Al Sadoun ... helping advance innovation

The Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association (GPCA) Research and Innovation Conference will return to Dubai, UAE, on September 26-27 to discuss the theme ‘Catalyzing a Sustainable Future through R&I’.

The 7th GPCA R&I Conference will shed light on the importance of research and innovation to transition towards a low carbon future, trends in green fuels and new technologies for energy and transportation, the latest hydrogen developments at chemical companies in the region, circular economy and sustainable feedstocks.

GPCA’s only event of its kind dedicated to chemical research and innovation in the region will open its doors to senior decision makers from private and public organisations, value chain stakeholders, industry leaders and academia from the GCC and other leading nations in the innovation field.

Delegates will be welcomed on day one by Dr Bob Maughon, EVP, Sustainability, Technology and Innovation and Chief Technology and Sustainability Officer, SABIC, and Chairman, R&I Committee, GPCA.

Next on the agenda will be a fireside chat with Abdulmohsen Almajnouni, Advisor to the President, King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) and Member, Core Development Team, RDIA, on the role of regulators in enabling a globally competitive chemical industry.

A plenary address will feature Dr Kevin Cullen, VP of Innovation, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), who will share learnings from industry and academia collaboration, while the second session of the day will spotlight four unique case studies from the region of successful cooperation between chemical companies and academic institutions.

Dr Moayyed Al Qurtas, Advisor, GPCA R&I Committee, will deliver the welcome address on day two, followed by Ahmad Al Khowaiter, Chief Technology Officer, Saudi Aramco, who will participate in an executive panel discussion on energy security and sustainable feedstocks for the GCC.

Other topics on the final day of the conference include a look at the new technologies catalysing the drive towards net-zero, and a masterclass on how the industry can shift to new circular business models led by Dimitri Daniels, Leader, Circular Economy Business EUR, SABIC.

According to a recent GPCA report, entitled ‘The Innovation Imperative of the Chemical Industry in the Arabian Gulf’, GCC chemical producers invested $480 million in research and development in 2019 prior to the pandemic, registering a 9 per cent increase on the year before and exceeding the industry’s long-term average growth of 5.6 per cent per annum.

However, the report found that at just 0.7 per cent, annual R&D investment by regional chemical producers as a portion of chemical revenue is almost four and a half times lower compared to the 3.1 per cent at leading chemical players in the world.

These figures demonstrate the size of the opportunity that lies ahead for chemical and petrochemical producers to grow their research and innovation capabilities and improve their competitive position globally.

According to GPCA, developing the research and development sector can yield significant socio-economic benefits across the region.

To measure R&D’s economic footprint, GPCA worked with Oxford Economics to assess the number of jobs supported by R&D, and R&D’s contribution to a country’s gross value-added.

Based on the assessment, GPCA found that every direct R&D job in the GCC chemical industry supports five jobs elsewhere within the economy like the broader supply chain and through the procurement of goods and services.

According to Dr Abdulwahab Al Sadoun, Secretary General, GPCA: "The GCC region has ambitious aspirations to transform their economies into a hub for innovation where new inventions are incubated, and technological developments are born by indigenous local talent as well as by attracting leading scientists and innovators from across the globe. However, the region has a long way to go to realize its innovation ambitions."

A recent GPCA survey has revealed that while the majority of executives at GPCA member companies say innovation is a top priority, only a small percentage of them believes that their companies are successful innovators.

To help advance the innovation efforts at chemical companies in the region, GPCA has set out a number of recommendations, among which are transforming the corporate culture at chemical firms, aligning their innovation strategy with their wider business strategy, improving collaboration with customers and the value chain, and embracing external sources of ideas.

"Building an enabling research and innovation environment at chemical companies in the region has never been more important as the sector is faced with balancing its business, environmental and societal obligations. I am confident that the 7th GPCA Research and Innovation Conference will provide the right platform for some of the best and most technologically savvy industry thought leaders to come together, exchange learnings and collaborate towards a more sustainable future," adds Al Sadoun.

In line with its mission to support talent development in the region and promote STEM, this year’s conference will feature a dedicated competition for undergraduate and postgraduate university students who will be provided with one-of-a-kind opportunity to present their innovative ideas to industry leaders on the first day of the conference.

Now in its 2nd edition, the GPCA Innovation Competition was launched to bridge the gap between industry and academia in line with GPCA’s efforts to foster an innovation culture in the Arabian Gulf.

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