Despite the diversity of the Chemicals and Materials space, most companies face similar needs around the collection, management, and application of complex R&D data. Dotmatics’ Vice President and Global Head of Science and Technology, Alister Campbell, has gained a wealth of insight on this topic by working with an array companies who are responsible for some of the market’s most innovative products, including specialty chemical and materials, agricultural solutions, personal care products, and flavors/fragrances. Campbell recently sat down for a Q&A sessions to review the trends and needs he is seeing in the market and to discuss how Dotmatics is working closely with many of the market’s leading innovators to ensure that the Dotmatics Chemicals and Materials R&D Solution will continue to support innovation in this demanding and ever-evolving space. In the video, Campbell:
Reviews the latest trends in the Chemical and Materials space and discusses the pressures R&D teams face to innovate in an environment of increasing regulations, shortened timelines, and shrinking budgets.
Explores why it’s so imperative for Chemical and Materials R&D teams to find technology solutions that not only support their unique and complex workflows, but also foster innovation by helping them build off existing knowledge and work better together.
Discusses how a lab digitalization strategy that prioritizes quality data capture, structuring, standardization, and interoperability is not only a must-have for streamlining workflows and supporting collaborative innovation, but also a key precursor to applying artificial intelligence and machine learning to optimize R&D programs and stay competitive in a demanding marketplace.
Current Trends in the Chemicals and Materials Market
Question 1: What are some of the most exciting innovations to come out of the Chemicals and Materials space?
Campbell: The Chemicals and Materials space is so diverse, with research covering a huge area of interest, but with environmental issues being such a pressing topic for us all; innovations such as the sodium-ion battery, which could replace the now ubiquitous lithium-ion battery that we are all so familiar with, could have dramatic impacts on our lives. As we know, lithium-ion batteries can be dangerous; they can be flammable if damaged and exposed to air; the raw materials, lithium and cobalt, are rare and expensive. Developing sodium-ion batteries—which are sustainable, non-toxic, non-flammable, have a wider working-temperature range and contain the more-easily-accessible materials sodium and aluminum, which can be sourced from common ores or from sea water—reduces costs and removes monopolies where the majority of the materials are sourced from single locations; this change would have a huge impact on all our lives.
Question 2: Is there a similar process most Chemical and Materials organizations follow for materials innovation? What steps are critical for any Chemical and Materials cycle?
Campbell: Across all R&D programs in the Chemicals & Materials organizations that we encounter, they all follow the scientific method to design, create, or make a new material and then test it to see if it performs better or worse than the materials they have made or seen before. At Dotmatics we call this the Make-Test-Decide cycle. With this data, they will adapt the materials, recipe or process (or all three of these) to design more materials that meet the objectives of the project. In order to do this efficiently, Chemicals & Materials organizations need to capture all the information about the rationale for the material, the ingredients that went into it, the process that was performed, and the tests that were carried out on it. Only when an R&D team does these steps can they truly innovate and learn from the many experiments and tests carried out. The easier it is for scientists to identify previous data, the faster they can design new materials or experiments that have a greater chance of being a successful new product.
Question 3: What makes R&D in this space challenging compared to others? Why is it particularly challenging to optimize costs and get new innovations to market quickly?
Campbell: Due to rapidly changing R&D pipelines and requirements for shortening timelines for innovation, we have witnessed many Chemicals & Materials organizations delay their true digitalization journeys, believing that it would take too long. But, despite this delay, most organizations are now seeing the power in leveraging the tsunami of data that their researchers are increasingly capturing throughout the R&D process. By capturing, structuring, standardizing, and managing the data they generate, organizations are now seeing the ability of applying artificial intelligence and machine learning models to their programs. Researchers will be able to more accurately analyze, model, predict, and potentially have AI prescribe ingredients, processes, and conditions to enable them to get to the right new innovative material quicker and with less cost. This has benefits for companies and consumers.
How Dotmatics is Supporting Chemicals and Materials Innovation
Question 4: What is Dotmatics’ vision for improving R&D in the Chemicals and Materials space?
Campbell: Capturing, structuring, and managing scientific data is in Dotmatics DNA. By performing these fundamentals and providing a user-friendly and flexible interface for researchers, we believe that Chemicals & Materials organizations’ use of the Dotmatics platform will fundamentally allow them to design, develop, and bring to market effective materials, which are required in modern society, faster and more economically.
Question 5: Why is unlocking data intelligence and data-driven processes so important for Chemicals and Materials R&D and the industry as a whole?
Campbell: Chemicals & Materials project timelines are short. The need for fast, cost-effective research and development, which brings to market new products in less than two years, is paramount. With increased regulation, budget squeezes, and challenging market conditions, capturing quality data, and using it with data-science, offers a key method in the scientists’ toolkit to help achieve their objectives.
Question 6: How does Dotmatics Chemical and Materials Solution help teams integrate, share, visualize, and analyze data in ways they couldn’t before?
Campbell: With the Dotmatics Chemical and Materials Solution, researchers across an organization can now search for materials, procedures, or results in a truly seamless fashion. Data that once resided in multiple disjointed systems, with poorly searchable interfaces, can now be used to discover insights; collated data, from multiple teams in disparate locations, can now be used to learn and make informed decisions about what direction research should take. The power of being able to compare, both in tabular or form-based views, and to explore data graphically in powerful multi-dimensional visualizations, makes the Dotmatics Chemical and Materials Solution unique on the market.
Question 7: What are some examples of how Dotmatics has helped a customer streamline processes and drive innovation?
Campbell: I have seen first hand the impact that the Dotmatics Chemical and Materials Solution is making with our customers, enabling them to innovate faster, streamline processes, and collaborate more broadly across their departments. A large Chemicals and Materials customer showed me a specific example, where a polymeric material that was created within one department for one single purpose (which it ultimately didn’t have the correct properties for), turned out to actually have the ideal properties for a different business unit who were starting out an internal project. Without the Dotmatics Solution, this company would never have known that the ideal material starting point already existed within their organization. This simple search across the properties of the existing materials and results gave this company a huge competitive advantage as they were initiating a project from a position of knowledge.
Question 8: How is Dotmatics helping Chemical and Materials organizations prepare for the future?
Campbell: Moving into the future, organizations are looking more and more to leverage AI and machine learning to speed up their research efforts. By laying the groundwork of quality data capture, streamlined workflows, and readily accessible data (both programmatically and to end-users), the Dotmatics Chemical and Materials Solution is uniquely positioned to enable this vision to become a reality. This high-quality data will allow organizations to accurately model data, and moving forward, it will allow them to start having AI augment the scientists by not only predicting with greater accuracy their chances of success, but also by having AI prescribe the next course of action, unbiased by human experience, based solely on the data it has seen.
Learn how the Dotmatics Chemicals and Materials R&D Solution helps research teams unite existing data sources, integrate systems and speciality tools, and streamline workflows so that they can work better together to fully utilize all the diverse R&D data coming from their complex and variable R&D processes.