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Captains of industry, influencers and the next generation of leaders gathering in Berlin discussed the impact of the 4th industrial revolution on the chemical industry

Ban Ki-moon, former Secretary General of the United Nations (2007 – 2016) concludes 51st EPCA Annual Meeting with keynote speech.

The global chemical business community gathered for four days of business sessions (30th Sep – 3rd Oct 2017), networking and meetings during the 51st EPCA Annual Meeting in Berlin, tackling the theme "The Chemical Industry and the 4th Industrial Revolution: People, Planet, Profit in the Digital Age". This well renowned industry event concluded with the annual closing lunch featuring former United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (2007-2016) who outlined his unique perspective on world affairs. He also commended EPCA for its efforts in promoting STEM[1] education, diversity and sustainable and resilient supply chains. After his speech, Ban Ki-moon conferred the awards for the top 5 winners of the European Finals of the European Youth Debating Competition (EYDC) organized for the second year running by EPCA, partnered with PlasticsEurope.

25 student finalists (16 - 19-year-olds) from 7 European countries attended the EPCA Annual Meeting along with the industry representatives of the chemical industry as they were participating in the European Youth Debating Competition (EYDC). These students debated around the theme "People, Planet, Profit in the Digital Age: With or without petrochemistry and plastics?”. This competition is an excellent opportunity for both youngsters and our industry to connect, listen, learn, collaborate. Beyond the importance of promoting STEM education, a key area of interest for EPCA and the industry, this initiative empowers students with soft skills that can certainly help them in their future careers, no matter their role.

The 51st EPCA Annual Meeting was, as always, punctuated by several Business Sessions illustrating the different dimensions of the 4th industrial revolution. This year’s theme analysed whether the petrochemical industry would be next in line to transform in the digital age after the media, telecommunication, retail, insurance and the financial sectors.

The opening business session, “Building Sustainable and Inclusive Economic Growth: The Value Creation Proposal of the Chemical Industry” featured captains of industry, Jim Fitterling, President & Chief Operating Officer, the Dow Chemical Company and Dr. Hariolf Kottmann, CEO of Clariant and

President of Cefic[2] and ICCA[3], along with Martin Wolf, Chief Economics Commentator of the Financial Times (FT) who discussed how the petrochemical industry is digitising some of its core operational functions like manufacturing, R&D, Supply Chain and Logistics, while using digital technologies to design and develop new customer-oriented products and services. As Jim Fitterling stated: “It is not an exercise in forcing a top-down technology model on the enterprise. I think of it more like weaving a ribbon all the way through the organization – connecting everyone with common information and common goals.”

The talent and organizational dimension of this digital revolution was also addressed during the "Talent & Diversity: Success Factors in a Technology-Driven Environment" session, with April Rinne, Advisor and Pathfinder, and Head of the Sharing Economy Working Group of the World Economic Forum (WEF), who explored how technological capabilities combined with current societal trends lead us to reconsider traditional talent management and organizational approaches, to help companies thrive in the digital age. Mark Wolstenholme, Executive Director at EY followed, and shared with the audience the preliminary results of a joint EPCA & EY study on “Age Diversity and Inter-Generational Collaboration at the Workplace". He announced the official launch of a survey amongst the EPCA member companies, on the occasion of this session. The results of the study including the survey will be included in a final study report to be issued by EPCA at the end of the year. April Rinne and Mark Wolstenholme were then joined by Ester Baiget, Vice-President of EPCA and Business President of Industrial Solutions at Dow Europe and Steven Holland, CEO & Chairman of the Management Board at Brenntag AG who participated in an interactive panel discussion on the change of work.

EPCA has long recognized the importance of Logistics & Supply Chains, and the "Supply Chain 4.0 and the Chemical Industry: Are We on the Right Track?" session did not disappoint. Prof. Ann Vereecke, partner and faculty Dean of Vlerick Business School presented the preliminary outcomes of the study on "The impact of digitisation on the Petrochemical Supply Chain" conducted by her team in cooperation with EPCA, investigating the digital technology "appetite" and digital innovation good practices amongst EPCA’s member companies. The results of their study found that Three out of four [respondents of EPCA study] acknowledge that the petrochemical sector is lagging behind other sectors in terms of digitisation.Luq Niazi, Global Managing Director, Chemicals & Petroleum Industries at IBM then shared his perspective on the key success factors for Supply Chain digital transformation, not only in terms of adopting breakthrough technologies but also in terms of new approaches to partnerships & collaboration – important areas for the industry to address. A panel discussion concluded the session with the keynote speakers joined by two industry leaders: Dr. Frithjof Netzer, Chief Digital Officer, BASF SE and Klaus Rud Sejling, CEO of Damco, further developing the discussions and engaging with the audience, encouraging agility in order  to respond to new expectations arising from more collaboration and more co-creation as a result of digitization.

The 51st EPCA Annual meeting gathered 2,850 participants, the largest gathering in Europe of the global chemical business community. The 52nd EPCA Annual Meeting, will take place in Vienna, Austria from 7th – 10th October 2018 and aims to deliver even more opportunities to meet, acquire knowledge and share experiences.

[1] STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics

[2] European Chemical Industry Council

[3] International Council of Chemical Association 

About EPCA

EPCA is the quality network in Europe for the global chemical business community consisting of chemical producers, their suppliers, customers and service providers. It operates for and through more than 700 member companies from 54 different countries that represent an aggregate turnover of over €4.7 trillion and employing over 6.2 million people. EPCA serves as the platform to meet, exchange information and transfer learning, as well as a think tank for its members and its stakeholders.

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