How to Bring Your Custom Chemical Product to Market: A Primer
- May 23, 2022
More than a few million-dollar ideas have come to naught because the people that conceived them weren’t able to navigate the process of getting them in the hands of the people who would gladly pay for them.
Whether it was the R&D stage, scale–up, or commercialization that tripped them up, these products failed before they really even began.
To make sure that doesn’t happen to your ground-breaking chemical product, read our guide to the important factors governing each stage…and be sure to enlist the right partner to help you get your chemical to market.
OBJECTIVE: To produce a chemical route to a marketable chemical solution that addresses an identified, real-world problem. This includes what may be called “classic” or academic research–pursuing an understanding of the fundamental aspects of a concept or phenomenon–and advanced research–investigation with a specific goal in mind.
HOW DOES IT WORK? Today’s business environment necessitates the R&D stage be as fast and efficient as possible. This has changed the way research and development is done, namely by making it much more technology-oriented.
Instead of a heuristic, trial-and-error approach, new chemical products and formulations may be iterated with the help of computers and software that can seamlessly incorporate complex aspects such as computational chemistry, thermodynamics, material science, chemical, industrial, and electronic engineering, artificial intelligence, and more.
This method allows researchers to quickly test and rule out, if necessary, a wide variety of combinations.
Technology is also being used before the experiment phase even begins, by companies that utilize search and content analytics to monitor what kinds of industry patents are being granted. This can help them identify both opportunities for collaboration to develop new chemicals, and the areas that are generating the most consumer interest. This research can also form a sound base of knowledge for the marketing team as they begin the work of digital commercialization at the end of the R&D stage.
As much of the industry has shifted from B2B to B2C products, the missions of R&D teams commonly include such user-friendliness targets such as reducing two-component or two-part-application products to one-component, reducing drying or curing times, improving shelf lives, and incorporating more environmentally friendly components.
CHALLENGES: One of the drawbacks of the computer-assisted/digital experiment approach is the utility is limited to the data and models the researchers and software have access to. And even with computer help, the integration of the tools necessary to tackle the complexity of the problems to be addressed can be very difficult. This is why many companies elect to outsource their R&D to dedicated specialists with proven track records working with certain kinds of chemicals.
Did you know?
Seatex has a fully staffed, onsite, technology center ready to help with your proprietary projects.
And although these methods still have their place, traditional approaches of experimentation and heuristics can be time-consuming and costly, with no guarantee of a solution being the optimal one. For these reasons, some industry analysts recommend a hybrid approach, when possible, that combines human wisdom and experience with systems and artificial intelligence.
From an economics perspective, R&D can also pose a challenge for companies to know how much capital to dedicate and to which end markets. For example, one specialty chemical company found that despite funding research into over 40 end markets, 95% of earnings came from just three of them.
Recent Chemical R&D Success Stories
- A pair of researchers at the University of California, Riverside, used machine learning to understand what a chemical smells like, opening the door to improvements in the food flavor and fragrance industries.
- A Maryland company incorporated chip-scale chemical sensor technology into an ultra-small hazardous gas and particulate matter detector for firefighters.
- A startup that grew out of research at Penn State University developed a biopesticide for a greener way to treat bedbugs using naturally occurring fungal spores.
OBJECTIVE: To standardize the optimal process that can successfully and consistently produce a desired chemical product in large or commercial quantities without significantly altering its properties.
HOW DOES IT WORK? Chemistry is rarely a straightforward process when attempted on a large scale–there are numerous known variables that come into play as the batch size is increased. At the same time, the cost of certain elements to produce a compound that were acceptable in small amounts during the R&D stage may prove unworkable at the levels necessary to create commercial batches.
So Scale-Up is the process of tweaking the chemical route to ensure safety, guarantee high quality, reduce production costs as much as possible, and maximize yield.
Decisions that must be made in this stage include equipment selection, how to design containment and relief systems to ensure personnel safety and product success, the design of the stirrer and the reactor, the position of the feed tube, operating conditions, the optimal number of distillation trays, and more.
