The Swedish financier Mistra and industry partners are collectively investing SEK 100 million in the four-year research program SAFECHEM, which aims to create a sustainable chemicals industry and reduce exposure to hazardous substances. Of all the applicants involved, Stockholm University has been awarded the largest sum, approximately SEK 30 million.
Within the framework of SAFECHEM, Stockholm University, together with Stockholm Environment Institute (IVL), RISE Research Institute of Sweden, Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), Technical University of Denmark (DTU) as well as 12 industry and government agencies, will conduct research to reduce exposure to hazardous chemicals by developing new green industrial processes and implementing methods for rapid and efficient risk assessment of chemicals. SAFECHEM will bring together researchers from three of Stockholm University’s profile areas, namely environmental science, material chemistry and organic chemistry.
“SAFECHEM will be important for reducing or eliminating exposure to hazardous chemicals and for the transition to sustainable production processes. The program offers great opportunities to create new collaborations between chemists and environmental scientists and will hopefully become form the platform with which we can jointly tackle future challenges, ” says Lennart Bergström, Professor of Materials Chemistry, who, together with Magnus Breitholz, Professor of Ecotoxicology at ACES, coordinated the application for Stockholm University.
In addition, the funds will support research aimed at developing new sustainable materials. An important component for success is that material- and organic chemists will work closely with toxicologists, environmental chemists, and the industry. Another important component is new testing methods to assess whether new materials are free of hazardous chemicals or not.
“SAFECHEM contains both components. For Stockholm University’s part, this is an important step towards developing a strong framework of non-toxic and resource-efficient cycles, the so-called circular systems, which is very positive, ”says Magnus Breitholtz.
The program is designed to support the process from an industrial or market-based need to produce chemicals with specific properties, and includes the development of methods for assessing potential risks, new synthesis processes without the use of hazardous substances, life cycle analysis, and handling. The program will yield both knowledge and tools that will enable expansion of a green chemistry sector as well as streamline the process for market introduction and the necessary testing, registration and reporting according to current legislation.
SAFECHEM consists of six work packages (WP), excluding program coordination and communication (WP1). These are:
- A vision and agenda for green chemistry (WP2)
- Risk and risk survey – early warning and proactivity (WP3)
- Design and management of chemicals, materials and processes (WP4)
- Skills development and education (WP6).
- Industrial case studies (WP7)
SAFECHEM is coordinated by the Swedish Environmental Institute (IVL). The total budget is SEK 100 million, of which 70 million come from Mistra and 30 million from industry partners. About one third of the total has been awarded to Stockholm University.