Chemicals and chemical processes are a fundamental part of most manufacturing supply chains. So Steve Fletcher, director of strategy at Chemistry Innovation says more companies should familiarise themselves with the directions chemistry innovation is taking.
Innovation is the conversion of new science, technology and concepts into commercial success. The manufacturing industry relies on it to make better, faster and cheaper products. Whether these are new products or processes, chemistry underpins many of them. Without modern chemicals it would be impossible to manufacture cars, aeroplanes and mobile phones.
Whether they are directly involved with chemistry or further down the chain, manufacturers should embrace this by becoming more closely aligned with the chemistry-using industry. They should recognise the value and input into how the industry evolves.
The chemistry-using industries can be viewed in three levels:
- Industries which manufacture chemical products and pharmaceuticals
- Industries which depend on chemistry to operate their business, such as agrochemicals, coatings, lubricants, home and personal care, food and drink, and mining
- Industries where chemistry is a key part of the value chain including transport, construction and energy generation
Take aerospace for example. The challenge facing aerospace is environmental impact. Chemistry helps in many ways, including through developing composite materials which offer lighter, stiffer and stronger materials for aircraft construction; developing advanced lubricants to increase efficiency; and producing fuels sourced from bio-renewable materials.
Similar examples abound in automotive, construction, healthcare, energy generation and just about any other area of manufacturing. It is critical that the UK chemicals industry is nurtured and encouraged to develop new products so that value is realised within the UK.
The problem is that higher value products are increasingly complicated. They inevitably require some level of pure research, scale up, computational processing, and a mix of biology, chemistry and physics. And as if this wasn’t enough of a headache, they need to be designed to address a real problem that people will pay to solve.
This is too much for one person, and often for one company, so we increasingly need to work collaboratively to find the right solutions and ensure the right ones get developed. We need people from across the sector to work together on individual projects, but also to input into policy and funding calls to ensure we are supporting the right industries.
Our upcoming event Innovation with Impact will help ensure we do that. It will bring together people from across the chemistry-using industries to showcase companies doing exciting things, and it will lay out a plan to ensure the ones with the most potential are properly supported.
Those working in, or with, the chemicals industry can learn about the opportunities to develop their innovations. Those working across the broader manufacturing sector can come and find partners and input into what the next generation of innovations in chemistry will look like.
Innovation with Impact takes place at Aston University, Birmingham on June 25-26. Tickets available here: http://bit.ly/17a1Qnr