Innovation will be key to addressing world’s sustainability challenges, say speakers at GPCA R&I Summit

Shaikh Mohammed bin Khalifa bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, minister of oil, Bahrain, inaugurated the 6th GPCA R&I Summit

Abdulaziz Al-Judaimi, SVP, downstream, Saudi Aramco, delivers the keynote address at the 6th GPCA R&I Summit.
Abdulaziz Al-Judaimi, SVP, downstream, Saudi Aramco, delivers the keynote address at the 6th GPCA R&I Summit.

Greater focus on innovation will be needed in the chemical industry in the GCC and globally to address the world’s sustainability challenges, said speakers at the 6th edition of GPCA Research and Innovation (R&I) Summit, inaugurated by Shaikh Mohammed bin Khalifa bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, minister of oil, Bahrain, at ART Rotana, Amwaj Islands, Bahrain.

The minister stressed in his inaugural speech that the GCC countries must invest in research and innovation and ensure a steady supply of high-quality chemicals to meet the world's increasing demand driven by a rapid population increase. Regional chemical producers are witnessing fierce competition and challenges in the face of globalisation and digitalisation.

To overcome these difficulties, regional producers must focus on research and innovation to produce new products in line with modern international standards, the minister added. He further highlighted the need for ongoing support from governments in the GCC to maintain the region’s competitiveness in this dynamic and changing market.

Speakers at the GPCA R&I Summit and 10th GPCA PlastiCon highlighted the need to establish sustainable, end-of-life solutions for plastic waste to achieve economic, environmental and social benefits, and the role of polymer producers to invest in research and innovation to develop new application grades that further improve the environmental sustainability of plastic packaging and design innovative ways to recover and re-purpose plastic waste.

Greater focus on research and technology will revolutionise the chemical industry in the GCC by opening new opportunities to generate higher value, create new markets, design new business models and develop winning products, the speakers said.

Chemical companies need to create win-win solutions with rapid business impact through accelerating innovation and fostering strategic partnerships. They must focus their digital transformation on operational excellence by optimising operations and supply chain, reducing capex and integrating pace-making technology into chemical production like artificial intelligence, the speakers added.

Digitalisation and the crude-oil-to-chemicals technology have the potential to propel the GCC chemical players to leading positions in the global chemical industry. However, to move towards greater value creation and profitability, the industry must continue to invest in research and innovation, grow its innovation output and create higher value products, concluded speakers at the summit.

Dr Abdulwahab Al-Sadoun, secretary general, GPCA, commented: “Amid changing industry dynamics and new market competitiveness, industry players must realise that the rules of the game have changed. Research and innovation are strategic imperatives to stay competitive in the global chemical industry. To capitalise on this opportunity, regional producers must transform themselves and invest in developing key capabilities, technical know-how, technology venturing and partnerships to better serve the market needs.”

While advantaged feedstock and world-scale commodity production will remain important, a new paradigm in global chemical market is creating a shift from a sole focus on volume and cost to include added value and performance in the entire value chain. To position itself as a front-runner in innovation-led economic growth, the Arabian Gulf region must improve its collaboration ecosystems to enable better opportunities for industry, academia and governments to work together towards the national and regional economic agenda and enable the move towards knowledge-based economies,” Dr Al-Sadoun added.

The 10th edition of GPCA’s Leaders of Tomorrow programme, powered by SABIC and Saudi Aramco, and hosted by Research & Development Center of Saudi Aramco, took place on 12 March, at Saudi Aramco’s Technical Exchange Center (TEC) in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.

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