Credit: Xavier Bettel, Twitter

The inaugural Future of Materials Summit begun today, Monday 13 November 2017, at the European Convention Centre in Luxembourg-Kirchberg; the Summit brings together global policy and business leaders to show how new materials becoming available now will shape the future.

The Prime Minister of Luxembourg, Xavier Bettel, addressed the hall with a keynote speech outlining the role that Luxembourg will play in developing the materials of the future. The Prime Minister stated that Luxembourg has always been a country that has welcomed people from all over the world to create and innovate. He said “Luxembourg started with steel. We are able to produce, to invent and to think about the future. As a government, we believe  strong and sustainable investment into research is vital for the future of economic diversification and development of our country. Nano-materials are critical for improving European industry competitiveness and product innovations. The EU Commission R&D department estimates that 70% of all new product innovation involves materials with improved properties - my government feels this is crucial for enabling economic diversification.
 
Looking to the future, the Prime Minister announced that Luxembourg’s investment in science and technology is expanding. Bettel highlighted the country’s latest research into space mining, stating that whilst his country is small on Earth, it is “big in space”. The new project also means that Luxembourg is returning to its mining roots. PM Bettel acknowledged the importance of services to Luxembourg’s economy; he stated that the country’s wealth was developed through manufacturing. Looking to the future, PM Bettel committed Luxembourg to playing a leading role in the development of nano-technology to diversify the economy.
 
The Prime Minister’s comments were succeeded by Russia’s largest technology investor, who operates in the global market. Anatoly Chubais explored how new materials such as nano, smart, organic, and others, will play an important role in the future. Mr Chubais shared his concern that these materials were still seriously underestimated. He said “Our goal is not only to know well the cutting edge technology trends, but also to keep abreast of what may become the hype tomorrow. RUSNANO’s portfolio includes, among others, a range of companies that work with new materials. For us, it is evident that people have reached certain limits in the usage of traditional materials. It is equally evident that nanoaugmented materials (NAM) allow for us to make a quantum leap in the resolution of global challenges. NAM and its production technologies are not a picture from a distant future, but already a part of our real life. The summit devoted to nanoaugmented materials will, among other issues, address the topic of the possible switching to mass production of goods based on NAM. Once found, the solution will turn us to a new industrial revolution.”
 
Over the next two days, senior executives from Airbus, Goodyear, HP, Tata Steel, DuPont and other leading hi-tech companies from various industries, including Dirk Ahlborn Chief executive officer, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies and Mike Gascoyne, Designer and engineer, Formula One.
 
In opening the Summit as moderator, Geoffrey Carr, Science Editor for The Economist said “Materials play a defining role in our society and always have. We have new and exciting products on the market now which put humanity on the brink of a new golden age of materials.”
 
On the first day, speakers debated the circular economy and development of clean technologies. Michael Saltzberg Global business director, DuPont Industrial Biosciences outlined his belief that the consumer is driving the industry to develop more dynamic and efficient materials. He highlighted new biomaterials which DuPont intend to announce next year, including high performance polymers made from sugar and modified enzymes. The processes to make these materials will better replicate the chemical processes found in the natural world.
 
Carl De Mare, Vice President and head of technology strategy at ArcelorMittel, stated that the long term goal is for all mining into the Earth’s crust to end as a result of new techniques and the increased efficiency of recycling. He called on governments to create new policies to incentivise the recycling of goods like steel and other metals. He said “at the end of century, there will be enough steel in use and enough end of life products to maintain infrastructure.”
 
In a keynote address Hugues Després explored how we face huge environmental challenges and we must re-invent and re-imagine life as we know it. Mr Després outlined how change would partly come about through consumers demanding augmented experiences from new products. He focused on UJET’s state of the art electric scooter, designed and built in Luxembourg.
 
Hugues Després, CEO of Ujet International & Vice President of Ujet Group said “Tomorrow´s winning companies will emerge from disruptive ideas that are focused on improving lives and solving societal problems. UJET’s aim is to combine material science, green technologies, connectivity, and design to reinvent urban mobility solutions that will empower communities to live in more sustainable cities.”
 

The Future of Materials Summit will focus on Innovations such as 3D printing and robotics.