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Platinum gRoup MEtals saving by monoliTHos Efficient and disrUptive catalySt innovation

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - PROMETHEUS (Platinum gRoup MEtals saving by monoliTHos Efficient and disrUptive catalySt innovation)

Reporting period: 2016-08-01 to 2017-01-31

In 2014, the EC released the European Critical Raw Materials Review (CRMs), highlighting a list of materials defined critical. Platinum Group Materials (PGMs), contained in this list, are among the least abundant of the Earth's elements and were classified as materials whose substitution is currently extremely difficult and recycling rate is very low. The supply of PGMs (Europe is the main importer) is currently ensured mostly by primary sources (72%) coming from both mines and recycled products (no mines in Europe), and it cannot meet the global demand (current deficit 20 tonnes). PGMs demand (up to 80%) is driven mainly by the emission control catalysts market which is expected to reach €6 billion by 2019.

The PROMETHEUS project will bring to the market a disruptive innovation, allowing for the first time to substitute up to 60% of PGMs used in autocatalysts with copper nanoparticles, while keeping the same performances and durability. Specifically the PROMETHEUS project objectives are:

1. Industrialising PROMETHEUS production and demonstrate on large scale its performances. PROMETHEUS has already been validated in the real environment with a key stakeholder (FIAT, Large multinational automotive industry) also supporting Phase 2;

2. Substituting 60% of PGMs used in autocatalysts with copper nanoparticles, saving up to 40 tonnes of PGMs per year, 2 times the current global deficit;

3. Decoupling Europe from a Critical Raw Material (PGMs), saving up to 60% of PGMs European demand per year (20 tonnes per year – the current global demand/supply deficit);

4. Boosting European automotive and emission control catalyst markets. Copper costs ~6,800 times less than Platinum (4.5€/Kg against 30,550 €/Kg) which means that European industries can save almost €250 mln to be reinvested in RD&I and job growth.

5. Boosting MONOLITHOS growth. In 5 years after market introduction, MONOLITHOS expects to have grown by 125% in personnel and achieve a total turnover of at least €35 mln.
D1.1 Feasibility report, including a business plan includes a report about the feasibility study conducted, providing a set of analyses and strategies for the successful commercialisation of the innovative PROMETHEUS solution. In particular the study covers the strategy for SME-Instrument Phase 2 project implementation and the key aspects to ensure a smooth market introduction.
A technical assessment provided a comparison with competing solutions and validated successful upscaling from laboratory to real scale prototype dimension. Consequently a commercial plan for PROMETHEUS was developed identifying technical constraints, risks and contingency. The development and deployment strategies have been assessed selecting the best technologies and matches available.
A business plan has been developed with achievable and realistic objectives for the PROMETHEUS solution, providing a clear mission and vision. It includes a market and competition analysis, showing that PROMETHEUS responds to current trends and needs and has a competitive advantage in terms of features and price. The business model and business cases are also presented. These business cases are based on real-world interaction with top clients (including BASF and Renault) who have also engaged to Pilot the solution in Phase 2. A 5-year financial projection and ROI analysis have been conducted.
An operational company strategy study has been performed to assess operational requirements to develop and sell PROMETHEUS. It includes a plan for the set-up of large-scale development, takes into account running requirements, HR and competence needs in particular marketing efforts.
Finally a detailed planning and strategy for the SME Instrument Phase 2 project is provided and presents funding, preliminary work-plan and tasks.

The project shall continue, primarily through the application for Phase 2 SME Instrument. The objectives and expected impacts of PROMETHEUS have not substantially changed nor has the concept and approach.
Here below we summarise the main results of the Feasibility Study:
1. Technical feasibility: The targeted values of PGMs substitution (at least 50%) have been perfectly reached and even an outstanding 66.7% substitution for Euro III vehicles has been achieved. The current certifications for achieved results have been obtained and the product is ready for demonstration in real environment during Phase 2. All performances and expected advantages with respect to competitors (production cost, quality of the catalytic process, etc.) have been validated.

2. Business Opportunity: Market demand is growing very fast and client interest is solid. Fiat, Renault and BASF already confirmed interest in the project and to support demonstration activities during Phase 2. Pre-commercial agreements are already under evaluations. It is confirmed the potential of PROMETHEUS solution to expand MONOLITHOS business in OEM and OES markets resulting in a 1636% ROI in total and a breakeven already during second year after project end with a total turnover (5 year of commercialisation) of more than €100 Million, and net profits before taxation equals to around €40 Million.

