LAUNCH Chemistry and Predictive Design: It’s time to focus on data.

October 7, 2016
Posted in
October 7, 2016 matt.scott

By Keira Havens

Recently, Rafa Gomez Bombarelli, a post-doctoral researcher at Harvard University’s Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, joined me for a Reddit ‘Ask Me Anything’ Q&A about chemistry innovation and the #LAUNCHChemistry Innovation Challenge. The Challenge, developed by a partnership between the ACS Green Chemistry Institute and other organizations, aims to discover new ways to leverage data and predictive technologies to inspire, inform and methodize cutting-edge solutions to the world's toughest chemical problems.

For the first time in history, technology allows us to combine and analyze massive amounts of disconnected information and automatically discover previously unseen relationships within it. We now have access to an unparalleled foresight for the scope of global sustainable models, and how they can be better and more methodically designed to complement, rather than disrupt, our lives.

But there is a catch. The value of a predictive technology is directly dependent on the breadth of data available to it. In other words: the more data it eats, the smarter it gets and the more accurate its predictions become.

If we want to drive the kind of industry-wide shift that produces visible, tangible impact, we need to focus on data. This is the driving force behind #LAUNCHChemistry: a global call for innovators, entrepreneurs and others across the public and private sectors, to evolve how we harness and leverage chemical data.

Below, check out a few takeaways from our 'Ask Me Anything' conversation, held as part of the American Chemical Society’s Science Tuesday series:

Innovation in chemistry can take years!  #LAUNCHChemistry wants to shrink that timeline, by borrowing tools from industries where big data is already making an impact.

Chemists still are missing critical performance tools, like universal data formats. #LAUNCHChemistry is designed to support the people working to build these tools, by connecting them with potential partners, mentors and investors.

While new tools in this area are helpful, they’re rarely the limiting factor in developing new materials. Design is the big challenge facing chemistry today, and #LAUNCHChemistry can jump-start innovators looking to tackle this big-picture question.

Intellectual property is both a way to protect investments and a roadblock to systemic change. At LAUNCH, we want to turn that roadblock into a conduit, by encouraging organizations with creative intellectual property solutions to apply.

Innovation in chemistry today looks very similar to innovation in chemistry one century ago. Clever people read scientific papers, follow their intuition and learn from the results of their experiments. #LAUNCHChemistry wants to supplement that intuitive knowledge with new tools that can improve the design of an experiment.