“Faster, Please”: Key Challenges in Chemicals and Materials R&D


Chemicals and materials research teams face many challenges and top amongst them is speed. These teams need to conduct research faster; get to a material faster; get to market faster. In order to quickly develop materials with very specific properties, teams must adopt nimble workflows and flexible informatics solutions that let them:

  • React quickly: Customers often demand incredibly short turnaround times of weeks or even days. On-time delivery can be complicated by secondary challenges, such as regulatory changes that restrict usage or access of key ingredients, or supply chain issues due to external factors, such as COVID, conflict, weather events, trade embargos, taxes, etcetera. Careful accounting of exactly when and how ingredients are used is essential so that finding suitable alternatives is easier in a pinch.

  • Leverage data: Teams need to keep close track of ingredients, processing parameters, and material performance so that they can use their R&D data to decide exactly what materials to make next. It is estimated that 80% of decision support is based on connecting structural properties to test data. But, transforming raw R&D data into the insights that propel innovation can be an onerous process, and that process is only getting more challenging as teams struggle to find informatics solutions that can handle their needs around data volume, sharing, automation, and analysis. Teams often need to also leverage their historical data and knowledge, which can be next-to-impossible when data are in many different states with digitization projects at different stages; key data may be difficult to find and use if they are scattered across various reports, data silos, and even in personal machines or paper notebooks.

  • Accommodate variance: C&M processes are often quite ingrained and can vary widely, with different testing regimens and equipment. For example, teams making shampoo are going to have a very different set of processing conditions and tests than teams making tires. Finding an informatics solution that accommodates variance—even within different groups in the same company—can be a struggle and researchers have often had to rely on cobbled together or less-than-ideal solutions.

  • Support sustainability: Over the past several years, the market has become increasingly committed to sustainability, as companies aim to create less waste, reduce pollution, and minimize environmental impact. For example, LEGO hopes to make most of its products from sustainable sugarcane by 2030, and Adidas has unveiled the world’s first performance shoe made from biodegradable biofibers. This focus on sustainability will have a wide-ranging impact—from ingredient selection, tracking and origin-tracing to later product testing.

Addressing Challenges in Chemicals and Materials R&D

Unfortunately, the struggle to overcome the challenges facing Chemicals and Materials R&D teams has long been amplified by a lack of off-the-shelf informatics solutions that truly address these teams’ unique needs. Legacy solutions consisting of disconnected electronic laboratory notebooks (ELNs), laboratory information management systems (LIMS), and loosely-linked applications typically fall short. (We discuss this issue in greater length in the blog, “Three Reasons Why Finding a Chemical & Materials Informatics System is Challenging.”)

While C&M teams know that creating a future-ready lab is imperative, making that change can be a huge endeavor. In fact, a recent C&EN webinar presented by Dotmatics found that many webinar participants admitted that they are still early in their journey toward digitization and are still struggling with issues such as isolated systems and poorly integrated pieces. These companies said they hope to improve upon issues such as data quality and transparency, process efficiency, and AI/ML preparedness.

As C&M teams face growing pressure to work faster, smarter and more sustainably, it is now more important than ever for them to create a future-ready C&M lab. It is time to think beyond the traditional options of disconnected ELNs, LIMS, and applications, and to look toward next-generation technology that blends elements of each to deliver a powerful and flexible Chemicals and Materials R&D Solution that helps accelerate data-driven C&M innovation. Dotmatics delivers an end-to-end solution by connecting specialty research applications and workflows within an open and flexible data-centric platform. With Dotmatics, teams can standardize and unite R&D data, ready themselves for AI/ML, improve operational excellence and individual productivity, and, ultimately, accelerate innovation.

Creating a Future-Ready C&M Lab with Dotmatics

Inspired by the experiences of our C&M customers, we have created the Dotmatics Chemicals and Materials Solution. This off-the-shelf solution offers a package of capabilities, including ELN and ingredient-, sample- and data-management functionality. The solution supports rapid, data-driven materials innovation by providing a flexible end-to-end workflow that covers the entire “Make-Test-Decide” innovation cycle—from experiment planning to all the way through to material analysis and reporting. And, most importantly, it captures all the context of the C&M workflow, enabling researchers to connect ingredients, processing parameters, and material performance, so that their R&D data can tell them what materials to make next. 

What Makes Dotmatics C&M Solution Unique?

  • Data-driven platform

    • Provides unified view on all data

    • Offers natively interoperable components

    • Implements roles and workflows

    • Integrates third-party data sources and applications

  • Configuration-driven interface

    • Delivers flexible domain models via templates

    • Simplifies adoption via workflow implementation

    • Eliminates data silos

  • “Data-out” capabilities

    • Provides ability to query against all aspects of a domain model

    • Integrates round trip: query, visualization, decision support, report

Learn More: On-Demand Webinar

To learn more about the ways Dotmatics is helping address the challenges facing C&M teams, watch the webinar, “How to Accelerate Chemicals and Materials R&D with Next-Gen Technology.” 

In this recording we:

  • Review the challenges facing Chemicals and Materials R&D teams

  • Explore why it’s difficult to find an informatics solution to address those challenges

  • Discuss how Dotmatics’ next-gen informatics solution has the power and flexibility needed to accelerate nimble, data-driven C&M innovation.

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