Leveraging Partnerships in Start-Ups and SMEs

Organizers: Paul D. Thornton; Laura M. Reyes, Career Development Leader, Chemical Institute of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Start-ups and small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) are critical for commercialization of green and sustainable chemistry technologies across the global chemical enterprise. Small businesses are well-suited to bring innovative chemistry solutions to the marketplace, but these companies must navigate the diverse technical and business challenges of commercialization with limited resources.

Entrepreneurs in green chemistry have identified that effective partnerships are often central to their company’s successes. Despite their importance, the types of partnerships and external resources that are available to start-ups may not always be obvious. Additionally, entrepreneurs must assess which partners and expertise will best complement their current position and development challenges, keeping in mind the overall vision for their start-up.

This symposium will highlight how diverse start-ups and SMEs based in green chemistry technologies have sought out and leveraged different partnerships to successfully address commercial and development challenges and advance their businesses. Topics may include navigating relationships with universities and non-profit agencies, developing partnerships that address critical technical or business needs, leveraging and protecting intellectual property, and discussing the role of multinational corporations in advancing early-stage companies.

Entrepreneurs Driving the Circular Economy – Opportunities and Challenges

Organizer: Janine Elliott, Sr. Program Officer, VentureWell, Hadley, MA, USA

The GC&E community often demonstrates a more applied mindset than other sciences; after all, a concern for environmental systems led most us to the field of green chemistry because we understand the resources used in production and toxins released at disposal. However, this level of systems thinking has not necessarily been applied to the other systems involved in translating an innovation out of the lab and into the market.

This symposium sits at the nexus of translating chemistry research to product development, entrepreneurship/intrapreneurship, and circular economy: root challenges are many, and solutions abound. Topics will span the innovation pipeline, from the classroom to commercialization. For example:

  • What curricula are available that leverage Design and/or Systems Thinking for the chemical sciences? What can be learned from the co-working and maker movement to be applied to “molecular makerspaces”?
  • How might innovators think more strategically in early stages about industry analysis, and design with an eager end-customer in mind? How might they redesign the value chain instead of optimizing for a single part?
  • Where have Lean Startup principles or other business methodologies succeeded, failed, or adapted as it applies to chemical innovations?
  • What additional market or economic analysis is required for commercialization of an invention for the circular economy?
  • Multi-billion dollar companies may be in a stronger position to embrace circular operations, so what are the opportunities and pitfalls for resource-strapped startups eager to utilize circular economy principles?
  • What are the implications for their business models? Who is funding the “small fish,” and why?

Though only some of the GC&E attendees may ever decide to form a venture, the opportunities to see the “big picture” will inform more actionable research and empower students and faculty to think more strategically about the impact they would like to have on getting green chemistry out into the world.