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American Chemical Society Presidential Symposium: Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Released: 8/26/2013 7:00 AM EDT
Embargo expired: 9/10/2013 1:30 PM EDT
Source Newsroom: American Chemical Society (ACS)

Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013, 1:30 p.m. Eastern Time

Note to journalists: Please report that this research was presented at a meeting of the American Chemical Society

A press conference on this topic will be held Tuesday, Sept. 10, at 12:45 p.m. in the ACS Press Center, Room 211 in the Indiana Convention Center. Reporters can attend in person or access live audio and video of the event and ask questions at

Sep. 11, 2013 - INDIANAPOLIS, Sept. 10, 2013 — An historic shift is occurring in traditional innovation in chemistry — which touches more than 96 percent of all the world’s manufactured goods — away from large companies and toward smaller entrepreneurs and startups. Amid that new landscape for transforming ideas and inventions into goods and services, the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world’s largest scientific society, today hosts a special symposium on innovation and entrepreneurship.

The event is part of the ACS’ 246th National Meeting & Exposition, which continues through Thursday in the Indiana Convention Center and downtown hotels. Thousands of scientists and others are expected for the meeting, which features almost 7,000 reports on new discoveries in science and other topics.

“We have entered an era unlike any previous time in the history of chemistry innovation,” said Marinda Li Wu, Ph.D., ACS president. The symposium is one of Wu’s special presidential events at the meeting. “Small businesses and entrepreneurs may now hold the key to new discoveries needed to help chemistry solve the great global challenges facing society in the 21st century. They also may be the key to generating new job opportunities for chemists and scientists in related fields in the United States.”

Wu pointed out that development of a new idea is just the first step for prospective entrepreneurs. Commercializing that product or process, however, requires a whole new set of skills and knowledge that include navigating patent and intellectual property laws, leveraging venture capital, deciphering export trade and tax laws and managing a business.

To address these challenges, ACS launched the ACS Entrepreneurial Initiative, a support network for entrepreneurs starting new businesses, in March 2012. The initiative was formed in response to a 2011 ACS Presidential Task Force, which investigated ways the chemical enterprise could stimulate economic growth in the United States. The report, “Innovation, Chemistry and Jobs,” can be found at

The ACS Entrepreneurial Initiative includes the Entrepreneurial Training Program, which offers a 30-hour course on turning an innovative idea into a business. It also includes the Entrepreneurial Resources Center, which provides help to select entrepreneurs in the chemical sciences to foster the creation of small companies and startups. Wu discussed the role of innovation and entrepreneurship in fostering progress and prosperity in an article, “Partners for Progress and Prosperity,” in Chemical & Engineering News, ACS’ weekly news magazine.

Speakers at today’s symposium will discuss the initiative, lessons learned from personal experiences as innovators and entrepreneurs, and other topics. Abstracts of their presentations appear below.

The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 163,000 members, ACS is the world’s largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

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Innovation and entrepreneurship in the chemical enterprise
Pat. N. Confalone,, ACS Board of Directors, DuPont, 303 Centennial Circle, Wilmington, DE 19807, United States

The important distinction between invention and innovation is presented. The ability to innovate and create start ups, even in the face of challenging economic environments, is illustrated from an historical perspective. Translation of real innovation into job creation and the critical role of the entrepreneur in this process is discussed. The wide range of opportunities in the twenty first century for innovation in chemistry as the enabling science addressing major global challenges is presented. The scope of the ACS Entrepreneurship Initiative and Training programs, which afford critical assistance to budding entrepreneurs, is discussed.

The nexus of innovation and entrepreneurship
Sadiq Shah,, The University of Texas Pan America, Office of Research, 1201 W University Dr, Edinburg, TX 78539-2909, United States

Over the past two decades economic growth in the U.S. has been a direct result of the investment in research development. This investment supports the creative talent to exercise intellectual curiosity to identify new frontiers in science and engineering. This results in new platforms for economic growth. However, mere discoveries in science and engineering are not enough to support economic development. It takes innovation and entrepreneurship to move ideas forward to create products and services to improve the quality of life for the society and also support economic growth. Small entrepreneurial start-ups play an important role in the process. This presentation will cover this paradigm and the associated opportunities and challenges.

The ACS entrepreneurial initiative
David E. Harwell,, Assistant Director, Career Management and Development, American Chemical Society, 1155 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036, United States

Academic innovation to job creation in rare earth extraction and separation technology
Neil J. Lawrence,, CTO Rare Earth Salts Separations and Refining, University of Nebraska, Department of Chemistry, United States

In recent years it has become increasingly apparent that the global demand for rare earth elements is rapidly outstripping supply. Additionally it has been reported that there are few non-academic jobs for physical scientists with advanced degrees. This presentation will discuss how one group of colleagues saw these obstacles and came up with a solution to both problems. Beginning with “out of pocket” funding for research in a garage, through initial fund raising, and selection of the right global partner for the construction of a pilot plant were each fraught with potential and real hurdles to be overcome. Each of the co-founders, and their families, had to be “all in” for this project to succeed. For everyone involved, there had to be a motivation greater than a simple paycheck; in order to start a new chemical enterprise you must consider the impact you will have on the future.

Technical entrepreneurship serving industry: A personal story
Sharon V. Vercellotti,, V-LABS, Inc., 423 N. Theard St, Covington, LA 70433-2837, United States

As the job market has tightened, more professionals are considering entrepreneurship as an alternative career. In addition industry’s demand for greater individualized services, which entrepreneurial experience brings, can convey valuable industrial service. Universities are offering entrepreneurial courses for non-business students. Starting a small chemical business can be a challenge. The author will review her experience starting a carbohydrate laboratory in Louisiana and will discuss some of the lessons learned in the process. Sharing these ideas is often valuable to those considering taking similar steps. The current status of small business in the United States and the globe will be reviewed as well, focusing on innovative scientific businesses.

Innovation and entrepreneurship
Dennis Liotta,, Emory University, Chemistry Department, 1521 Dickey Dr NE, Atlanta, GA 30322-0001, United States


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