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Accelerated digitalization key to decarbonizing the chemicals industry

A new report by MIT Technology Review Insights explores why focus on accelerated digitalization helps decarbonization and emissions efforts, and drives innovation.

The report, “Creative Chemistry: Adapting to the 21st Century,” is produced in partnership with Revvity Signals Software and draws on in-depth interviews with executives, professors, and industry leaders from organizations including AkzoNobel, Accenture, and ChemSec.

The findings are as follows:

Demand for decarbonization and emissions reduction is accelerating. The chemicals industry is the most energy-hungry of all in terms of CO2 emissions: If growth continues at current rates without decarbonization solutions, the sector’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions will double within 30 years. And the global push for a greener industry means governments are stepping up regulation. This means tackling “forever chemicals” that do not biodegrade and reducing the scale of chemical pollution. Due to its reach into many industries, the sector is a lynchpin for sustainability. This will require partnerships and data standards.

AI, digital twins, robotics, and lab automation are accelerating research productivity, improving operational efficiency, and enhancing safety. Chemical companies increasingly see digital transformation as a way to improve safety, optimize production, and advance R&D. AI is booming in analytical chemistry and biochemistry. AI, machine learning (ML) and digitization of research are enabling high-throughput research, allowing scientists to build on past efforts efficiently, identify promising ideas, and forecast product performance. Robotics and automation reduce human error and minimize the need for human contact with hazards, and the Internet of Things (IoT) allows visibility into everything from chemical transport to environmental, social, and governance (ESG) reporting.

Transforming to scale requires strategic oversight and coordination, a talent and capabilities plan, a focus on data standards and interoperability—and leadership. As chemical companies digitalize, some struggle to transition from pilot projects to companywide transformation. As digitalization increases the surface area for cyberattacks, security protocols must grow alongside. Companies that succeed often have a team dedicated to innovation and R&D, with organizational and strategic factors carefully mapped out. Without precise planning, digitization can result in inefficiency and confusion. High-level leadership is required to steer the effort and manage momentum.

“With governments worldwide intensifying regulations to promote greener industry practices, the focus on sustainability has become paramount,” says Laurel Ruma, global director of custom content for MIT Technology Review. “The chemicals industry, acting as a lynchpin across various sectors, must shoulder the responsibility to drive sustainable practices. This will necessitate forging partnerships, establishing data standards, and working collectively towards a net-zero chemicals industry.”

“Informatics software has emerged as a game-changer for specialty chemical companies, driving product innovation and sustainability,” says Jun Liu, head of marketing, industrial chemistry, Revvity Signals Software. “Data management software enables companies to optimize formulations, accelerate research and development, and enhance product performance by leveraging vast amounts of data and advanced analytics. It empowers researchers to make data-driven decisions, creating safer, greener, and more sustainable products. Informatics software is revolutionizing the chemical industry, paving the way for a future with enhanced efficiency and environmental responsibility.”

To download the report, click here.

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