National Harbor, Maryland – Today saw the opening of the 64th Polyurethanes Technical Conference at the Gaylord National Harbor Resort, just over the Potomac River from Washington DC.
In her opening address, Lee Salamone, senior director at the Center for the Polyurethane Industry (CPI) at the American Chemistry Association (ACC), reminisced about her student days, studying political science. This gave her a chance to quote Alexis de Tocqueville, who, in his 1831 book Democracy in America wrote: ‘Americans do business by association.’
Salamone said the CPI, the conference’s organising body, is a shining example of the spirit of association in American business.
Cynthia Graham, this year’s conference chair, has been attending the conference for over 18 years, back when the CPI was the Alliance of the Polyurethane Industry. Graham said: ‘This industry is my personal passion. The connection I’ve made with the industry and our downstream partners has been so valuable at a time when the world is returning to a sense of normalcy since the pandemic.’
Pavneet Mumick, this year’s CPI steering committee chair (and global VP R&D Huntsman Polyurethanes), said: ‘With only six years in the PU industry, I feel like the new kid on the block. Still, in the last six years I have seen a lot of changes – a palpable and dramatic push to increase the sustainability of our products. We must ensure our products are part of the solution to the significant global challenge we are facing.’
Mumick emphasised the need to get younger generations interested in STEM subjects in general, and PU in particular. ‘We have obsessed over Millennials for so long,’ said Mumick, ‘that they have grown up and are now our colleagues, and will soon be our bosses.
‘They are excited about moving towards a more sustainable future. Whether working in R&D, marketing or sales, Millennials and Generation-Z will drive us towards a more sustainable and bright future for our industry.
Graham returned to stage to announce the three finalists of this year’s Innovation Award:
EPU 44 elastomeric PU resin for 3D printing
Thermax Non-Halogen (NH) fire retardant
Opteon 1150 low-global warming potential (GWP) blowing agent
The opening address closed with keynote speaker Chris Jahn, president and CEO of the ACC. Jahn announced the council is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, making it one of the oldest trade associations in America.
He addressed the challenges that the industry (and all industries) face: sustainability, global warming, air quality, water scarcity and energy prices. He also noted a significant lack of diversity in the industry: ‘This industry looks a lot like me: 60% of the industry is white and male.’ While also noting American industry’s need to recruit one million more workers into STEM disciplines by 2030.
‘We’ve got two challenges we need to tackle, here. So what do we do about that?,’ said Jahn. ‘What we as an industry, and the ACC, has done is create a programme called FOSSI (Future of STEM Scholars Initiative). What that does is create a $40,000 scholarship, 80 internships and mentoring opportunities for students who are studying STEM disciplines at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).’
‘In just two years – I want to share with you the progress that we’ve made – I’m tremendously proud of this. We got nearly 300 students enrolled at 39 HBCUs in different STEM disciplines. We’ve raised, in two years, $70million for that programme,” continued Jahn, in a statement that was met with enthusiastic applause from the audience.
The Polyurethanes Technical Conference continues tomorrow (Tuesday) and Wednesday.