SCI: Society of Chemical Industry

Highlighting best practice as a representative in The Parliamentary Review

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from SCI: Society of Chemical Industry is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Chief Executive, Sharon Todd
SCI HQ, Belgrave Square
SCI is a charity that was established in 1881 with the aim
of accelerating the commercialisation of chemistry and
related sciences into industry, for the benefit of society.
The intervening years have seen the organisation grow from a
forward-thinking group of scientists, inventors and entrepreneurs,
based in the UK, into a multidisciplinary organisation with an
international reach and a vibrant hub for exchange of ideas. As
SCI comes into its 140th year, SCI’s Chief Executive, Sharon Todd,
explains how the past is shaping the organisation’s future and
SCI’s crucial role in bringing together key stakeholders to create
solutions to the most pressing societal issues of our day, making
SCI the place “where science meets business”.
Providing solutions to the global challenges facing society today
Our world is facing a multitude of problems, from climate change to sustainable
food production, that no one organisation, government or industry in isolation can
solve. What we do know is that scientific innovation, clever chemistry and meaningful
collaboration are the keys to developing the new products, services, and technologies
that are required as the world now looks to operate on a more sustainable footing.
At SCI we have a proud history. Our members, past and present, have used their
talents to shape the increasingly technological and convenient world we live in.
From the polymers used for prosthetic limbs and the medicines being developed to
tackle conditions that were once thought untreatable, through to sustainable and
nutrient dense food production, SCI members are among the leaders in tackling
some of the world’s greatest challenges.
»Chief Executive: Sharon Todd
»Founded in 1881 in the UK
»International community
»Services: Connecting industry,
academia and government
»1,700 organisations connected
in 2020
SCI: Society of
Chemical Industry
Highlighting best practice
The criticality of chemistry
Chemistry is ubiquitous. Everything we
touch, see, wear or use on a daily basis
has been carefully designed by chemists
using the chemical elements as building
blocks to build complex molecular
structures with use, functionality and
cost in mind. Chemistry underpins the
biological processes that control health
or the food chain, and it provides
complex materials that enhance
functionality and drive step change
improvements intechnology.
As a consequence, SCI’s membership
is very broad – our industry network
stretches across energy, food,
agriculture, transport, construction and
pharmaceuticals, and our community
encompasses multiple disciplines
including chemistry, biochemistry,
biology, engineering, environmental
sciences, horticulture, colloid and surface
science, materials, artificial intelligence
and formulation. The bridging across
different disciplines and industry sectors
is critical to enabling innovation that
otherwise may not happen.
Global health and net zero
SCI’s two areas of activity today are in
global health and delivering net zero.
Global health has clearly been in focus
with the current Covid-19 pandemic,
and many of our members have been
instrumental in the development and
delivery of vaccines and PPE. However,
there is also a climate emergency, and
perhaps lessons could be learned from
the current health pandemic? Applying
the effective strategies used to develop
the vaccines in an unprecedented
short period of time may also assist in
the acceleration and adoption of new
SCI at a glance
SCI members
are among the
leaders in
tackling some
of the world’s
technologies that will help meet the
net zero greenhouse gas emissions
targets quicker.
Chemistry has a vital role to play in
effective management of carbon – both
within the traditional chemical industry
but perhaps, more importantly, in
enabling other sectors to decarbonise.
For example, about 110 million tonnes
of carbon dioxide equivalent is emitted
by cars, light vehicles, HGVs and
motorbikes/scooters. Moving to electric
drivetrains could significantly lower this,
and the chemical and materials front
end, which notably contains about
65% of the value, can help deliver
the necessary changes. Recycling and
re-use of the battery components and
materials, required to deliver a truly
sustainable and more valuable supply
chain than their conventional petrol or
diesel counterparts, require innovation in
chemistry and materials to bedelivered.
Aerospace is another area where the
chemistry is critical to enabling the
sector to decarbonise. The domestic
aviation industry produces about
80 million tonnes of carbon dioxide
equivalent a year and international
flights add about 36 million tonnes. The
sector is evaluating battery power for
short-haul flights, and even hydrogen,
but in the short to medium term they
are aiming to use ‘sustainable aviation
fuel’. This is still iso-octane but produced
with sustainable carbon feedstocks.
SCI’s central role is clear as we bring
together the key players across industry
and academia to work together to
solve these complex challenges. This
is done through our committees, via
working parties targeted in specific
areas, and through our extensive
conference programme which provides
a knowledge-sharing platform, always
focused on the translation of the
science out of the laboratory.
From the bench to full scale
The various steps in the intellectual
supply chain, from laboratory
discovery to full-scale commercial
manufacture, attract different
people with different skills, but most
come from scientific or engineering
backgrounds. The private investment
in research and development (R&D)
is a significant part of the overall
investment in R&D in the UK and
ensures a strong pipeline of talent,
which is critical for industry in the UK.
The process of scale-up to commercialising
is significant, costly and may take
ten–15 years from lab-scale to full-scale
manufacture, and it is vital that there
is a dialogue along the spectrum of
scientists and engineers so that they can
seamlessly work across the interface
between academia and industry, and that
knowledge from industry is also translated
across, in particular, into university
start-ups, providing critical know-how
required to successfully scale up.
Tools, such as AI and digitalisation,
are being scoped to assess how
they can help reduce the product
development timescales and
bring significant improvements to
Rethinking “business as usual”
What we have at SCI is unique. Where
else would you meet a horticulturist,
a physicist and a captain of industry in
the same organisation? As we mark
this special anniversary, our members
continue to tackle society’s greatest
challenges and pioneer the daring,
game-changing innovations that will
transform society. Here’s to the next
140 years of innovation at SCI.
The bridging
across different
disciplines and
industry sectors
is critical to
innovation that
otherwise may
not happen
Business training
with ‘Bright SCIdea
Challenge’ students
Chemistry & Industry

This article was sponsored by SCI: Society of Chemical Industry. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it.