Solving the real challenges of our time: Data science helps to turn chemistry more sustainable

Covestro holds its first-ever international data science Hackathon across three continents

  • Providing real-world data analysis for supply chain and production in the chemical industry
  • The winning team from Tongji University to compete against German and American teams in final contest
  • Propelling the application of data science to drive digitalization of the chemical industry
The winning team from Tongji University in Covestro’s first international data science Hackathon together with representatives from Tongji and Covestro. They will compete with winning teams from RWTH Aachen University and Carnegie Mellon University in the finals in Leverkusen, Germany in December.

Supply chain challenges caused by the global climate change are putting the supply reliability of the entire chemical industry at risk. Meanwhile, the industry is also facing the question of how to ensure higher resource efficiency to achieve more sustainable manufacturing. To address these two significant issues, Covestro held an international data science Hackathon from November 8 to 11 at Tongji University (Shanghai, China), RWTH Aachen University (Aachen, Germany) and Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, USA). This is Covestro’s first real-time Hackathon across three continents, exploring the best data-analysis approaches and applications in order to meet the urgent needs of the chemical industry, while propelling the application of data science in the chemical industry.

During the event, the teams worked to solve Covestro’s real-world supply chain and production use cases, which ranged from automating consistent product quality testing methods to predicting the remaining percentage of catalyst volume, in addition to predicting water levels of the Rhine river. After a final code review by an expert jury at Covestro, the Tongji University team, consisting of six students from different majors, earned the winning title. The team will represent China against other regional winning teams in the final battle in Leverkusen, Germany on December 12. Tongji University also earned the highest score on average among the three participating universities.

“The interdisciplinary collaboration and professionalism demonstrated by Tongji’s winning team in the four-day competition was impressive,” said Holly Lei, President of Covestro China. “This data science Hackathon is another example of Covestro’s open innovation approach with academies, and is a concrete manifestation of our strategy to advance sustainability and digitalization.”

“As a front runner of digitalization within the chemical industry, Covestro fosters innovation in the use of digital tools and data science for the chemical industry, leading the industry to the digital age. This advanced approach benefits the entire chemical industry to become more sustainable and resource efficient,” emphasized Dr. Michael Schmidt, Head of Innovation Covestro Asia Pacific. “We want to take advantage of this international competition to provide a platform and resources for talent in the field of data science in order to solve the challenges of our industry.”

“The Covestro data science Hackathon gives us the opportunity to address real-world challenges, from concept to prototype, and develop new advanced analytics technologies while participating in research and manufacturing for the future of the chemical industry. Our success is partly due to the guidance and inspiration of the Covestro experts,” said Jiawei Liu, the leader of Tongji’s winning team.

The competition attracted more than 90 students from the three universities around the world. In the four-day contest, students participated in three real-world chemical industry supply chains and production cases, displaying an interdisciplinary form of teamwork. Projects were ranked hourly, reflecting a real-world scenario in which business partners provide periodic and limited feedback for teams to draw conclusions. Across all use cases, solutions were scored on presentation, content, technical solution and business case.

“With the on-site coaching from Covestro experts along the progress, students were able to find innovative techniques and methods to identify ways for program improvement through coding, as well as develop presentation skills for the final pitch. Thanks to Covestro for providing such an international platform,” concluded Li Yan, Vice Dean of School of Innovation & Entrepreneurship, Tongji University.

The winning teams from the three regions will compete for the global title on December 12 at the Chemalytix conference, where they will also learn about industry application for artificial intelligence and meet with representatives of several organizations. Chemalytix is Germany’s first-ever data science conference for the chemical industry, attended by data science experts, representatives of key chemical companies and winners of the global data science Hackathon.

Open innovation collaboration

Open cooperation with academies is a backbone of Covestro’s innovation strategy. Tongji University, RWTH Aachen University and Carnegie Mellon University have all established long-term partnerships with Covestro.

Covestro’s open innovation partnership with Tongji focuses on digitalization, 3D printing, improved battery performance for electric vehicles, and the development of low-volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and odor solutions designed to improve interior air quality in vehicles, as well as exploring the development of China’s robotics industry.

Covestro’s cooperation with RWTH Aachen University in Germany focuses on catalytic research and is currently further developing the use of carbon dioxide as a raw material for the production of new plastics. In Pittsburgh, Covestro has partnered with Carnegie Mellon University through the College of Engineering, on projects such as the development of important material solutions for ice hockey activities.

About Covestro:

With 2018 sales of EUR 14.6 billion, Covestro is among the world’s largest polymer companies. Business activities are focused on the manufacture of high-tech polymer materials and the development of innovative solutions for products used in many areas of daily life. The main segments served are the automotive, construction, wood processing and furniture, and electrical and electronics industries. Other sectors include sports and leisure, cosmetics, health and the chemical industry itself. Covestro has 30 production sites worldwide and employs approximately 16,800 people (calculated as full-time equivalents) at the end of 2018.

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