Monday, December 5, 2016

Interesting look into PPG

Also in this week's C&EN, an article by Marc Reisch on PPG. Fascinating to see what how many scientists and engineers at their research campus (emphasis mine):
About 20 minutes from PPG Industries’ headquarters in downtown Pittsburgh is the Allison Park Coatings Innovation Center. Set on 175 rolling wooded acres, the glass-clad research facility employs more than 280 synthetic chemists, analytical chemists, formulation experts, and chemical engineers. 
First opened in 1974, the facility just got a $7.8 million upgrade. The project added robotic paint spray booths that replicate customer manufacturing conditions along with new synthesis labs and equipment to accommodate a growing workforce. 
“We hired 45 Ph.D.s just in the last five years,” says David Bem, PPG’s chief technology officer. More researchers will be coming to the site soon. In the coming years, he says, the firm plans to hire additional chemists, including those with B.S. and M.S. degrees, as it advances work on new types of coatings. 
The Allison Park researchers are at the vanguard of a global technology force of 3,500 intended to give PPG an edge in architectural, marine, automotive, and other coatings. They are also an important piece of PPG’s plan to compete with rival Sherwin-Williams, which is set to complete its acquisition of Valspar in early 2017 and displace PPG as the world’s largest paint maker.
Will be worth keeping an eye on.  


  1. Coatings (industrial materials in general) is a huge field that employs enormous numbers of chemists, but, lacking the "sexiness" of pharma, doesn't get much attention in universities or the "chemical" press.

    1. "...lacking the 'sexiness' of pharma..."

      Or the money. Or the benefits to mankind. Or...

    2. "Or the benefits to mankind"

      Little arrogant, perhaps? Coatings may indeed not have the glamor of new drugs, but that my car won't rust easily and that water doesn't leak into my house when it rains seems to me pretty important and worthwhile. Now discovering drugs to "treat" double chins, ED/FSD, hair loss, wrinkles, restless leg syndrome or, my new favorite VNDA's 'jet lag syndrome', sure, those are critical issues.....

  2. 45 PhD's in five years is really not a lot, considering that PPG is one of the biggest coatings companies in the world. Innovating in the coatings space is challenging, as the reactors are usually quite large and the scope of chemistry fairly narrow (e.g. urethanes, epoxies, acrylics, etc). The industry is also very cost-sensitive (everyone wants to buy products at $1/lb) and conservative towards new innovations. Regulations surrounding VOCs also limits the scope of "sexy" chemistry. A TON of work in CASE (coatings, adhesives, sealants, and elastomers) tends to be formulation science and weathering studies, both of which can be fun but does not necessarily require a PhD. Having moved from the CASE industry back to academia, I'd love to get some of my B.S. and M.S. students working on projects with companies like PPG, SW, Valspar, Rhino, etc and give them a real-world idea of what non-pharma industrial R&D looks like.


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