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Chemical research vital to US economy, report says

by Andrea Widener
August 14, 2022 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 100, Issue 28


The chemical sciences need to find ways to innovate while having a positive impact on the environment in the coming decades, according to a report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The US chemical economy contributes $5.2 trillion—25%—to US gross domestic product and supports 4.1 million jobs. C&EN’s Global Top 50 analysis of chemical companies, referenced by the July 21 report, listed 10 headquartered in the US in 2020 and 8 in 2022. China and other countries are increasing their investment in the chemical industry, threatening the US’s position as a global leader. To continue to be competitive, the report says, the US chemistry enterprise must focus on several key areas. Companies and universities will have to balance the need for US competitiveness with international collaboration. The changing nature of chemical research—especially the shift from internal to external R&D operations—requires that companies pay even more attention to training a diverse chemical workforce. They must invest in research infrastructure, especially in the areas of measurement, automation, computation, and catalysis. And, the report says, the chemical sciences as a whole must emphasize sustainability to fix and prevent environmental problems.


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