NewsHARMLESS workshop on “Safe-and-Sustainable by Design (SSbD) for SMEs: Advanced Materials in Product Development”

HARMLESS workshop on “Safe-and-Sustainable by Design (SSbD) for SMEs: Advanced Materials in Product Development”

On 25th May 2023, the H2020 project HARMLESS organised a virtual workshop on “Safe-and-Sustainable by Design (SSbD) for SMEs: Advanced Materials in Product Development” with the main aim to present to the audience the HARMLESS SSbD framework and the corresponding Decision Support System (DSS), which provides information and guidance on  both safety and sustainability aspects of Advanced Materials to support SMEs in all stages of product development. Advanced Materials can include single- and multicomponent nanomaterials as well as other materials with enhanced properties as compared to conventionally used materials.

After a short overview of the HARMLESS project by the coordinator Dr Otmar Schmid (Helmholtz Munich, HMGU), Dr Michael Persson (Chalmers Industriteknik, CIT) guided the participants on the integration of HARMLESS Safe-by-Design (SbD) principles during the earliest stages of product development. Dr Blanca Suarez (Temas Solutions, TEMASOL) presented the EU-CSS-aligned HARMLESS SSbD framework and Dr Susan Dekkers (TNO) provided insight into how to implement SSbD principles at all stages of product development using the HARMLESS Decision Support System. Often consideration of SSbD aspects in product development is hampered by the scarcity of SSbD relevant data on Advanced Materials. Dr Nina Jeliazkova (IDEAconsult) presented easy steps towards leveraging Artificial Intelligence (AI) for filling these data gaps for arbitrary materials and integrating them in the HARMLESS SSbD/DSS e-infrastructure.


Two slides presented by Otmar Schmid and Blanca Suarez Merino during the workshop

After a brief summary of the workshop, Otmar Schmid highlighted some benefits for SMEs applying the HARMLESS approach to SSbD product development.

The workshop ended with a Questions & Answers session where the participants were able to discuss with the experts their impressions, thoughts, and concerns

More than 40 people from all over Europe (e.g. Spain, Germany, and Greece), Türkiye and Australia were attending this HARMLESS workshop and they represented a wide range of stakeholder groups from the scientific community (53%) over SMEs (29%) and  SSbD consultants (5%) to regulators (1%) and non-governmental organisations (NGOs, 1%) (see graphics below for more details).

Overview of the kind of stakeholders that were interested in the HARMLESS workshop

Overview of the nationality of the stakeholders engaged

Selected highlights from the workshop:

  1. From the business perspective, the HARMLESS approach to SSbD can be seen as a value proposition on several levels.
    • Avoidance of potentially hazardous materials and adoption of the most sustainable use of resources is reducing societal risks and industry cost on several levels as it
      • protects the health of employees and consumers
      • protects the environment
      • enhances consumer acceptance at the marketplace.
    • Consideration of SSbD during the earliest (ideation) stage of product development may save money by either not investing into a product, which may not be considered safe, or by SSbD-redesigning the product during the early stages of product development, which is less expensive than doing so later.
    • Following an evidence-based approach to SSbD may be advantageous for regulatory acceptance of products containing advanced materials.
  2. It was discussed that the HARMLESS SSbD/DSS e-infrastructure is likely too complex to be handled by SMEs themselves, but potentially useful with the help from SSbD consultants.
  3. It is important for consultants to understand when and how to use the HARMLESS approach to SSbD to provide SMEs with the best possible value for their specific needs.
  4. Hence, attendants asked for further demonstration of the HARMLESS approach to SSbD targeted to interested consultants (and SMEs) by providing examples on how to use the DDS in the context of real-world industry case studies.

The HARMLESS coordinator, Otmar Schmid, invited SMEs, consultancies and other interested attendees to contact HARMLESS for further inquiries and potential collaborations. Active involvement of SMEs with real-world case studies is essential for optimised tailoring of the HARMLESS SSbD approach to the specific needs of SMEs. If you have any questions about our work, new ideas to contribute or you want to explore and provide feedback on the HARMLESS SSbD/DSS, we would love to hear about it. Do not hesitate to contact us via email or directly via our project website.

All workshop’s materials (presentations, recording and agenda) are available here (DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.7974563).

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