Arkema is one of the beneficiaries of the ETN-CHARMING project hosting Philippe Chan (ESR11) who mainly works in the research centre of Rhône-Alpes (CRRA) in Lyon, France. In this blog article, we interviewed the director of the CRRA, Philippe Bonnet, to tell us more about CRRA, their sustainable goals and the future of using immersive technology in the chemical R&D industry.
Date of the interview : 06-02-2020
To begin with this interview, can you tell us more about yourself ?
P. BONNET : My name is Philippe Bonnet. I am director of the Rhône-Alpes research centre of Arkema (CRRA) and I am responsible for the safety, the activities and the research budget of CRRA.
For the readers who do not know Arkema yet, can you briefly explain what Arkema does and the role of CRRA within the Group ?
P. BONNET : Arkema is a specialty chemicals company with a strong focus on new materials and adhesives but also on industrial specialties and coating solutions. Arkema emphasizes on innovation by developing platforms that meet major societal challenges such as energy, electronics, insulation of buildings or lightweight materials. The CRRA performs research on multiple themes concerning these platforms (energy, battery, …) and also works on the R&D activities of Business Units (BU) of industrial specialties.
Nowadays, it is impossible to imagine the environment we live in without sustainable development. Sustainability has therefore become an integral part of research and development. What are the key features of sustainability that CRRA is focusing on ?
P. BONNET : We work a lot on material recycling, clean energy storage, life-cycle analysis methods and the improvement of processes to conserve energy. When possible, we prefer to use bio-based materials to develop our products and our processes.
It goes without saying that when manipulating hazardous chemicals, health and safety of everyone involved are top priority. What is the current situation within CRRA concerning health and safety ? What kind of risk are prominent and how is it dealt with ?
P. BONNET : The safety of our employees and our facilities is indeed our priority. We have a lot of tools at our disposal to improve work safety, for example risk analysis of our workplace or the use of observations for tasks performed by our employees. And this with success because our last accident dates back to 4 years.
It is all the more important that the younger generations are the future of our industry which will be essential in the ecological transition.
With the rise of industry 4.0 in the last decade, immersive technology such as Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are becoming ever more important and useful for today’s industry. How do you see this technology being used within the chemical industry ?
P. BONNET : Arkema has already been able to use this technology for the training of our plant operators and we are considering using it for research and development. It is easy to imagine it for the training of complex processes. It would allow us to work on scenarios that can take place during an experiment and improve the ergonomics of the installations.
At last, what is your opinion on using these immersive technologies for the education of chemistry and chemical engineering ?
P. BONNET : I think it is indeed a good way to improve the perception of chemistry amongst the public population. It is all the more important that the younger generations are the future of our industry which will be essential in the ecological transition.
UPDATE: During the lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, work at CRRA has never completely stopped, however, with additional safety measures to prevent further infections: employees need to wear a mask on the site, wash their hands frequently, maintaining social distancing and regular temperature checks. Health and safety of our employees at CRRA are still our top priority !