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October 22, 2001
Volume 79, Number 43
CENEAR 79 43 p. 12
ISSN 0009-2347
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Dow chairman prods the industry to channel resources to research


Customers aren't buying, industry employment is declining, and chemical stock prices are in the tank. But in a spirited speech last week at the Plaza Hotel in New York City, Dow Chemical Chairman William S. Stavropoulos challenged the industry "to revitalize R&D, and in so doing, recapture the growth that has eluded us over the past few years."

Following his receipt of the 2001 Chemical Industry Medal awarded by the American Section of the Society of Chemical Industry, Stavropoulos told 380 business leaders, "We seem to have lost confidence in R&D as an engine of growth."

He acknowledged that many people believe the days are gone when the industry could make breakthrough products with huge revenue and profit potential. But he belittled that point of view, recalling a century-old story about a proposal to close the U.S. Patent Office because all the important inventions had already been made.

Biotechnology, nanotechnology, and synthetic materials are areas where "we can bring better living though chemistry," he said. In using the last phrase, Stavropoulos tipped his hat to DuPont's one-time well-known tag line and to DuPont's chairman, Charles O. Holliday Jr., who sat on the dais to Stavropoulos' right.

The industry has to take advantage of its own research capabilities while also collaborating with academic researchers, he said. And he urged adoption of new technologies, such as combinatorial chemistry, to "dramatically speed up the synthesis, screening, and development of new polymers, chemicals, and catalysts."

Over the past 30 years, Stavropoulos said, "our industry's emphasis was on using financial capital to penetrate world markets. Now we need to refocus some of our efforts and put more reliance on our knowledge capital."

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