Umicore: sustainable value creation through the development, production and recycling of materials to create ‘materials for a better life’

Environmental sustainability is a growing concern in many manufacturing industries and the pharmaceutical industry is no exception. As the demand for green approaches to pharmaceutical development grows, the industry is becoming increasingly focused on driving novel sustainable practices. As a result, the next generation of research, development and manufacturing innovations must reflect these changes. Chemicals Knowledge Hub asked key opinion leader and Umicore’s Global Marketing Director, Christophe Le Ret, to share his insights into the pathways to sustainability and success

How would you say environmentally friendly credentials are being recognized within the industry? “To set yourself apart in many industries, and because we live today in a world where climate change and its consequences are a burning issue, it is important to combine an environmentally friendly approach with high-quality performance benefits. This is what you see in the case of catalysis. Not only as catalysis enables more efficient processes, but we can also be more environmentally friendly for the customer because we can refine and extend the lifespan of high-value metals and reduce the number of wasted materials. “Let’s take the 40+ years old rhodium catalyzed propene or butene hydroformylation process for instance. Rhodium catalysts have established themselves as they are much faster than cobalt ones, which translates into milder reaction conditions, and they have a better atom economy and lead to fewer side products. In the process, the catalyst regularly loses activity and can

process, they will be much better integrated if they can generate economic benefits.”

The advanced homogeneous catalysis we do at Umicore Precious Metals Chemistry is a good example of efficient circular economy present in end-user applications

What kind of end-user applications does your chemistry support, in the context of circular economy? “The advanced homogeneous catalysis we do at Umicore Precious Metals Chemistry is a good example of efficient circular economy present in end-user applications. Palladium- catalyzed reactions are, for instance, key to synthesizing a wide variety of agrochemicals, active

be reactivated until it needs to be extracted and the metal it contains recycled and the catalyst replaced. Because we could offer superior recycling technology and recover more rhodium from the waste catalyst, we contributed to making this hydroformylation process more cost-efficient and more sustainable.

“And even if today

environmental aspects are much more important than 40 years ago in developing a new chemical

Christophe Le Ret, Global Marketing Director at Umicore: “We continue to work in close cooperation with industrial and academic partners to reproduce the success of metathesis and cross- coupling chemistries alongside developing further new and more environmentally friendly applications for catalysis.”

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pharmaceutical ingredients or electronic chemicals. And in these reactions, palladium is collected and recycled, enjoying recyclability levels reaching 90%. “Environmental consciousness is, however, not only

about recycling the metals catalysts contain. Reactions under milder conditions, with fewer waste products and maximized yields can all be achieved utilizing Umicore PMC’s portfolio of catalysis solutions. These also have the benefit of reducing the need for large quantities of solvents and removing the need for toxic, hard-to-handle solvents. This, in turn, enables our customers to be more effective and environmentally friendly.”

What is next in terms of opportunity from a business perspective for Umicore? “At Umicore, we see the search for

clean mobility as a tremendous opportunity. Our

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