In the chemical industry, digital technology has come to play an important role in research and development (R&D), where it is helping companies with everything from increasing throughput in the development of molecules to optimizing formulations for cost and performance. That’s good—but today, there is a growing opportunity to do more with technology. In fact, according to Accenture research, a “typical” €10 billion revenue chemical company could potentially see an EBIT (earnings before interest and taxes) increase of €40 to €70 million by making fuller, more effective use of digital technology.
To achieve those kinds of benefits, however, R&D departments will have to move beyond the traditional approach of implementing fragmented standalone systems. Instead, they will need to pursue cross-functional and cross-value chain integration—and use the technology to support and connect the entire innovation process. As they do so, they should focus on six technology building blocks:
These building blocks can be applied at key points in the core R&D process to help move innovations from concepts to products ready for commercialization and marketing:
Figure 1: R&D stage-gate process enabled by digital technology and integrated with digital marketing
As chemical companies take advantage of these technologies, they will need to take a systematic approach to assessing and implementing them. This will be key to controlling costs, keeping a sharp focus on achieving the expected benefits and, of course, avoiding the traditional fragmentation of the R&D technology landscape.
With that in mind, R&D teams should begin by working with IT to create a clear vision and roadmap and build the appropriate data and technology platforms—all in alignment with the company’s overall digital strategy. With a planned, comprehensive approach, chemical companies can put themselves into position to create an R&D function that is integrated, highly automated and AI-enabled—one that is able to move with greater speed and efficiency, and put innovation on a faster track.