Innovative paint and coatings companies will be able to apply for European Union (EU) funding for cutting edge research and development projects from the EU research programme called Horizon 2020, which will run from 2014 to 2020.
The European Commission has set out budgets totalling €80bn to push forward the EU’s scientific and research strategies. Within this, €4.2bn has been set aside for research on nanotechnology and advanced materials, advanced manufacturing and processing – all of critical importance to the paint and coatings industry.
A Commission note said: "The specific objective of nanotechnologies research and innovation is to secure EU leadership in this high growth global market, by stimulating investment in nanotechnologies and their uptake in high added-value, competitive products and services…”
A good example of EU research in this field is the ongoing Hinamox project, where EU researchers have overcome a major challenge in assessing the toxicity of nanoparticles to humans by identifying individual nanoparticles in cells.
Metal and metal oxide nanoparticles, used in some coatings, are being assessed, with researchers, led by Spain’s Asociacion Centro de Investigacion Cooperativa en Biomateriales, using ion beam microscopy (IBM) and electron microscopy to observe specific nanoparticles.
This has been a major challenge in assessing nanotechnology toxicity – a European Commission note explained – because the amount of nanomaterial in affected cells had been unknown, "calculating the relationship between dose and effect has not [been] straightforward…”
Horizon 2020 will also fund work at the European Union’s Joint Research Centre (JRC). This month, it has drafted a shortlist of substances that EU ministers and MEPs could approve as a restricted range of denaturants making alcohol unfit for human consumption. These are used in products such as solvents. The idea is to help harmonise denaturing practices across the EU to reduce associated fraud and tax evasion: denatured alcoholic beverages are exempt from excise duties – but where member states approve different denaturing agents, this can create loopholes for smugglers and fraudsters to exploit, said the JRC.
w Elsewhere, the paint and coatings sector should benefit from the accession of Russia to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), scheduled for approval at a December 15-17 ministerial meeting in Geneva. Agreements securing its membership will cap Russian import tariffs at new lower levels, with the average for manufactured goods such as coatings being 7.3% as against 9.5% today.
Russia will also have to abide by global rules regarding its imposition of import bans based on health concerns about certain products – it has been accused of behaving arbitrarily in the past.
Also accession will cap Russian export duties on certain products, which include wood treated with paint, stains, creosote or other preservatives. All trade charges and customs fees will henceforth have to be transparent and published in the