There are a number of important strategies and processes for answering these questions during scale-up, including:
- Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) uses three-dimensional process modeling to calculate a range of mixing and flow characteristics with a single digital simulation. This is especially helpful in identifying shear rate “hot spots” in manufacturing vessels.
- Process Analytical Technologies (PAT) is best-known among pharmaceutical chemical companies regulated by the FDA, which has outlined a regulatory framework for PAT implementation. But the process of acquiring and analyzing data regarding a new product to form critical process parameters (CPPs)–such as heat flow trend, particle size characterization, pH measurement, online sampling and spectroscopy, and more–can and should be applied to any type of chemical.
- PAT is an important element of Quality by Design (QbD), a multi-industry manufacturing process that emphasizes well-defined objectives and thorough risk management to produce (in this case) chemical products that are reliable and that create customer satisfaction.
CHALLENGES: Every scale-up process poses its own unique challenges, but universal challenges include:
- heat transfer and heating and cooling rates
- equipment scalability, capacity, and availability
- regulatory standards, especially for consumable products
- achieving proper mixing, without which there may be low yield, poor selectivity, or more impurities and higher manufacturing costs
- side-reactions/by-product formation
- business-side hurdles such as packaging or delivery logistics, building a content management system (CMS), and the high capital expenses to acquire scale-up facilities
- waste generation/disposal costs
- analytics/quality control
OBJECTIVE: To bring a new chemical product to market, or to expand the marketing of an existing product to a wider audience.
HOW DOES IT WORK? Commercialization can mean the entire manufacturing process from ideation, production, to distribution, or it can be limited to the final activities of bringing a product to market: the distribution, marketing, sales, and customer support. It can also mean ramping up production (and all related activities) of an already-successful chemical product to reach a wider audience.
When considering the entire chemical journey, there are two primary ways to manage it: handling commercialization yourself, or outsourcing to a qualified contract manufacturer like Seatex.
Did you know?
Seatex has over 55 years of experience providing a full range of custom chemical manufacturing services for clients looking to outsource their chemical blending and packaging so they can focus on what they do best.
Seatex can help the entire way from lab scale to commercial scale.
See what makes Seatex a trusted partner.
To DIY, you’ll likely need outside financing to purchase equipment, hire and train employees, acquire insurance and liability coverage, and more. This will take time and there’s no guarantee you will be able to get exactly what you need, plus you’ll be taking on considerable debt.
Alternatively, outsourcing can be a way to move quickly to get your product to market by contracting with an expert chemical manufacturer.
You’ll be much less top-heavy without all the capex needed to get started, and you’ll have access to all the manufacturer’s knowledge and experience. You will naturally have to give up some control over your product, and share your IP with a third party, but both of these are negligible risks when working with a respected contract manufacturer. They should be able to help you all the way through the process of commercializing, including packaging, delivery, marketing, and customer support.
Snapshot: Selecting a Chemical Manufacturer
If you decide to outsource the process of commercializing your chemical, consider how a potential partner stacks up in these areas:
- Confidentiality: Is your intellectual property in good hands?
- Safety record: Do they operate responsibly and efficiently?
- Research, processing, and logistics capability: Do they have the know-how to help bring your chemical to market?
- Certifications: What third-party organizations can attest to the manufacturer’s quality standards?
- Company profile: What kind of feedback do they have and do they have a successful history of helping customers like you?
Find the rest of our tips on choosing a chemical manufacturer.
CHALLENGES: It’s common for inexperienced companies to get siloed while bringing a product to market–for example, the sales team is operating without critical information about supply or performance. Changing market conditions, such as the availability of inputs, can also be difficult to keep up with and adapt to from the planning stages through production.
In particular, academic institutions and research organizations face several notorious chemical product commercialization challenges, such as:
- a lack of support or emphasis on commercialization by their university/administrators
- a knowledge gap between academic and industry researchers, including a lack of business and commercialization knowledge among college faculty
- competing time demands for college faculty