The story of Solvay's Eco-Efficient Products and Processes Laboratory (E2P2L) started in August 2010 when the four funding partners CNRS, ENSL, ECNU and Solvay (Rhodia legacy at the time), signed a letter of intent stating their willingness to conduct research together at the Shanghai Expo site.
The founding partners decided to create an international laboratory in China dedicated to sustainable chemistry merging industrial and academic research.
Chronologically, the E2P2 laboratory was set up in three consecutive steps:
- Step 1: an official CNRS international joint lab (UMI 3464) was created in March 2011 between the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) and Rhodia (now Solvay). A contract defined five main projects and partner commitments (e.g. number of sponsored researchers and investments).
- Step 2: A consortium agreement was signed between CNRS, Rhodia, the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon (ENS Lyon), and the East China Normal University (ECNU) with a strong support from the Rhône-Alpes region.
- Step 3: In 2013, the University of Lille Sciences et Technologies (LST) and the University of Fudan (Shanghai) joined the E2P2L consortium, leading to the present six-partner architecture (Figure 1). CNRS and Solvay perform as the administrative supervisors of the unit, whereas the Unité de Catalyse et Chimie du Solide (UCCS), being federated to LST, was selected as the E2P2L mirror laboratory by CNRS in France.
Apart from the 6 official partners, strong collaborations were established with French and Chinese universities and research institutions, among which the East China University of Science and Technology (ECUST), the University of Poitiers (IC2MP), and the Lanzhou Institute of Chemical Physics (LICP/CAS). In 2016, IC2MP was selected by CNRS as second E2P2L mirror laboratory in France.
E2P2L remains a unique laboratory: it operates at the interface between academic and industrial research with a sound differentiation from other joint research units, both in China and abroad. E2P2L can capture local opportunities such as leveraging of local scientific developments in academia, accessing local scientist talent pool, addressing local environmental issues, and supporting regional growth in Asia.
The lab has been structured by creating an international joint lab UMI 3464 (UMI – Unite Mixte Internationale in French) between Solvay and CNRS. Such set-up allows having two partners providing a minimum of funds and resources to the team. Then, a consortium agreement has been signed by all six members of E2P2L stating that the members will collaborate on research projects within the new lab.
- Steering Committee for Solvay with key internal stakeholders (all 9 month)
- Technology Platforms
- Corporate Research Management team (Solvay R&I)
- Global Business Units (GBU)
- Steering Committee for UMI with 6 partners (once per year)
- Scientific Committee for UMI (consultative only regarding scientific excellence, once per year)
The research strategy, both academic and applied, focuses on advanced chemo-catalysis applied to the production and application of specialty chemicals, while not excluding breakthrough solutions for the synthesis of commodities. Examples of specialty chemicals encompass bio-based surfactants, bio-based monomers, polymers building blocks, green solvents or additives. The use of sustainable feedstocks such as biomass or carbon dioxide is favored.