The right chemistry

Responding to pressure in the disruptive era

Feedstock-sourcing challenges, uncertain trade and tax policies, new forms of competition and more demanding consumers. These trends are coalescing to put enormous pressure on chemical companies. Though most have answered the call to adapt for this era, a small group of innovative companies are distinguishing themselves. We call them the Chemical Champions.

This report explores what sets them apart.

The call for sustainability and circularity

Chemical companies are facing enormous challenges. Trade and taxes have become more complex with uncertain policies and stringent government regulations.

Competition has become fiercer, while the talent pool of engineers and factory workers has gotten scarcer. And the notion of circular economies has become popular with customers today and made them more aware and critical of how chemicals are made, used, recycled or disposed. As a result, sustainability and circularity are no longer discretionary—they now determine competitive advantage and form the basis of business transformations.

Accenture research shows that by 2025, digitization could unlock up to $550 billion of value for the chemical industry.

The chemical industry’s new value propositions

While chemical companies are facing broad economic and social challenges, they can exploit these new value propositions to capture 21st century consumer-driven opportunities.

The design advantage

Chemical companies have just begun to scratch the surface of what’s possible with digital innovation. According to our survey, they are making the most innovation investments—not surprisingly—in product research and development.

Add innovation to the mix

To truly take advantage of these new digital value propositions, chemical companies must completely reimagine the products and services they offer. They must also create new and exceptional value across key business functions, at scale, to get a return on their digital investments.

Out of the 121 chemical companies with annual revenues in excess of $1 billion we studied, less than a quarter were succeeding at scaling digital innovation in R&D and across their production and operations. These companies not only successfully scaled more than half of their proof of concepts (POCs) but also earner higher than average returns on digital investments (RODI). We call them the Chemical Champions.

Most others—more than 75 percent of the companies we researched— earned a lower than the industry average (12 percent), regardless of how much they scale. This implies that simply scaling more doesn’t guarantee success.

Tracey Countryman

Managing Director, Global Resources Industry X.0 lead

Aidan Quilligan

Managing Director and Global Industry X.0 Lead

Raghav Narsalay

Managing Director, Global Research lead, Industry X.0

Aarohi Sen

Thought Leadership Research Manager, Industry X.0


Scaling digital innovation
The race for digital operations transformation: The time for experimenting is over


Chemical Champions consider innovation spending as investment and show strong commitment to it.


Chemical Champions achieve tangible and timely returns on their investments.


Most companies continue to work and collaborate in conventional ways to avoid racking up costs. Champions make unique, differentiated investments in growth levers to enhance productivity and agility.

The critical question today is how can businesses simultaneously prepare for unprecedented social, political, environmental and technological challenges—both imminent and distant?

Future compounds

We’ve learned from our research that only a handful of companies are taking on disruptive forces, making dynamic decisions and successfully remaking industries. We call them the Champions.

The Champions understand that digital technology is creating more discerning customers who want connected products that don’t pollute, save time, and are easy to use. But Champions also know how to create these products.

Our research shows three mindsets work best in concert to help any company that wants to become a Champion. First, view digital innovation as an investment that needs thoughtful allocation, not a cost that ought to be cut. Second, set timely and robust expectations on return on digital investments. Third, invest in five in-house levers to scale digital innovation—skills, platforms, technology, partnerships and leadership.

The payoff from adopting these mindsets can be substantial, and help any company answer this simple question: Will you move beyond the usual guardrails and remake your business to successfully face off the forces before they take you down?

Get the Essentials

For more detailed insights on how Chemical Champions are remaking their industry, read the full research report.

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