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Riitta Juvonen: Chemical industry achieves the ambitious sustainability goals with extensive use of digital technologies

Committed to being carbon neutral in 2045, the Finnish chemical industry has taken an ambitious step for sustainable future. Exploiting new digital technologies on all levels, both in companies and in the society, is a must for both reducing carbon footprint and increasing carbon handprint.

Companies are working hard to achieve the goals, and with the help of a well-functioning digital operating environment the goals will be easier to reach. The European Union as well as the national government play a crucial role in paving the way for a flourishing industry in the digital age.

Many features of a favourable operating environment are common to all industries, such as real-time economy and digital government services, to mention a few. In some issues, however, chemical industry has specific challenges. For example, protection of confidential chemical data in licensing systems has to be ensured. Combatting cyber threats to ensure safety of operations needs special attention in the chemical sector. Training workforce to achieve both digital and chemical industry specific skills has to be provided by the education system.

As one of the most technology intensive sectors, chemical industry has an excellent basis for taking advantage of new digital technologies. Automation has been our second nature for decades, and thus it is only natural to make gradually use of all the new digital opportunities. In addition to optimizing current production, digital technologies are a driver for fundamental industrial transformation, which is a prerequisite for new sustainable production.

It is worth also noting that not all companies are on the wave of change. Boosting the use of existing digital systems would improve productivity of a remarkable number of companies. Getting all companies onboard the digital transformation is thus also a significant goal for Europe. In the national and European programs, special attention should be given to SME’s digital capacities.

For the chemical industry it is important that Europe invests in digitalization with a wide set of actions and programs. The ongoing preparations and public consultation for the Digital Europe programme provide an example of EU’s willingness to go this way.  Europe must aim at taking the lead in developing and using new technical tools. Otherwise the ambitious sustainability goals of the chemical sector remain a dream.

Riitta Juvonen

Chief advisor, Occupational well-being, Industry transformation