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Vol. 30 No. 5
September-October 2008

Conference Call | Reports from recent conferences and symposia 
See also www.iupac.org/symposia

Chemistry in a Changing World—New Possibilities within the IUPAC Family

by Michael Droescher

IUPAC is strongly based on academia and national organizations. The links to industry are not as tight, although IUPAC is also the International Union of Applied Chemistry. Among the membership of IUPAC there are about 80 company associates (CAs): 25 from Europe, 35 from Japan, and 4 from the USA. Clearly, Japan is the leading country in terms of IUPAC-industry interaction. COCI, the Committee on Chemistry and Industry, wants to strengthen the rather weak links between chemical companies and the Union. To move forward in this direction, COCI supports the move to increase the number of CAs and to improve the cooperation between IUPAC and the chemical industry on a global scale.

Improvement only comes with contacts and exchange of ideas. Therefore, COCI started a series of workshops to engage chemical industry directly and through industrial federations. The first workshop was held 25 April 2008 in Marl, Germany, together with the annual COCI meeting. The events were hosted by Evonik Industries.

About 25 representatives from IUPAC, COCI, the European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic), the German Chemical Industry Association (VCI), the German Chemical Society (GDCh), the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), and some industrial companies met for one day to discuss the topic “Chemistry in a Changing World—New Possibilities within the IUPAC Family.”

The workshop started with a dinner on the 24th, where Gernot Klotz from Cefic kicked off the discussion with a presentation about the potential for cooperation between industry and IUPAC. In the morning, Michael Droescher welcomed participants and introduced Evonik to the audience. Evonik is a newly formed company whose chemical division is the former Degussa. Then, IUPAC President Jung-Il Jin, who personally took part in the workshop because of the importance of the topic, extended a warm welcome to all participants and introduced IUPAC to the audience. Mark Cesa, the chair of COCI, reviewed COCI’s priorities, including the sharing of best practices, knowledge transfer to developing countries, capacity building, and building public appreciation of chemistry. Rene van Sloten from Cefic reported on the activities of Europe’s High Level Group on Competitiveness of the European Chemical Industry. Marian Mours, also from Cefic, talked about innovation in the chemical industry, and Rodney Townsend, from RSC and chair of the European Technology Platform Sustainable Chemistry, discussed the international strategy of the RSC.

After lunch, the workshop broke into three parallel sessions in which participants exchanged views and discussed opportunities for future activities. The first session focused on “Innovation—Turning Chemistry into Practical Value” and was moderated by Colin Humphris, the second on “Objective Chemical Regulations,” moderated by Mike Booth, and the third on “Reputation and Public Appreciation of Applied Chemistry,” moderated by Bernard West.

In the context of innovation, an obvious starting point is the realization that chemistry alone is not enough, and that the discipline needs to reach applications, customers, and other disciplines. During the discussion, the importance of educating people with the right skill sets for industry was raised: Aside from a general science education, individuals should acquire an ability to discuss science, and an emphasis on seminars, communications, team work, and business awareness should be included in their training. Consultation with experienced people (including retired professionals) could be valuable, especially during transition phases to commercial development (pilot plants, etc.). To foster innovation, the right infrastructures are necessary. Various industries have adapted different strategies; some are providing “seed funds,” others are creating strategic alliances with academic institutions. The role and place of science in such a framework is evolving, and the question was asked “What role can IUPAC play in facilitating industry/academia interaction?”

In terms of regulations and policies, it is recognized that Cefic in Europe is well set to help the chemical industry respond to regulations such as REACH. What IUPAC/COCI could add is assistance in spreading this information to the rest of the world. It could also assist chemists by informing them of the basic scientific facts that are important in, and relevant to, regulations. IUPAC can add the global perspective that is needed. For example, European regulations are impacting business globally because companies from countries exporting to Europe, such as South Africa, Australia, and Russia, have to comply with specific regulations.

Members of COCI and invited guests at the annual meeting and workshop in Marl, Germany, in April 2008.

To conclude the workshop, the plenum met to hear reports from the break-out sessions by Carolyn Ribes, Aldo Bologna Alles, and Davis Evans and to discuss future actions. In summary, it was concluded that IUPAC has the power to contribute strongly to the positioning of the global chemical industry. Two examples include promoting and sponsoring the Year of Chemistry in 2011 or by transferring knowledge gained from the European Technology Platform Sustainable Chemistry to the developing part of the world. To make this work, IUPAC needs to attract more chemists in the chemical and pharmaceutical industry to take part in IUPAC’s activities. IUPAC should also attract more companies as Company Associates.

To be a stronger voice as the global scientific organization on chemistry, IUPAC should be recognized as an official scientific Non Governmental Organization with other relevant NGOs. Based on IUPAC’s excellent global reputation in the fields of nomenclature and standards, this goal should be easily achievable if IUPAC improves its communication outside of the organization.

IUPAC’s focus should be more in the developing world than in Europe or other regions, where national or regional organizations like GDCh, RSC, or EuCheMS make sure that chemistry is represented. Focus is meant here as the direct transfer of knowledge, such as through training of safety measures, by developing innovative fileds, or by improving teaching methods. On a global scale, IUPAC should work more closely together with the International Council of Chemical Associations.

A second workshop is being planned for the Asian region in Japan in April 2009. For more information, see IUPAC project 2006-030-1-022.

Michael Droescher <michael.droescher@evonik.com> works for Evonik Industries, Innovation Management Chemicals, in Essen, Germany. He has been a member of the IUPAC Committee on Chemistry and Industry since 2004.


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