Twelve months ago I reflected on the need for action and for change, in the face of the pandemic, and the significant role that organisations and professional bodies, including the Royal Society of Chemistry, must play in the global science ecosystem and in support of society as a whole.
Whether Covid-19, climate change or clean water, there is no one discipline, no one profession and no one nation that will provide the breadth of solutions needed. Our future global prosperity depends on innovation, partnerships and teamwork, across nations and between disciplines.
The RSC is now 12 months further forward with a clear strategy in place to ensure that we play our part in helping chemical scientists contribute to ground-breaking scientific discoveries and applications. And, along with the rest of the world, we are looking ahead for the next big challenge and innovations that will disrupt and change our lives.
Chemistry plays a fundamental role in developing sustainable solutions for the world’s greatest challenges. Our new Horizon Prizes highlight the most exciting contemporary chemical science at the cutting edge of research and innovation. These prizes have recognised the teams and collaborations that are opening up new directions and possibilities in their field, through ground-breaking scientific developments. The 2021 prize winners have clearly demonstrated their impact and potential for lasting change including a novel approach to early Parkinson’s disease diagnosis, waste-to-fuel catalyst technology and engineering hydrogen peroxide for water treatment. Most importantly all the winners have demonstrated the power of working in partnership with others.
The RSC’s Emerging Technologies competition is an annual initiative for early stage companies and academic entrepreneurs who want to commercialise their technologies to make a lasting societal impact. One of our winners from 2020 has achieved significant success in turning CO2 into tailored chemical intermediates, increasing sustainability and closing the carbon loop. This year the competition attracted a further 120 high-quality applications with our final shortlisted 24 companies representing a diverse range of proposals from tech innovators, start-ups and spin outs.
We share the responsibility to build public trust and confidence
We are also giving greater recognition to the phenomenal work of the people who teach chemistry and inspire future generations. Our education prizes celebrate those working in primary, secondary, further and higher education. It is so important that we focus on the future skills and talent that will be needed in science by encouraging young people to pursue a career in chemistry and the exciting opportunities that the subject offers.
Perhaps more than ever before science is in the public eye and, across the science community, we have demonstrated the power of working together to enable major scientific breakthroughs and new technologies. We share the responsibility to build public trust and confidence – we can’t assume that this will just happen, we must continue to work at this and invest in openly sharing knowledge and raising awareness. Trust and confidence also need to exist within the science community.
Science culture encompasses the behaviours, values and attitudes of our science communities. It influences career paths and impacts the way science, innovations and associated services are designed, delivered and communicated. The RSC’s role as a professional body and publisher, setting standards and upholding professional and ethical conduct, means that we must do even more to address science culture and to enable change through positive action.
In last month’s Chemistry World, our president Tom Welton highlighted the importance of making change happen. By showing leadership, building visible partnerships, domestically and internationally, we can deliver on our purpose to help the chemical sciences community make the world a better place. And by establishing new innovation networks to promote collaborations between industry, academia and policy makers, we can ensure lasting change and impact for the benefit of all.