Christophe Nebon, Technical and Performance Director in charge of Veolia’s Research & Innovation department
“The first strategy strengthens the existing business, making it more efficient. For example, in the field of energy recovery from waste, refractory material is expensive. Research focused on making it more durable over time. Thus, an innovative refractory tile with a longer life was developed to reduce maintenance costs and reduce downtime in energy recovery processes.
The second strategy concerns innovations that enrich existing offerings or develop new ones: in water resource management, modeling tools have been developed to better plan the use of these resources according to their availability. In water treatment, new solutions have been developed to meet increasingly demanding quality standards.
For waste recycling and recovery, much research concerns the development of the Materials Recovery Facility 4.0, which integrates artificial intelligence (AI) technologies capable of analyzing waste streams and controling automatic sorting. We are currently developing a gantry, placed over the sorting lines, which continuously analyzes the waste stream and assesses sorting quality, using AI. This automatic quality control tool is currently being tested in France and the United Kingdom.
We support and accompany new areas of activity with strong growth potential, such as activities related to plastics formulation. For recovery, we sort plastics according to their type and sometimes their color; then we design recipes, notably adding additives that modify the properties of the plastic to meet customers’ needs. This is called formulation or compounding. We work closely with plants to model and industrialize this expertise. The aim is to promote the integration of recycled materials into manufacturers’ products and innovate by designing new uses or new designs of material produced by Veolia.
Innovations are developed thanks to the skills of R&I teams and an open innovation approach with innovative young companies. For air quality, we assess what exists on the market and, if necessary, we improve it with our partners. Innovation, yes, but pragmatically!”