Today, rapid innovation and speed to market are a must for any industry. This is perhaps especially true in the consumer-packaged goods (CPG) space, where new chemical formulations are needed to satisfy constantly shifting market demands. Changing social norms, like going green, shrinking the chemical footprint and introducing more organics/natural products, create a constantly evolving environment. As such, the pace of R&D and innovation must keep up with market needs to ensure the development and production of successful chemical products.
This is easier said than done. An ever-growing universe of chemical substances across a wide range of scientific disciplines means that knowing which chemical to use in any given product becomes increasingly difficult. Due to an unfathomable number of chemical reaction options, broad multidisciplinary research is decreasing, and the focus has shifted toward making deeper incremental innovations in specific topics and areas.
However, this shift towards narrow and deep research can be problematic. If the interconnectivity of research is overlooked, information may become siloed within particular fields, limiting knowledge sharing and future innovation. However, network analysis can make sense of the vast universe of chemical substances, break these silos of information and help you to pave the way for true innovation in CPG and beyond.
How network science forms connections between chemicals
Network science is the study of multifaceted systems and the connections between the elements. Analyzing these networks can help you understand how markets function, how to solve problems within an organization or even how society changes.
Just like Facebook, LinkedIn or other social media platforms use network analysis to connect people, networks of chemical substances can be formed based on commonalities and shared connections. Instead of mutual friends, chemicals may be connected based on properties or sub-structures, or inclusion in certain formulations or patents filed by the same company. With these relationships determined, the connection strength between any two chemicals can be calculated.
These direct connections are known as weighted "first degree connections," essentially providing the immediate "friend network" of chemicals. Also, just as a social media platform will recommend friends and connections or "people you may know," the same can be done with chemicals.
Using these network links between chemicals, indirect connections can be uncovered and used to accelerate R&D by highlighting new solutions and spaces that could have easily gone unnoticed. For example, chemical substances in the image below (blue) are connected to formulations (green) with different product categories (red). This network shows chemicals that can be used in both cleaning compositions and cosmetics, suggesting new formulations that can be developed by using chemicals that are common across multiple products.
Re-categorizing communities of chemicals for innovation
Historically, chemicals have been placed in groups classified by scientists based on their scientific domain. Where network science is extremely powerful is in its ability to transcend scientific domains, relying solely on the "topology" or structure of the network. This is particularly exciting as it means that new groups and categories can form organically, evolve over time, and can be quickly and dynamically re-categorized.
In the broader chemical network view below, we see how the usual (and sometimes unusual) suspects are part of the same chemical community and how different product domains are connected. By visualizing chemical networks as geographical topologies, predictive analytics can be used to determine which chemicals are more likely to be utilized successfully in a new product formulation.
This method of analysis also allows for rapid identification of shifts in the marketplace, where chemical substances are being aligned and realigned with different groups within the network. By detecting changes in the innovation marketplace, new combinations of chemicals can be adapted for particular products. Most importantly, the analysis can help give your company a competitive edge by identifying a broader universe of possible chemicals—across scientific domains—that can be used in product development.
How CAS makes network analysis possible
At CAS, our extensive collection of chemical substance information is annotated and enhanced by a team of expert scientists, providing a well-structured foundation for chemical network analysis. The CAS Analytics team is helping researchers make sense of the vast collection of published chemical substance information, enabling them to generate new insights and achieve better outcomes in R&D. We can empower you to connect the dots in your chemical network to reveal your next CPG innovation opportunity.
If you'd like to find out more about chemical network analysis opportunities, get in touch today!