Redefining success: Conversations with PNO Innovation Belgium

Why did you join the ACHIEF project and what’s your role?

PNO Innovation Belgium was invited to participate in ACHIEF and gladly accepted the challenge to offer the company’s consultancy services and well-established expertise to the project’s benefit. ACHIEF’s main target is to develop innovations relevant to the energy-intensive industries, which is in line with our commitment at PNO – to support various stakeholders elaborating innovative solutions to tackle the challenges that the energy sector is facing. Furthermore, our proficiency in communication, dissemination and exploitation activities enabled us to confidently take the lead in establishing and executing a strategic plan for identifying and engaging with key stakeholders in the energy and other markets.


As market leader in subsidy and innovation advice, what are your ambitions in contributing to a more efficient and sustainable Energy-Intensive Industrial sector?

The energy-intensive industry in Europe plays a pivotal role in the region’s economy, sustainability efforts, and technological advancements. As an economic backbone, industries like aluminium, chemicals, and steel production are crucial for supply chains of virtually all productive sectors, on top of providing millions of jobs, and contribute significantly to the European GDP. Innovation at energy-intensive industries is fundamental to global competitiveness, infrastructure development, energy security, and the accomplishment of sustainability goals in Europe and around the world.

PNO actively supports numerous companies in developing their ambitions and actualising their technology roadmaps for the future. By identifying transformative innovations that reshape their operations and conceptualising innovative projects centred around strategic technologies and markets, we help pave the way for their success. To release this vision, we leverage over 500 available public funding mechanisms across Europe, to support our clients in creating industrially driven innovative projects and concepts.

Moreover, we are committed to providing strategic advice that encourages the adoption of sustainable practices, ultimately facilitating the sector’s transition towards greener and more efficient operations. Our goal is to play a pivotal role in facilitating positive change, helping businesses thrive while minimising their environmental impact.

PNO is leading Communication and Dissemination activities within the ACHIEF project. How would you assess the significance of reaching the public audience to showcase the importance of a more efficient Energy-Intensive Industrial sector?

We believe that reaching the public audience is crucial on multiple fronts. Firstly, engaging the public fosters awareness and help supporting sustainable industrial practices and standards. Secondly, policymakers can be influenced by this public support, playing a key role in shaping a favourable environment for new innovative initiatives that drive a more efficient energy-intensive Industrial sector. Additionally, these actions can encourage industries to adopt and promote sustainable practices.

In summary, reaching the public audience not only raise awareness but also catalyses a collective effort towards a more sustainable society and efficient industrial landscape.

Given the technical nature of the project, how do translate complex information into clear and accessible messages for both industry experts and the broader public?

Our approach involves a strategic translation of complex information into clear and accessible messages tailored for both targeted groups. We employ different tools including simplified visualisations and articles with less-technical language. For example, for a wider audience we draft public-facing materials using simple terms and emphasising the project’s significance and benefits in a related manner, while for industry experts, we provide in-depths technical documentation. This approach aims to bridge the gap between technical and complexity from one side, and accessibility from the other side, reaching several targeted groups.

Why knowledge transfer is crucial for technologies of this kind?

ACHIEF project focuses on creating high-performance alloys and coatings that can withstand extreme and fluctuating conditions, thereby improving the energy performance and productivity of process equipment used in energy-intensive industries. The knowledge transfer, supported by PNO,  for this kind of technologies is crucial in multiple aspects.

Firstly, the introduction of innovative high-performance materials and sensors aims to improve the performance and extend the lifetime of equipment. This contributes to the global competitiveness of these sectors by reducing operational costs and enhancing product quality​​​​. Secondly, the project showcases the importance of multidisciplinary collaboration in technology transfer. By bringing  together partners from research, technology organisations, and industry, the project leverages diverse expertise to overcome technological barriers and achieve its objectives​​.

Additionally, ACHIEF aligns with the European Union’s strategic goal to become carbon neutral continent by 2050. Through technology transfer, the project directly contributes to achieving these ambitious environmental targets, demonstrating the critical role of innovation in meeting societal challenges​​.

How would you explain to a wider public what will be the impact of the ACHIEF project?

The primary difficulty with the Energy-Intensive Industries is to increase productivity while simultaneously minimising environmental impact. To address this requirements, new innovative solutions need to be developed to enhance energy efficiency and sustainability. In this context the ACHIEF project is currently implementing innovative technologies that leverage novel materials, protective coatings, monitoring sensors and novel material design tools and strategies. The aim is to reduce overall resource consumption within industries, lower CO2 emissions, and extend the operational lifetime of the equipment.

How do you see the future of the ACHIEF project?

The project aims to develop novel materials and protective coatings that can withstand extreme and fluctuating conditions typical in energy-intensive industries. Such emerging technologies (TRL3-4) are expected to be demonstrated in industrial conditions (TRL5) in aluminium, petrochemical and steel production processes supported by advanced temperature and corrosion sensors and by an AI-aided material design toolbox. In this context, the ACHIEF project will enhance energy efficiency and reduce operation cost, but also improve the material performance under extreme conditions and reduce the environmental impact.

Based on the knowledge gained from the ACHIEF project, several barriers must be addressed in future projects. Firstly, transitioning from lab-scale to industrial-scale of the developed materials and coatings presents challenges in manufacturability and integration into the innovation process in the early stage. The progress in navigating regulatory approvals and standardisation processes across multiple sectors indicates initial steps in the rights direction. Secondly, demonstrating the effectiveness and reliability of these technologies in operation industrial environments is complex, requiring an agile innovation process with a focus on the industrial validation requirements of new materials. Lastly, overcoming initial market resistance and demonstrating clear economic and environmental benefits are essential for broader industry adoption. These materials hold relevance across various sectors, from infrastructure development to other sectors such as power generation, renewable energy infrastructure, waste processing and building materials.