Andrew Liveris, chairman and CEO of Dow Chemical, foresees a revolution in advanced manufacturing and exhorts chemical engineers to play a key role in it. He has championed advanced manufacturing for some time. Liveris authored the 2011 book "Make It in America: The Case for Re-inventing the Economy" and also served as co-chair of President Obama's Advanced Manufacturing Partnership working group, which in July 2012 issued "Report to the President on Capturing Domestic Competitive Advantage in Advanced Manufacturing."
Liveris, who became CEO of the Midland, Mich., company in 2004 and chairman in 2006, holds a chemical engineering degree from the University of Queensland, Australia. In a lecture in London in early April in conjunction with his receiving the George E. Davis Award for contributions to chemical engineering from the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE), Rugby, U.K., he explained his optimism but also raised some cautions. Here are some key excerpts from that lecture:
"Yes, chemicals are our stock in trade.
"But too often, I think, we, and others, believe they are the extent of what we can produce — the outer limit of what we can achieve. We believe that we are simply in the commodity chemicals business — or only in the specialty chemical business.
"Well, I think that view — and those terms, which reflect it — are outdated.
"And I think they diminish the opportunities that we — with our singular expertise — may uniquely be positioned to seize.
"Like the opportunity to help master humanity's most pressing problems — from raising the quality of life… to feeding a growing global population… to decreasing our carbon footprint.
"…The most meaningful work is not done — and cannot be done — within a chemical industry that is siloed. The most meaningful work is done at the intersections.
"It happens when we collaborate across boundaries, across industries, across markets and value chains, across disciplines, across all discontinuities.
"It happens when we understand chemistry as an essential — you might even say elemental – part of manufacturing. The grand project of making the things — novel and necessary things — that transform our world and the way we live in it.
"…"I believe our industry — the chemical industry – is at the vanguard of another industrial revolution.
"…Your challenge is not identifying the opportunities 'out there.' Your challenge is seizing them — because they are well within your reach.
"…Our goal should be fostering a new breed of manufacturing sector — an advanced manufacturing sector — in developed and emerging economies both.
"And that is why we need national strategies… even a global strategy… that all is part of an advanced manufacturing agenda.
"…Advanced manufacturing operates at the intersections of sciences and markets.
"…And here is the most critical part: By building advanced, next-generation products, companies and countries will also build capacity for further innovation.
"…I can tell you this: Where production goes, innovation inevitably follows, creating, for countries that get it right, a virtuous and self-sustaining cycle.
"…In a globalized world, advanced manufacturing companies can — and will — set up shop where the talent is.
"…A manufacturing renaissance, first and foremost, requires a smart energy policy — one that prioritizes affordability and security in addition to climate.
"…I have referred to the intersection of sciences — and the intersection of markets. But there is another intersection that the world has failed to navigate and make work in this modern era: the intersection of business, government and civil society at large.
"…What we need now are new business models — for instance, partnerships between businesses and NGOs [nongovernmental organizations].
"…Today, I am more convinced than ever that the chemical sciences and every aspect of the newly emerging advanced manufacturing sector are essential — indeed, elemental — to solving the problems at the most complex intersection of all: the intersection of humanity and this planet.
"…And that is why we must help this next generation of chemical engineers and scientists to innovate... and to solve these problems in a way that protects — and even improves — our quality of life on this overcrowded planet.
"… I believe it is an exciting time to be a chemical engineer — even more exciting than when I became one."
To see his full remarks, go to www.dow.com/company/insights/multimedia/20130405a.htm.
MARK ROSENZWEIG is Chemical Processing's Editor in Chief. You can email him at email@example.com.