This morning, Dr. Erik Sapper, Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, will open the Western Coatings Show with a keynote address titled Formulating the Future: How Technology, Innovation and Education Will Advance and Shape Our Field.


The global COVID-19 pandemic forced many industries and workplaces to undergo massive changes to their standard practices of daily operation and production. Research and development sectors faced especially challenging disruption as many physical operations were streamlined or moved to online modalities. Educators around the world were faced with similar challenges. At the same time, customer demand for new, innovative and cost-effective product continued to accelerate.

While statistical and mathematical design tools like design of experiments (DOE), predictive modeling and machine learning have been utilized in the past, these tools must become standard if modern R&D organizations wish to thrive in the modern era of virtual work, accelerated development timelines and constant innovation. Educators of tomorrow’s scientific leaders must also integrate these approaches into their educational roadmaps for today’s students.

This presentation will provide an overview of the most important tools for advancing the state of the art in our field, including accelerated materials discovery using DOE and computational strategies, rapid and iterative R&D, and design thinking approaches that artfully combine scientific product development processes with marketing strategies and customer needs.