Hot seat: Thomas Homburg

Last updated on: 23 Feb, 2021

Mr. Homburg, since 2020 you have been part of the International Sustainable Chemistry Collaborative Centres (ISC3) which was, amongst others, founded by the DECHEMA. Can you tell us what the ISC3 is doing and what your goal is?

The International Sustainable Chemsitry Collaborative Centre (ISC3) is an international institution that has been promoting and developing sustainable solutions for chemistry worldwide since 2017. Our work is based on the 17 UN sustainability goals, many of which can be implemented with the help of chemistry. Therefore, it is necessary to develop a new systematic thinking with a circular approach and the generation of new business models and opportunities. The ISC3 aims at shaping the transformation of the chemical sector towards a sustainable use of resources. The main fields of action for achieving this transformation are international cooperation, education, research, information, and innovation.

How does ISC3 define sustainability in chemistry and how what does the international cooperation look like?

Thanks to our global network of multipliers, we are in close contact with local organisations (including Chile, Egypt, India), which also see chemistry as an important contribution to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The actors within the organisations promote innovations in their regions, mobilise resources and knowledge in the context of sustainable chemical solutions and enable other actors, especially start-ups, to join the community.

In our understanding of sustainable chemistry, the consideration of non-chemical alternatives and alternative business models plays a major role. This is also about considering general sustainability principles such as sufficiency, efficiency, and planetary limits as well as the precautionary principle when creating new solutions. The goal is to transfer these approaches to the entire supply chain, from resources to manufacture to application and end of life of products and services.

Innovation through start-ups is a key factor for the transformation of the chemical sector, according to ISC3. Therefore, the ISC3 Innovation Hub supports start-ups worldwide. What formats are there and are they also accessible for German start-ups?

Our Global-Start-up-Service (GSS) is a connection point between founders, investors, companies, organisations, individuals, and ideas. That is why our formats such as the stakeholder forum or the investor forum are designed to provide interested people with a platform for mutual exchange across national borders and professional groups. As part of the investor forum, we offer selected start-ups the opportunity to pitch in front of venture capitalists and companies. In order to prepare the start-ups for such events, selected founders are supported in individualized pitch trainings.

Our understanding of sustainability is also reflected in the founding ideas and business models of the start-ups we support. We are giving some of these exciting implementations visibility through our networks as part of our Start-up of the Month feature.

Although ISC3 has an international focus, it is also our concern to support national start-ups in the field of sustainable chemistry. Regular exchange with the start-ups from our pool allows us to identify current challenges and to address them in adapted workshops with experts. In addition, we also offer direct financial support with our annual Innovation Challenge.

Thomas Homburg studied chemistry in Germany and in Sweden. After working on projects in the field of environmental chemistry, biotechnology and catalysis in Southampton, Berlin, and Jerusalem he conducted research on proton conductivity in coordination polymers in Kiel and Calgary. Before coming to ISC3 as an innovation manager, he worked in the field of polymer adhesives for a Swiss corporation.