Interview with Josep Maria Gascón, chairman of the International Advisory Board of WCS
“The World Chemical Summit will be the top global platform for the chemical industry”
The Director of Strategy and Competitive Intelligence at the Catalan government’s agency ACCIÓ, Josep Maria Gascón is also the chairman of the International Advisory Board of the new World Chemical Summit (WCS), which will be held for the first time on 2-6 October 2017 at Fira de Barcelona’s Gran Via Exhibition Centre. In this interview, Gascón, a well-known lawyer with a long and distinguished record in international management positions in Solvay Group, named as ‘European Young Leader’ in 2013, 2014 and 2016, tells us about the objectives of this new event.
Question: Is it necessary and important for the chemical sector to have a new event like the World Chemical Summit?
Society is evolving towards a new industrial and collaborative paradigm in which new technologies are moving forward at an unprecedented pace. The increase – and ageing – of the population will give rise to increasing demands to provide, simultaneously, 50% more food, 30% more water and 30% more energy, yet without even further degrading the natural resource base on which we depend.
The solutions to this will be found in the use of the most advanced science in the world, but applying it and interpreting its discoveries depends on involving a much broader range of actors in discussions and interactions, not just the scientific community. Industry, the business sector, those responsible for our natural resources, public institutions, political parties and civil society are also an essential part of this unprecedented reflection on global collaboration.
These social challenges, which we can classify into the six basic cornerstones of food, energy, health, water and air, the digital society and industry, all call for a different response to conventional initiatives. It is all about chemistry, and there is no other event in the world in this industry that combines the inspirational thoughts of scientific experts with the industrial fabric underpinning the challenges of the society of the future towards which we are evolving, and how the chemical industry can respond to these challenges.
The World Chemical Summit was created with the aim of addressing this gap.
Question: What can the World Chemical Summit bring to the sector and the rest of society?
Chemistry has always been inherent in social progress, from the efficient use of natural resources, hygiene, medicines, textiles and food through to the most advanced digital tools, the materials of your smartphone, 3D printing, the chance to visit Mars some day or public transport that uses green energy.
We live in a world which is being disproportionately affected by a combination of socioeconomic and geopolitical circumstances that need to be addressed, and the World Chemical Summit is committed to society, industry and education.
Question: What are the objectives of the World Chemical Summit?
The World Chemical Summit aspires to become the global benchmark for the applied chemicals industry, where pioneering solutions for the challenges facing society will be discussed. In this respect, the World Chemical Summit will be a platform that strengthens and expands the knowledge and spread of chemistry’s industrial solutions to the challenges of the society of the future. With this aim in mind, it is vitally important to find a balance that represents every sphere of industry, science and the institutional sector in order to add credibility to the event’s aspirations.
Some of the leading and most notable representatives of the chemical industry – local, regional, national and international, from Belgium to South Africa and Canada to Azerbaijan, including Chile, Mexico and Singapore – have already confirmed their interest in playing an active part in this event. The World Chemical Summit aspires to attract the key players from business and science because these are the people who will need to invest in the solutions that the chemical sector comes up with for these future challenges.
Question: How will society benefit from the World Chemical Summit?
Apart from its industrial legacy – in other words, a place where every agent in the chemical industry, from every corner of the world, can do business – the World Chemical Summit aspires to leave a social legacy, making a commitment to the social challenges for which chemicals can provide a solution, such as helping to give our increasingly ageing population a better quality of life, and an academic legacy in the form of the publication of scientific papers and the awarding of prizes to the best research initiatives that can be applied in a scalable way by the chemicals industry.
These will be three days when science, technology and industry come together towards a better world.
Question: Do you believe that Barcelona is the best venue for the World Chemical Summit?
Barcelona is the scientific capital of southern Europe and has a long and distinguished tradition of organising chemistry-related events, borne out by the fact that the very first Expoquimia was held here in 1965. Over the last 50 years, Expoquimia, Eurosurfas and Equiplast have demonstrated their contribution to the progress of the chemical industry; indeed, the last edition hosted more than 600 exhibitors, 200 new products, 300 business meetings, 50 international projects and over 38,000 professional visitors at the congress.
The chemical industry is a strategic one for the country’s economy. With more than 3,000 firms, the Spanish chemical sector has an annual turnover of 58,000 million euros, generating 12.4% of the country’s GDP, and is responsible for over 570,000 direct and indirect jobs in Spain. The chemical sector is the second biggest exporter in the Spanish economy with international sales of more than 32,000 million euros, and it is the leading investor in R&D&I. Catalonia, the home of Barcelona, accounts for 43% of the chemical sector’s turnover in Spain.
This successful industrial approach deserves to be capitalised on with the international vocation that the Barcelona brand represents. The World Chemical Summit will be an international, innovative and cross-cutting platform where science, technology and industry will go into action to anticipate the industrial and social needs of the markets of the future.
Question: What other attractions does Barcelona have to offer the scientific community?
Barcelona is both international and innovative. It is a hub for the transfer of science and technology, an international intersection of reference between cutting-edge economies and emerging countries, a globally-recognised cornerstone of competitiveness and a platform for genuine market opportunities.
Between 2 and 6 October 2017, Fira de Barcelona will not only be hosting the World Chemical Summit but also the Expoquimia, Eurosurfas and Equiplast trade fairs, making Barcelona the world capital of applied chemistry. This leading position will be further strengthened with the tenth World Congress of Chemical Engineering which brings together more than 3,000 chemical engineers from all over the world at an event that is being held in Spain for the first time.
The power of the Barcelona brand, together with the prestige of Fira de Barcelona, make us very optimistic about taking on this challenge.
Barcelona, October 2016