Posted on March 18, 2015

With the majority of the GCC’s petrochemical companies adopting a strategy for innovation management, top executives from regional and international organizations emphasized the importance of cultivating an awareness of their business, emerging technologies, and external factors that influence their operations while implementing plans, at the 2nd Research & Innovation Summit, hosted by the Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association (GPCA) in Dubai.

“Technological developments are costly and uncertain but have a profound impact on [the petrochemicals] business,” said Dr Moayyed Al- Qurtas, Chairman, GPCA Research & Innovation Committee. “A deep understanding of the interaction between technology and our business is critical for our survival, growth and profit.” Dr. Al-Qurtas advised that organizations must plan for a long-haul game. “Major breakthroughs are rare and can take decades rather than years. Investments are very high and need to be judicious. Investments in performance chemicals, like plastic, need to be understood before major decisions.”

Global populations are expected to stabilize at 9 or 10 billion people by 2050, with a majority of the growth coming from developing economies in Asia and Africa, making the Middle East a region with great opportunities. “This region has a bird’s eye view of developments because most of the 2 billion people that will inhabit this Earth will live in urban environments,” said Dr. Thomas Zacharia, Executive Vice President, R&D, Qatar Foundation and Chairman of the Board, Qatar Science and Technology Park.“Modern cities will truly be the living laboratories of tomorrow.”

At the end of the day, petrochemicals play an integral role in the modern world. “If you look at the world we live in, everything is made possible by the fuels and materials that are made by [petrochemical] companies. From transport to fabrics to plastic goods and even bottled water, we enable the modern lifestyle,” said Dr. Gavin Towler, Chief Technology Officer, UOP.

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So where is the world going to next? By 2050,Dr.Towler predicted, energy demand will rise by 40% as people will need more electricity, natural gas and oil to live, work and survive. “[As an industry] we will need to get hydrocarbons from where they are found to where they are needed, convert oil and gas efficiently into the fuels and chemicals that people need, maximize the value of our product slates so as to generate the best return for our investors, and do all of this without harming the environment.”

“The GCC’s petrochemical industry has to create competitive advantages which are not solely based on access to favourably priced hydrocarbons, and research and innovation will play a pivotal role in realising this goal,” said Dr. Abdulwahab Al- Sadoun, Secretary General, GPCA.“We have grown into an industry worth more than a US$1 billion with a 140 million ton capacity in just over four decades. Moving forward, it is clear that there is not one specific success model or one best practice which works for everybody. Companies have to find their specific way to leverage research and innovation in order to gain or keep a competitive advantage.”

The 2nd Research &Innovation Summit hosted more than 200 delegates over two days, gathering the petrochemical industry’s companies, academia and research institutions to discuss “Mastering the Research and Innovation Challenges”. For more information, please visit