to safeguard continuous electricity supply. Electro-synthesis is a promising approach to electrify the manufacturing of fuels, chemicals and materials and to contribute to energy storage. Given the Dutch strategic position in the international chemical, renewable energy and transport sectors, this talk zoomed in on the systems and modeling challenges in decarbonizing our industry, and how these challenges can only be tackled in a multidisciplinary, cross-sectoral approach.

The social events of the program included a concert (by Collegium Vocale Eindhoven) at the Saint Catherine church, a nice excursion to Brainport, and a fantastic gala dinner at Evoluon, with swing music for lindy hop dancers by The Kalishnikovs band.


ESCAPE-29 was well received by the scientific community and it was recognized as a great success (we are thankful for the positive feedback). It proved to serve as an excellent platform for chemical engineers, scientists, researchers and students to present and discuss the progress being made in the CAPE and PSE areas. It also constituted a major CAPE event with great worldwide participation, allowing excellent networking opportunities with academics as well as industrial peers and pre/post-conference meetings. The conference highlighted the key contributions of the CAPE / PSE community to the sustainability of the modern society, and proving once more that the most important product delivered by the CAPE community to the world are highly skilled engineers. 



  • Anton A. Kiss (University of Manchester & University of Twente)
  • Edwin Zondervan (University of Bremen)
  • Leyla Özkan (Eindhoven University of Tecnology)
  • John Posada (Delft University of Technology)
  • Alex Kalbasenka (Upfield)
  • Richard Lakerveld (The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology)