By Emily Newton, Editor-in-Chief at Revolutionized

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a dramatic impact on nearly every industry and economy around the globe. Navigating 2020, and to a lesser extent 2021, has become an exercise in flexibility and adaptability. The chemistry industry is no exception. What trends will have the biggest impact on the chemistry industry moving forward into 2022?

Slow Growth Before the Pandemic

A global pandemic is one variable that no one could have predicted. And while it did play a part in slowing the growth of the chemistry industry, it isn’t the only factor impacting the sector as a whole.

Between 2017 and 2019, the chemistry industry as a whole slowed its growth and even experienced a period of underperformance long before the pandemic ever started sweeping the globe. The impact of the pandemic just exacerbated the situation.

While the pandemic may be nearly over, it will take the chemistry industry a lot longer to recover. Experts are predicting that 2021 will help boost numbers, but it will likely take until 2023 or beyond for the industry to fully recuperate. 2022 will be a stepping stone for the industry as it moves on that path toward full recuperation.

Overcoming Supply Chain Disruptions

Supply chain disruptions have become one of the biggest challenges across a number of industries throughout the pandemic. Even consumers have been impacted by these issues, unable to purchase their favorite foods or products because they simply aren’t on store shelves. Throughout 2021, nearly 85% of distributors in the chemistry industry have reported out-of-stock issues for at least one imported item.

Although inventories are climbing, a trend of supply chain disruptions will continue throughout 2021 and possibly into 2022 as things begin to return to normal. The impacts will hopefully be significantly smaller than they’ve been over the previous two years.

Dealing With Geopolitical Tensions

Globalization has always been a challenge for the chemistry industry, and supply chain breakdowns throughout 2020 and 2021, as well as newly implemented trade tariffs and the potential for a trade war between the United States and China, made for a very interesting year. The U.S. market isn’t the only one negatively affected by these changes, but some countries are bouncing back faster than others.

According to industry experts, the Chinese chemical market is expected to bounce back much faster than other competitors thanks to higher government expenditures and consumer demand. Chemical demand in Asia is expected to be higher than in the European Union and North America, largely due to the public health steps taken in China and in Asia as a whole to contain and stop the spread of the virus.

Adopting Sustainable Practices

The growing push toward sustainable practices is proving to be a difficult variable to overcome for the chemistry industry. While there is a lot of room for sustainability and changes to shrink the industry’s carbon footprint, the chemical sector has traditionally been one of the slowest when it comes to adopting and implementing new technologies or sweeping systemic changes.

With the world focusing on the looming threat of climate change and the many steps that will be necessary to prevent a climate disaster, sustainable chemistry is a trend that is likely to start picking up speed in 2022 and beyond.

Sustainable chemistry can come in many forms, such as eliminating toxic or bioaccumulative materials from the practices or increasing the use of renewable resources over non-renewable alternatives. Every aspect of the chemistry industry, from sourcing and manufacturing to materials handling and storage, can benefit from this sustainability-focused trend.

Adding AI and Machine Learning to the Mix

While, traditionally, medicine and drug development is a process that takes many years, 2020 showed the world precisely what these industries and the minds behind them are capable of, with companies around the world creating, testing, and marketing more than a dozen viable COVID-19 vaccines in less than a year.

What it has also shown is the need for fast and, more importantly, error-free, methods for testing new molecules, generating models, and carrying out quality control. Current technology was sufficient for older techniques, but as the industry’s speed picks up, so too does the demand for equipment that can keep up.

The introduction of AI and machine learning for the chemistry industry is still in its infancy, but these technologies are beginning to emerge as valuable tools for both formulation and manufacturing.

How Does 2022 Look for the Chemistry Industry?

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the negative impact it had on the chemistry industry throughout 2020 and 2021, 2022 will likely be a year of rebuilding. It’s the perfect time to lay a foundation and really reinvigorate an industry that was already struggling before the pandemic began.

Most of the trends will include a shift toward sustainability, adopting new technology, and making the best of an economy beaten down by two years under the shadow of a global pandemic.