New Report! The Funding Landscape of Green and Sustainable Chemistry

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By the ACS Green Chemistry Institute

Read the new report, “Identifying Opportunities for Green Chemistry Research to Advance Sustainable Development,” for an overview of the green and sustainable chemistry funding landscape, including how funding aligns with the U.N. SDGs.

By the ACS Green Chemistry Institute

If we want to make significant progress towards global sustainability, it is crucial that we prioritize making chemical processes and the products that stem from them minimally impactful on the environment and human health. Most chemists are aware of this and are actively incorporating these principles into their scientific research. Similarly, funding agencies and foundations aim to contribute positively towards sustainability goals. However, researchers and funders lack a shared approach to linking research with these societal goals. Can we evaluate the impact of funding portfolios and identify research initiatives that may impact sustainable development?  

To establish an overview of the current funding landscape for green and sustainable chemistry, the ACS Green Chemistry Institute (ACS GCI), with funding from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, undertook a year-long project in 2023 to elucidate opportunities for public and private funders to contribute to achieving the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and climate-mitigation goals. The Moore Foundation is a charitable foundation that invests in areas such as science and environmental conservation with an eye toward achieving large-scale, enduring impacts. 

The major goal of this project was to analyze global data on awarded research grants and identify emerging areas of research that are underfunded and are anticipated to have a catalytic impact on green and sustainable chemistry. To this end, we also convened funding organizations to discuss current and near-future funding trends. 

Data was collected on grants awarded globally between 2013 and 2022 by all funding institutions over the last three years. The grants considered focused on basic research in green and sustainable chemistry and had applications towards at least one of the UN SDGs. 

The resultant report, “Identifying Opportunities for Green Chemistry Research to Advance Sustainable Development,” is now freely available to the public. 

Importantly, the report emphasizes the areas where funding can make a significant impact and highlights the value of interdisciplinary collaborations between academia and industry. It also recognizes the need for a centralized repository of experimental data to expedite research efforts. 

The analysis showed that analytical chemistry and theoretical and computational chemistry had the lowest funding levels but held significant potential for making an impact on sustainable chemistry. Although funding for individual investigator grants in theoretical and computational chemistry increased over the period examined, it remained the least funded field overall. Considering their importance in developing environmentally friendly chemicals and chemical processes, it is recommended to increase funding for analytical chemistry and computational chemistry, as this could have a profound effect on achieving the UN SDGs.