What exactly is substitution?

CRM_InnoNet will drive networking, innovation and policy in the field of substitution of critical raw materials.

So what exactly is substitution?

The most obvious and simple example of substitution is the direct replacement of a material for another in a given application or process. An example that everyone would have noticed would be the use of plastic instead of glass for drinks bottles. In the chemical industry, growing evidence of the toxicity of certain solvents e.g. benzene has driven a move to the use of more benign solvents e.g. toluene.

A less obvious, but perhaps more innovative, way to replace a material, would be to substitute that material for an entirely new technology. For example, substituting traditional incandescent lightbulbs, which relied on tungsten, for light-emitting diodes (LEDs).

Sometimes substitution can be enabled by creating entirely new business models, where provision of service enables substitution. This approach is useful where companies make profit by offering a ‘solution,’ rather than a product. For example it is now possible to lease, rather than buy, carpet tiles. Interface have substituted the glue used to adhere carpet tiles to the floor with a removable PET connector affixed to each corner of the tile. Since the carpets are not stuck to the floor, they can easily be removed and returned to the company for recycling at the end of their life.

Substitution of a material for a new technology or a service may require a company to think outside the box, but there are potentially global opportunities for those that come up with such innovative solutions.

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