Mohammed Al Mady, Chairman of GPCA and Vice President and CEO, SABIC, highlighted the importance of innovation for the Gulf’s petrochemicals and chemicals industry on the closing day of the GPCA’s inaugural Research & Innovation Summit in Dubai.
“The Middle East and particularly the GCC is facing increasing pressure to secure employment for future generations…Recent history has proved that entrenched competitive advantages can fade and that there is little mercy for those who do not get new ones. Innovation has, therefore, become a must to deliver advantages, primarily in technology,” Al Mady told the delegates present.
Noting that the chemical industry in the Gulf “started late in the innovation game,” Al Mady said the region’s chemicals industry needs to find ways to gain a competitive edge over its competitors.
“Going forward, the hunger for innovation, technological or otherwise, is here to stay. Today the think tanks for innovation or even for smart practices in technology acquisition remain mostly in other parts of the world. The seed of an idea I would like to leave with you is that, if something is critical for our future competitive advantage, we should master it,” Al Mady said.
The GCC’s petrochemical industry has already made significant progress in the field of innovation with 733 patents granted in 2012, a 36 per cent growth year-on-year. However, regional spending on research and development lags behind Japan, China, the US and the EU, with the GCC spending only 0.8 per cent of the US$49 billion global investment in this area.
Dr. Ernesto Occhiello, Executive Vice President, Technology and Innovation, SABIC highlighted that successful innovation can only occur if it is looked at holistically.
“Innovation has to be with the whole company, it cannot just be left with the research department…Recruitment is the most important thing management can do; how to develop them and how to find them,” said Occhiello.
Moving forward, industry experts have predicted that the GCC plastics producers will be at the forefront of innovation within the petrochemical industry. Plastics, also known as polymers, account for nearly a fifth of the GCC’s petrochemicals portfolio. According to GPCA estimates, the region’s polymer capacity sits at 23.8 million tons, or 18.4% of the Gulf’s 129.2 million ton petrochemical production.
“Continuous innovation is driving the rapid growth of the plastics industry,” said Dr. Alfred Stern, Executive Vice President, Polyolefins, Borealis. “Plastics give the opportunity to contribute [to solving] the main challenges: climate change, waste and recycling, food, health, energy and water.”
The GPCA released the Innovation in the Chemical Industry report during the Research & Innovation Summit. Prepared in collaboration with the international consultancy Stratley, the report provides an overview of innovation in the chemicals industry, and how innovation strategies across operations in an organisation can support sustainable growth.
The Research & Innovation Summit featured a total of 165 delegates from the US, Europe, Asia and the GCC. Delegates heard from 23 speakers from 10 countries in sessions focusing on why innovation is important, how to measure returns on research and innovation, how to create an environment for it to prosper and new aspects that are driving research and innovation.