ISC3 - for sustainable solutions in chemistry

Katharina Kittelberger

Community News

One of the central questions in the chemical sector is how to shape a change towards sustainable chemistry so that both the environment can be protected and a circular economy can be established. To find answers to this very question, the International Sustainable Chemistry Collaborative Centre (ISC3) was founded in 2017. Together with 5-HT, civil society, and public and private sectors, the ISC3 is working to achieve its goal of promoting and developing sustainable solutions in chemistry worldwide.   

"With this, we are creating the foundation on which a global network for sustainable chemistry can be built in the future," says Dr. Alexis Bazzanella, head of project management and controlling at DECHEMA. Although he describes the partnership with 5-HT as quite new, he already sees great opportunities in it: "In just three years, our innovative hub has built a dynamic network of partners that will support startups in the field of sustainable chemistry in the future. Encouraged by this, we are already looking forward to more."  

In the interview with 5-HT, Alexis explains what further perspectives ISC3 sees in the promotion of sustainable chemistry and what part 5-HT can potentially contribute.

Three Centers: The Compilation of ISC3

"On the one hand, there is the ISC3 headquarters in Bonn, which is run by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH," Alexis begins. "On the other, DECHEMA Gesellschaft für chemische Technik und Biotechnologie in Frankfurt deals with our Innovation Center. The third center is the Research & Education Hub, which is hosted by Leuphana University of Lüneburg. Together, all three centers cover the key topics of the transformation of the chemical sector regarding the Sustainable Development Goals," he explains. 

The five levels on which ISC3 acts as a catalyst for sustainable chemistry

In this context, the ISC3 center was founded on the initiative of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) and the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) and acts as an institution, multi-stakeholder platform and think tank at the same time. This is because, in addition to operating a knowledge platform, the ISC3 offers a network of experts, training courses, implementation support and carries out innovation scouting activities. The goal of this is the discovery of new technologies, processes and business models. 

First encounter and collaboration with 5-HT

"First and foremost, we made contact with 5-HT at an ACHEMAPulse pitch slam session. At this event, we worked together with 5-HT and our partner Forum Startup Chemie, a German-based initiative to support startups, in a triangular partnership. This event was extremely successful, which is why we are already seeing benefits from our collaboration with 5-HT," Alexis highlights. 

The ISC3 ecosystem: thematic priorities and visions

Primarily, ISC3 actively collaborates with stakeholders seeking to transform the chemical sector with the Sustainable Development Goals in mind. These include representatives of large companies, SMEs and, of course, startups. "But it can also include scientists and educational institutions, NGOs and policy makers," adds Alexis. He continues, "In general, this is a growing community striving for sustainable solutions. We don't limit sustainable chemistry to the manufacturing chemical industry but include all downstream sectors that use chemicals and chemical-based materials."

These include topics related to construction, the automotive industry and energy supply, as well as textiles, pharmaceuticals, healthcare, agriculture and many others. "Chemistry is virtually omnipresent in our daily lives, and we need to find solutions along the value chains. At the ISC3 Innovation Hub in Frankfurt, we put a special focus on startups and their innovations, because we believe in the strong transformative power of entrepreneurs," he emphasizes. 

Programs ISC3 uses to support its startups

"Since we operate on a global scale, we call our program Global Startup Service. Therein we offer a variety of services, such as information and workshops for our startup pool, presentation and matchmaking events, an annual investor forum, and a current innovation competition for startups with €25,000 in prize money, including communication support. In addition, we feature a Startup of the Month on our website every month," adds Alexis.

"Through our partner network in different regions of the world, we can also facilitate access to accelerator programs and other regional funding initiatives. Since we only launched our funding program in 2018, we are still in the development stage and have a "mentor and expert program" in development to enable more individualized or tailored support for our startups," he further describes.

Similarly, ISC3 is working to set up industrial challenges with large companies in a kind of open innovation or "call for problem" approach. However, this work is not yet complete.

Early successes: ISC3's success story

"Although we are a fairly young organization, we can already look back on a number of very successful events and activities" Alexis proudly points out. "Actively, we currently support more than 150 startups in the field of chemistry - and this on all continents. In parallel, we have established strong partnerships in Latin America, the MENA region, South Africa, India, the US and Europe, covering the main world regions where our startups are located. Just recently, we had the first successful exit of one of our startups."

5-HT as a strong partner. Benefits expected from cooperation

"As described earlier, our entire funding program is largely based on collaboration with a partner network of like-minded organizations. These include startup networks, accelerators, incubators, innovation agencies, among others. It's important to us that our efforts don't duplicate each other, which is why we actively seek collaborations that are mutually beneficial," Alexis says. 

Regarding 5-HT, he continues, "5-HT definitely offers a strong ecosystem, with healthcare and chemistry being very connected to our thematic focus. Digitalization is an equally important aspect, which often goes hand in hand with sustainable solutions in chemistry and healthcare, leading to new business models. This is of great interest to us. 

Therefore, we see a collaboration with 5-HT as a mutual extension of our ecosystems and networks, from which a great benefit will hopefully be generated for both sides," Alexis concludes.

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