One of the biggest scientific challenge that our society faces is the current depletion of phosphorus resources that are essential for life on earth. Two thirds of the world's reserve of phosphorus is located in Morocco and Western Sahara, setting the stage for political unpredictability. In order to reduce our dependency on these economies, it is thus essential for Europe to take the lead in developing new technologies in order to advance the preservation of this precious element. In the chemical community the imperative for the sustainability of phosphorus is, however, still lacking. Setting the process in motion constitutes a paradigm shift, trailing already by decades the universal focus on energy and CO2.
SusPhos, initiated by Chris Slootweg and partners, represents the first systematic investigation of the eco-friendly production, smart use, recycling and commercial exploitation of phosphorus-based processes and materials that use the precious element phosphorus in a sustainable manner. This approach will lead to fundamental insights into sustainable technologies and create an ideal platform for the training of young, ambitious researchers in a superb collaborative European setting. Currently, SusPhos educates 14 broadly-oriented researchers (12 PhD students and 2 post-docs) at the interface of synthetic chemistry, catalysis, materials science, process chemistry, industrial phosphorus chemistry, and technology transfer. SusPhos combines the complementary strengths of nine academic and three industrial (Arkema, DSM & Magpie Polymers) teams to promote intersectoral mobility of top-class multi skilled researchers to enforce cross-fertilization of enhanced research synergies between the market and the academic world. The training programme uses highly innovative and timely methodologies to provide comprehensive multidisciplinary training of a new generation of young researchers capable of understanding and applying green chemistry to the conservation of phosphorus by environmentally benign conversions. The three industrial teams, as well as associate partner Willem Schipper Consulting, will ensure a rapid and effective technology transfer. As such, the network will facilitate Europe's continued global leadership on the sustainable use of phosphorus in an increasingly fierce competition for resources.