IHS Chemical Week


The End of the International Year of Chemistry?

2:08 AM MST | December 2, 2011 | By ALEX SCOTT

Oh no it’s not.

Don't think for one minute that the International Year of Chemistry (IYC) has been pushed off into the long grass. The legacy of IYC is set to continue well beyond this year’s organized series of chemistry events and discussions; leading chemical companies have pledged to continue to talk out more about all the good stuff that chemistry can do; collaborate more closely with academia and policy makers; and increase their programs to engage with students. IYC, additionally, has been the catalyst that has enabled a new connection with many policy makers who now understand that chemistry really is the enabler for a better and more sustainable world. There is much to look forward to.

Yesterday’s official closing ceremony in Brussels was lit up by 13 young chemical industry professionals from around the world who were pulled together to provide their vision of what the world could be like in 2050 and their idea of the role the chemical industry might play almost 40 years from now. The 13 could have wilted in the face of an 800-strong audience featuring chemical industry CEOs, a Belgian prince and Nobel Laureates, but they strutted their stuff on stage and with passion and pride predicted how chemistry would be at the heart of a world in 2050 by enabling a forecast 9 billion people to live with clean water, food and sustainable energy. My prediction is that we will see at least one of these 13 re-emerge in a few years time in senior management roles. They were that good. 

Bright Future: One of the 13 members of the Young Leaders
group presents a forecast of the role of chemistry in 2050. 

Private meetings between CEOs held outside of the plenary session were just as upbeat, Geoffery Merszei, v.p./Dow Chemical and with responsibility for operations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, tells CW. Kurt Bock, chairman of BASF in conversation with CW was equally positive about the lasting effects of IYC.  

There’s a sense of new opportunity for the chemical industry, Merszei says. The industry is back in favor among policy makers and the development of modern economies based on the services sector alone is no longer in vogue. There is a renewed understanding among policy makers that manufacturing not only can solve sustainability challenges but create jobs, he says. Despite the global economic outlook these are exciting times and shareholders are going to like it too, Merszei adds.

Nowhere has the better understanding about the role of chemistry been starker than among the policy makers at the top of the European Commission. Maire Goeghegan-Quinn, EU commissioner for research, innovation and science, in a presentation during yesterday's IYC closing ceremony put meat on the bones of Wednesday’s announcement that the EU will spend a staggering €80 billion ($108 billion) on its Horizon 2020 innovation and R&D program. The program, which will run from 2014 to 2020, is designed to drive sustainable growth in the region. As far as I could tell from Geoghegan-Quinn’s presentation the chemical industry will be at the heart of almost every project in the program, from sustainable energy, transportation and housing through to food production and potable water. Oh and not forgettting energy efficiency, resource efficiency, and recycling. Oh and also health and pharmaceuticals. 

The closing ceremony yesterday in Brussels didn’t feel like a winding down – rather the start of a new phase in the chemical industry’s future. That future is one in which the chemical industry increasingly is recognized as being at the heart of technological progress in the world. What a year of chemistry it has been. 

More information about the closing ceremony - including a reference to this article - can be found on the official website for IYC.


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