Chemistry and Innovation
MIT’s exceedingly useful publication Technology Review just released its 2011 list of the world’s 50 most innovative companies. The topic is timely given President Obama’s invocation of innovation as a key driver for future economic success, as well as the oft-stated realization that 40% of economic growth in the last half century originated in basic science discoveries.
Naturally I wondered how big a role chemistry plays in the 50 exalted companies.
TR assigned six categories of enterprise. Three of these are square in the center of contemporary chemical science, with dominant themes as indicated:
- Biomedicine (sequencing, genomes, new drug targets)
- Energy (batteries; clean tech, especially biofuels, solar, wind)
- Materials (polymers, power efficiency)
Two other categories are not explicitly chemical in nature but rely on the chemical industry for raw materials:
- Transportation (electric cars, hybrids)
- Computing and Communications (smartphones and tablets, chips, robots)
And the final category is mainly about distribution of content and not easily connected to chemistry:
- Web and Digital Media (social media, entertainment)
Thus 5 of the 6 categories (and 38 of the 50 companies) are utterly dependent on chemistry for their future ability to remain as innovative enterprises. No wonder it’s the International Year of Chemistry!