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Executive Director's visit to SCI America

Madeleine Jacobs and Joanne Lyall

4 Oct 2010

SCI Executive Director 2010-13, Joanne Lyall, recently returned from Philadelphia, where she represented SCI at a series of events on 22-23 September 2010 organised by the Chemical Heritage Foundation and SCI America under the umbrella of the Innovation Day. Here she reports on her visit.

The Innovation Day initiative promotes a renewed focus on innovation to harness promising technologies and spur industry growth by bringing together promising young scientists and technology leaders from across the chemical industry.

The Innovation Day offers a symposium, break out sessions and poster sessions oriented to areas where the chemical industry interfaces with emerging business sectors. Hot topics included: Alternative Energy from Biomass Conversion, Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering, Challenges for Water Resources, Chemistry of Energy Sources and Emerging Global Economies.

Perkin Medal Dinner and Gordon E Moore Award
The highlights of the programme are two events dedicated to recognising excellence in science: the SCI Gordon E Moore Medal Ceremony and Luncheon and the SCI Perkin Medal Ceremony and Dinner. The medal winners at both events were very inspiring speakers who made me feel even more passionate about SCI's mission to connect science and business for the benefit of society.

The SCI Gordon E Moore Medal recognises early career success in innovation. This year's medal winner is Dr Emmett Crawford for the invention of Eastman TritanTM Copolyester and leadership in the development and commercialisation of this new family of plastics. The benefit of this product is greatly increased resistance to heat and harsh cleaning agents, allowing products such as baby bottles to withstand repeated dishwasher cycles without crazing and cracking. Tritan is also manufactured without bisphenol-A. There are numerous potential applications for this new plastic across broad areas eg household products, medical, and signage, and the product is already being successfully commercialised, leading to the establishment of two new manufacturing plants to meet demand.

What struck me about this presentation was Dr Crawford's practical approach to resolving a long-standing problem, which he attributed to the fact that he started out his career as an engineer and so looked at the issue from a different viewpoint. He is also an incredibly humble man who shared the fact that he successfully battled cancer during the course of his discovery. I spoke briefly to Dr Crawford prior to his presentation to congratulate him, and he admitted that he was rather nervous as preferred working in the lab to giving speeches. His speech was truly inspiring, and elicited a rousing standing ovation.

The Perkin Medal winner is Dr Ronald Breslow whose achievements are overwhelming. Most recently he has developed a new group of cytodiffrentiating agents with approved use in cancer chemotherapy and has demonstrated chemistry that can account for the origin of prebiotic homochirality of amino acids and sugars on earth. Many people I met said what a wonderful lecturer he is, and how he has inspired so many other successful scientists and business leaders, and his speech certainly gave me a taste of that skill.

SCI America Committee meeting
While in Philadelphia, I also attend the SCI America Executive Committee meeting which was chaired by Sunil Kumar of International Speciality Products and attended by about 12 very senior executives from global corporations such as Du Pont, Bayer, Eastman and Air Liquide. SCI America has a very clear mission focusing on the recognition of excellence in science which they carry out through industry awards and academic scholarships. I presented a brief update on our plans and SCI has also offered an opportunity for the Perkin Scholar to participate in the SCI College of Scholars on a remote basis. The 2010 scholar has already expressed his enthusiasm to get involved. I am looking forward to working with SCI America to see if we can strengthen links with senior business people in the UK/European arms of the major corporations represented their Executive Committee.

I enjoyed a very positive meeting with our President, Dr Stephanie Burns, Chairman, President and CEO of Dow Corning, who sends her best wishes to SCI members and looks forward to coming over to the UK again – probably in 2011. She is sorry she cannot be in London for the Members' Forum but an invitation from President Obama, not surprisingly, trumped the prior engagement with SCI. I also met with the Executive Director of the American Chemical Society, Madeleine Jacobs (pictured), to discuss how we can progress our Collaboration Agreement in 2011 and beyond. Benefits to SCI members include access to the ACS Members' Lounge in Washington and discounted rates on a range of events and courses. Specific offers will be promoted to SCI members via our e-newsletters and website.

The experience was very valuable for me and reinforced the importance of building on our global links. I even managed a couple of hours to look around the historical quarter of Philadelphia - a city which reminds us all of the importance of liberty.

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