32 No. 4
The Future of the
Roger F. Jones, editor
ACS Symposium Series 1026,
2009, ISBN 978-0-8412-0002-9
reviewed by Michael J. Droescher
Books describing future developments are always a challenge. The day they appear, the future has already become the present. When the book is the proceedings from a conference, the challenge is even greater. Roger F. Jones—a veteran of the chemical industry with a 50-year-long career at more than five global companies—undertook such an adventure in producing The Future of the Chemical Industry as part of the ACS Symposium Series.
The symposium was held at the ACS National Meeting in Philadelphia on 18 August 2008. At that time, the financial crisis was brewing but it was not yet an industrial crisis. So, the five papers in the book were presented in view of a bullish market and strong industrial growth.
When Jones edited the book in early 2009, he wrote in the preface, “The speed of change in our industry seems only to continue accelerating”. However, he also knew that “portions of the book will be dated by the time of publication.”
If I stopped my review here, I would not give full respect to the value of the book. The authors have assembled a strong database of industrial data up to 2007, which will be of value by itself. Let us have a closer look at the contributions.
The first chapter, written by Jones, focuses on the U.S. chemical industry. Even in a time of industrial prosperity he offers a pessimistic outlook. He discusses the negative impact of governmental policies, the low number of chemistry graduates, and a slowing of innovation activities outside the strong pharmaceutical branch.
This leads directly to the second chapter, written by Faiz Kermani and Susan Wollowitz, dealing with R&D in the global pharmaceutical markets, where the U.S. sector is running ahead of Europe and Japan. Here, as in the other chapters, the data basis is very strong. The chapter also provides deep insight into how the different pharmaceutical markets work economically and how governmental policies will influence future developments.
Chapters 3 and 4 examine the Chinese chemical markets. Klaus Griesar reports the results from a European research project comparing European Union and Chinese chemical industries. This paper, which is a well-documented source of economic data for 2003 to 2007 with forecasts for 2015, also provides a profound discussion of weaknesses and strengths in the Chinese market. Similarly, Timothy C. Weckesser describes the movement of the Chinese chemical industry up the value chain, from low-cost producer to specialty chemicals producer, thereby challenging the rest of the world and gaining market position.
The fifth chapter is somewhat unrelated to the former part of the book. It is a short article on Hydrogen PEM Fuel Cells.
From a readability standpoint, it is unfortunate that each article has its own design and that some of the pictures are barely readable. Overall, however, the book has value to readers who are interested in data on the economic development of the chemical industry and are looking for a sound discussion of its future development.
last modified 1 July 2010.
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