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Delaware’s Dynamic Chemistry Sector Makes for a Thriving Industry

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In many ways, chemistry as a discipline seeks to understand the interaction between things and how those interactions can produce change. It’s a fitting reflection of the chemical industry in Delaware, which also finds itself in a period of change.

The First State has been a major nerve center of chemical innovation since the du Pont family began making black powder along the Brandywine Creek two centuries ago, but it has not remained static by any means. Smaller companies are coming to the fore and shaping the next chapter of Delaware’s chemical sector, while established players are evolving to seize opportunities in the current business climate.

Relative newcomers like White Dog Labs and ThruPore Technologies are gaining traction and eyeing steps to scale their business, while companies like Adesis and Chemours are set to expand their operations in a big way. At the same time, long-standing players like Ashland and DowDuPont are reinventing themselves to help serve customers and thrive amid the changing landscape.

In some cases, change begets more change. As DowDuPont moves in a new direction, a number of former DuPont scientists and chemists have come together to form STRIDE, a consultancy focused on R&D and innovation. DuPont’s Experimental Station, which hosted the development of transformation substances, is also now home to the Delaware Innovation Space, an incubator cultivating new technologies and discoveries for startups and developing companies.

At the same time, Delaware’s chemical industry continues to benefit from an educational infrastructure that includes the University of Delaware’s renowned chemical and biomolecular engineering programs as well as science-focused incubators such as STAR Campus.

1. Chemical engineers in Delaware earn an average salary of $118,460 per year, which is higher than the national average for chemical engineers ($105,420 a year). Delaware is second only to Texas for the highest average salary for chemical engineers. Delaware also ranks second in the country for the highest concentration of jobs in the chemical engineering field, ranking only behind Louisiana.

For every thousand jobs in Delaware, 1.13 jobs are in chemical engineering.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

2. Chemicals stand as Delaware’s top export in the manufacturing sector, accounting for $1.6 billion out of a total of $4.3 billion in manufactured goods in 2016.
Source: U.S. Trade Representative

3. The Delaware Innovation Space, an incubator developed by DuPont, the University of Delaware and the state of Delaware, received a $3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration to renovate a part of its facilities in October 2017. According to the Department of Commerce, the renovations are “expected to create 657 jobs and generate $80 million in private investment.”

The facility is located at the Experimental Station in Wilmington, which since its establishment in 1903 hosted the development of materials that have had a profound impact on human life, including Kevlar, nylon, Teflon and Lycra. Charles J. Pedersen earned a share of the 1987 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for his discovery of crown ethers while working for DuPont at the Experimental Station.
Sources: U.S. Department of Commerce, DuPont, Nobel Prize Committee

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