Competitiveness and innovation are crucial for the ongoing development of the chemicals industry, and EU industry at large. The chemicals industry is very energy intensive and is dependent on favourable climate change policies. The European Commission is working to support the sector in a number of ways. It implements policies to facilitate structural change within the sector itself. These include policies that support the ‘clustering’ of related aspects within the sector and the implementation of ‘smart specialisation’ regional strategies to stimulate large scale investments.
Regulation has a significant impact on the industry. The quality of legislation, along with its correct implementation and proper enforcement are highly significant, not only for the achievement of health and environmental objectives, but also to create a fair level playing field for the chemicals industry. Together with the removal of trade barriers, this can boost the international competitiveness of the EU chemicals industry. The following steps were taken as a result of the findings of the High Level Group on the Competitiveness of the European Chemicals Industry:
The European Commission is conducting a fitness check on chemicals legislation (excluding REACH) as part of the REFIT programme.
In 2014, the Commission launched a study analysing cumulative costs of the most relevant EU legislation for the EU chemical industry. The EU legislation subject to analysis includes:
This study was followed up by another study, launched in 2016, which compares costs with international competitors and draws conclusions about their impact on the competitiveness of the chemicals sector.
Most of the industries linked to EU manufacturing and services are using products from the chemicals sector. New materials and processes, which originate in the chemicals industry, help other sectors to innovate. A competitive chemicals industry is not only important for creating growth and jobs in the chemicals sector, but also for the entire EU manufacturing industry. This improves living standards and generates employment and wealth throughout the EU.
In addition to improvements to the regulatory framework, the Commission also provides regulation guidance and support for SMEs, as well as actively supporting innovation in key areas.
The chemicals sector is at the forefront of innovation as a solution provider for many societal challenges, as well as for many other economic sectors. New forms of industrial cooperation between the chemicals industries and other industries are emerging that shape new industrial structures and help keep manufacturing jobs in Europe.
Policies that facilitate structural change, such as cluster policies and the implementation of smart specialisation regional strategies are crucial to stimulate large-scale investments in the chemicals sector. These include bio-refineries and recycling industries, as well as import terminals for gas.
Nanotechnologies and materials present many opportunities for the chemicals industry, with a number of new applications developed. Those include a high number of consumer products such as consumer electronics, UV-filters in paints, renewable energy applications, many medical applications, and lithium-ion batteries for electric cars.
Those applications have the potential to create major technological breakthroughs, and nanotechnologies have been identified as a key enabling technology. In order to ensure the safety of nanomaterials, the Commission is reviewing the regulatory framework, most prominently the Annexes of the REACH Regulation. There is also significant research on nanomaterial safety as part of the 7th Research Framework Programme and Horizon 2020.
The bio-based procurement publication page offers guidance to aid innovation in the field. The bio-based procurement website is more extensive. They both target procurers and others interested in procurement involving bio-based products. Bio-economy adds to economic growth, sustainability of industries and reduces fossil fuel dependence.
The chemicals industry is a strong driver of resource and energy efficiency, and has high potential to provide decisive innovative 'game changers'. The Commission supports initiatives in key areas, e.g. through the Spire Programme for innovative materials and processes, and the Bio-based Industry Joint Undertaking under Horizon 2020. These initiatives can contribute to decarbonisation by promoting higher resource efficiency including through the bio-economy or the reuse of CO2 as a chemical feedstock. The new alliance between chemicals, agriculture, and waste converters in the Bio-based Joint Undertaking offers new business opportunities and helps make the concept of the 'circular economy' a reality.
DG Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs oversees the implementation of EU legislation relating to REACH, CLP, the principles of Good Laboratory Practice (GLP) and sector-specific legislation on chemicals such as fertilisers, detergents, explosives, pyrotechnics, and drug precursors.
It also holds meetings and conferences related to key issues including the follow-up to a High Level Group on the Competitiveness of the European Chemicals Industry.
Read more about our events related to chemicals.