In the next few years, two new large-scale research centers are to be established in lignite (brown coal) mining regions in Germany. They are meant to contribute to structural change and provide economic prospects for these regions. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the Free State of Saxony, and the State of Saxony-Anhalt will determine the focus of the two centers in a two-stage competition.
In the first round, decision-makers from the political arena have selected six ideas—including the concept of “Chemresilienz” (a portmanteau of the German words for chemistry and resilience), the only one that explicitly deals with chemistry. It was created by Peter Seeberger and Matthew Plutschack, Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces, Potsdam, Germany.
In the summer, federal and state officials will decide which concepts will be implemented and receive funding. The three-year build-up phase can be extended by three years if necessary. From the Structural Strengthening Act, the federal government will provide 1.25 billion euros per center up to 2038.
Concept for Chemistry
“Chemresilienz” aims to move things from basic research closer to application and subsequently make them industrially viable. It aims to bring together chemistry, chemical engineering, and process engineering with artificial intelligence. At the same time, user requirements, such as those of the automotive, construction, and textile industries, will be taken into account in research, as will economic, legal, and ethical aspects.
Innovations arise at the interfaces of scientific disciplines, and chemistry is moving away from the individual researcher who achieves something working alone in the lab and toward collaboration, instead. A large-scale research center offers the chance to work together on an interdisciplinary basis and will get more feedback from industry, according to the initiators.
The chemical industry as we know it today will no longer exist in 40 years. “If we want to electrify the chemical industry as it is today, then we have to produce twice as much electricity just for the chemical industry as we produced in all of Germany in 2019. Everyone knows what that means in light of the energy transition.” The large-scale research centers could be a huge opportunity for the transformation of the chemical industry.
- „Das ganze komplexe System ändern“ – Interview mit Peter Seeberger,
Frauke Zbikowski, Christian Remenyi,
Nachr. Chem. 2022.