“Chemistry is the most exciting one of all natural sciences” – J. Fleischer
Already as a child I was fascinated by the concepts and possibilities of chemistry. Changing matter. Designing matter. Transforming matter. Today, more than 90 % of all the goods we consume have had a chemical step somewhere in their process of making. Hence, in public chemistry is often seen as dangerous, toxic – unnatural. And most of all, chemistry is not seen as exciting place to be for a young person who wants to be innovative. And, actually, being a chemist in industrial research is not that fascinating at all anymore. Often the offices and lab furniture are a bit outdated – as the processes, methods and structures are. Chemistry innovation is laggard, not lead in creating an environment for innovation.
Having been myself in this environment for more than 10 years, I experienced how difficult it was to change this environment. Budget restrictions, but more than that culture and mindset made it challenging to implement a different innovation approach. Consequently, I saw many chemists suffer. They suffered because they could not facilitate their full potential. Ideas could not be realized. Initiatives got squeezed. I decided to leave that system, but keep pushing for a new innovation culture in chemical industry: transform chemistry innovation.
How can corporate chemists and engineers keep delivering excellent innovation, how can we, together, raise the bar for speed, hit-rate, quality, customer understanding in chemistry R&D? My vision is to create a human centered approach in chemical industry research and development. An approach where the experts are enabled and empowered to do what they can do best: ideate and innovate in chemistry. For that, structures, culture and mindset of the people involved need to get changed. Chemistry R&D should become an exciting workplace, a place where strong contributions are made to solve the challenges we face: clean water, feeding the world without intoxicating the environment, or new materials e.g. for energy storage.
What is needed is an opening, an opening of the internal structures towards more cooperation, more interaction, and more cross-disciplinary cooperation. But also we chemists need to open ourselves for life-long learning, new methods, and cross-pollution with concepts from different disciplines.
I’m deeply convinced in doing so, there is a great potential to be unleashed in industrial chemistry research. New materials, new processes, new services, new applications, new business models – the potential is endless.