ISC3 expert workshop on Digital Transformation

ISC3 – International Sustainable Chemistry Collaborative Centre

ISC3 expert workshop on Digital Transformation: Do AI and Big Data trigger new processes and business models in sustainable chemistry?

Industry 4.0, Blockchain, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) and quantum computing are buzz words that continue to raise hopes and give impulses to transform industries and economies. During the workshop on 25-26 February, 20 experts discussed how trends and tools for transforming chemistry and the assessment and management of chemicals can be used to best align new chemicals with the global sustainable development agenda. What are opportunities and synergies to move toward sustainable chemistries and materials, and what are possible rebound effects and threats?

For two days leading experts from academia, policy, NGOs, and industry discussed opportunities and challenges arising from the combination of sustainable chemistry and digitalisation. The workshop goal was to develop visions and identify trends, methods and tools that can contribute to more sustainable chemistry.

AI is a powerful tool for research and development in sustainable chemistry

Digital processes combine intensive data acquisition and machine learning. They are often used as optimizer in industry: production parameters are adjusted increasing safety and efficiency, raw materials are sourced and used with a greater precision, reducing waste and emissions. The best known optimizer is the blockchain technology which is used for tracing conflict minerals or nanomaterials. It also allows for sharing innovation – aiming for nothing less than revolutionizing intellectual property models. This is urgently needed in order to overcome frictions in information, interaction and innovation for sustainable chemistry.

The potentials for sustainable chemistry go even a step further when A.I. and huge computing power become a tool for chemical research and development. This starts with benign-by design approaches, estimating chemical exposure and related toxicity effects for humans and ecosystems. The automatic assembly of data for life cycle inventories, for example, can significantly simplify access to sustainability assessment, impact characterization and sustainable development.

The participants of the workshop were convinced that the challenging, highly complex problems in the field of chemistry raise the need for digital tools: Super-computing and A.I. are opening up new horizons of knowledge and are adding a new dimension to fight the most pressing challenges of our time. They could contribute to investigate the critical boundaries of technology – and how to overcome them. At the same time, risks arising from digitalization have to be evaluated as well.

The workshop analyzed different aspects of digitalization and identified some possible feasible paths. In order to explore them concretely the participants decided to join forces in elaborating publications transparently showing the needs of academia and industry in the following fields:

  1. Prediction of chemicals reactivity, toxicity & degradability against the background of SDG complexity
  2. Sustainable development & assessment of chemicals
  3. Sustainable chemistry innovation identification & sharing