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30 April 2024

UTECH Europe 2024 – An Event Worth Waiting For

UTECH Europe 2024 took place in the usual Spring slot on 23-25 April in its traditional venue at MECC Maastricht. The event happening every 3 years was again the centre-point of the global polyurethane industry. Over three days, participants from over 80 countries could see the latest innovations in the polyurethane industry, from raw materials to machinery, while enjoying the packed conference programme happening in two state-of-the-art auditoriums.

The highlights of the first day were the much anticipated UTECH Europe Awards. The ceremony was launched at the previous edition in 2021, with an aim to recognise and celebrate achievements and innovations from across the European polyurethanes industry. This year the sustainability factors proved decisive across all seven awards:

  • Sustainability Initiative Award: Econic Technologies for its CO2-based polyols
  • Material Innovation, Flexible Foam Award: Evonik Operations for TEGO RISE
  • Material Innovation Award: (not flexible foam): Dow for SPECFLEX CIRcular
  • Rising Star Award: Sam Hill of The Vita Group
  • Machinery Innovation Award: Covestro for Baulé alpha
  • Polyurethane Processor Award: Spanset Secutex
UTECH Europe 2024 Awards Winners. Source: UTECH Europe

Following keynote addresses by Peter Huntsman and Covestro’s Hermann-Josef Dörholt, the President of Europur, Bart J. ten Brink, delivered a presentation titled ‘The European Flexible Polyurethane Foam Industry – Current Status & Market Influencing Factors’. In his speech, Bart voiced an awakening call on behalf of the flexible PU foam industry, stating numerous challenges our industry is facing simultaneously. He echoed the need for a stronger European manufacturing base with lower regulatory pressure, so the EU can keep its international competitiveness of the PU foam industry.

For the first time ever, Sleep Expo Europe – an expo dedicated to the sleep, bedding and mattress industry – was held alongside UTECH Europe. Michel kicked off their conference with a keynote address ‘Sustainability of Mattresses – Time to Move to Science-based Data’. In view of the upcoming EU legislation affecting the mattress sector – that will impose more transparency to consumers and data exchanges along the value chain – Michel’s main message was that the LCA-industry-averages for various materials are not the solution, and that the collective mattress industry needs to ‘speak the same language’ – or, rather, adopt common, science-based sustainability standards.

Bart ten Brink at UTECH Europe 2024 alongside Crain's James Snodgrass
Michel Baumgartner delivering a keynote address at Sleep Expo Europe

On the second day at UTECH, Patrick de Kort, EUROPUR’s Regulatory Affairs Manager, kicked off the Flexible PU Foam session with an ‘Update on the Safety Guidelines for the Flexible PU Foam Industry’. He also distributed physical copies of the safety guidelines to many interested participants in the audience. 

A while later, Theodoros Mardas, Sustainability Policy Officer, presented on ‘Design Considerations for the Circularity of Mattresses’. The key message he conveyed was twofold; no one holds monopoly on the truth about eco-design of different mattress parts, and – more importantly – to facilitate efficient recycling of mattresses, less is definitely more. The Flexible PU Foam session was moderated by the Secretary General of EUROPUR.

The following day, Damir Andrašek, Communications Officer, delivered a presentation on ‘Improving the Sustainability of Polyurethane Foam in Automotive’. It is the view of EURO-MOULDERS that there are three crucial aspects with a lot of potential to improve the sustainability of polyurethanes in automobiles: (i) sourcing more alternative raw materials for polyurethanes, (ii) improving the end-of-life treatment of cars, and (iii) re-thinking design of car parts to facilitate recycling. Damir emphasised that there are various ways to improve the sustainability of PU in automotive, but to achieve it, an ecosystem-based approach is necessary.

Patrick de Kort presenting on the Safety Guidelines for the Flexible PU Foam Industry
Theodoros Mardas presenting on Design Considerations for Circularity of Mattresses
Damir Andrasek presenting on Improving the Sustainability of Polyurethane Foam in Automotive

UTECH is always a great opportunity to exchange with many of our members. This year there were more than 30 of them; below is a snapshot of (some of) their booths:

In case you missed this year’s UTECH Europe, you can see the highlights in videos below: 

About UTECH Europe

Organised by Crain Communications’ Global Polymer Group and in association with Urethanes Technology International, UTECH Europe is the leading international exhibition and conference for the global polyurethanes industry.