Plenary Session

12:15 pm

Welcome Adress and Conference Introduction

Steve Sides, American Coatings Association
Sonja Schulte, Vincentz Network


12:30 - 1:00 pm

Keynote Presentation

Cross-Disciplinary Collaboration: An Imperative for Breakthrough Materials Discovery

Dr. Sharon Feng, Ph.D.
Senior Associate Dean of the Institute for Molecular Engineering
University of Chicago


In a traditional scientific research model, success often heavily depends on thein-depth expertise, insights and creativity of one principal investigator and/or a team of researchers in a particular discipline. The explosion of scientific discovery and new technologies in the 21st century, however, is turning this model on its head. This has happened because of the increased complexity of the problems that are left unaddressed and the sheer scale of the challenges mankind is facing in areas such as energy, water and sustainability.

As a result, there has been a large movement toward cross-disciplinary collaboration in scientific research transcending the boundaries of organizations, institutions and even nations. There are also increasing funding sources that specifically encourage interdisciplinary collaboration from both government agencies and private philanthropies. This “new” research model is not for the faint-hearted because it requires the courage of researchers to step out of their comfort zones, but the outcome can be incredibly rewarding and lead to the development of game changers and/or disruptive technologies.

The University of Chicago’s Institute for Molecular Engineering is established based on this research model. With its unique organizational structure, it institutionalizes the concept of cross-disciplinary collaboration by completely breaking down traditional departmental structures based on disciplines, organizing faculty, and aiming at some of the most ambitious discoveries of the next generation of material science.

Sharon Feng will discuss her perspective on implications this mega trend has on industrial R&D, and the impact on the future talent pipeline to industry. She will also provide insight on how it can potentially enable new materials discovery, with exceptional time and cost efficiency, when companies establish strategic and mutually beneficial collaborations with academic partners through open innovation.


1:00 - 1:30 pm

Presentation of the Roon Award / Presentation of the American Coatings Award


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