3. Phase 2 Implementation: Financial analysis assess that the financial support foreseen In Phase 1 proposal including prototypes production, demonstration activities in relevant environments, costs for tests, customisation as well as supporting infrastructure, is correct. Instead the overall economic impact of the project will increase. An in-depth analysis of development, requirements consolidation and marketing needs, as well as collaboration with the demonstrations, concluded that project duration of 24 months it is adequate for correct implementation of all actions, and allowing for buffer times. The following table summarises the number of pilots to be carried out in Phase 2.

Renault Oxygen storage capacity; Catalytic performances; platinum metal group content; ageing and laboratory reactor testing of the Materials. 9 pieces to be tested in both cases
BASF Catalytic performances; platinum metal group content; ageing and laboratory reactor testing of the Materials.

Regarding useful support, PGMs suppliers, certified testing companies (for certifications), component producers and clients are already engaged. In terms of expertise MONOLITHOS has ensured to have all the required expertise (through internal HR and external support) to carry out the project. These will guarantee a successful and timely launch of PROMETHEUS in the market.
Innovativeness and ambition: PROMETHEUS’s disruptive innovation consists of the nanomaterial composition enabling the partial substitution of the expensive and critical (for the European Economy) Platinum Group Metals with Copper Nanoparticles as the active catalytic material incorporated in automotive catalysts. PROMETHEUS permits the substitution of up to 60% of PGMs in Automotive Catalytic Converters, and no MONOLITHOS’s competitor is able to do that so far, being PGMs considered irreplaceable in catalytic converters. MONOLITHOS’s ambition is to achieve and consolidate market leadership in aftermarket replacement catalysts sector, while entering and expanding its business in other two key domains, such as: Original Equipment Substitution (OES) market and Original Equipment Manufacturing (OEM) market. PROMETHEUS, being a key enabling solution able to change the emission control catalyst market shape, has the potential to help MONOLITHOS become one of the key players in the sector at European level.

With respect to competitors PROMETHEUS offers: 1) The only catalytic converter composed of up to 60% less PGMs. No competitor can offer a similar solution addressing the strong market need to reduce dependency on PGMs, so any automotive industry interested in such solution, so far, can refer only to MONOLITHOS solution. 2) Same top class catalytic performances of competitors’ solutions, but costing at least 20% less than competitors’ ones. In fact, copper cost is 6,800 times lower than Platinum, thus resulting in a huge reduction of raw materials cost. 3) A breakthrough innovation directly addressing both automotive market needs and EU resource efficiency objectives.

PROMETHEUS end user benefits: Automotive industries will have a duple benefit consisting of a lower cost of the catalytic converter (at least 20% less than the current market price) while maintaining top class performances, and a decoupling of vehicles yearly production from the availability of PGMs (in 2014 the gap between demand and supply of Platinum was already 20 tonnes). World players like FIAT, Renault, and BMW have already supported the tests so far conducted and FIAT is already interested in supporting Phase 2 implementation.

MONOLITHOS benefits: PROMETHEUS will enable MONOLITHOS to address a key European and global challenge and opportunity in the autocatalysts sector, specifically reducing the dependency on PGMs for catalytic converters. PROMETHEUS, enabling the substitution of up to 60% of PGMs inside catalytic converters, will help MONOLITHOS expand its market share in the “Aftermarket Replacement Catalytic Converter” sector while entering new bigger markets, such as: Original Equipment Substitution (OES) markets; Original Equipment Manufacturing (OEM) Market.

European Wider impacts: The PROMETHEUS project will deliver a catalytic converter perfectly complying with directive 715/2007/EC, and promoting the realisation of a safer supply chain for the production of automotive catalytic converters by substituting a Critical Raw Material (there are no PGMs mines within Europe) with copper nanoparticles. PROMETHEUS’s expected impacts are: reducing by 25% to 60% the European demand for PGMs (9-20 tonnes per year); saving more than €250 mln yearly from reduced importation of PGMs (Platinum cost -30550€/kg ) that can be reinvested into RD&I and job creation.