The second Commonwealth Chemistry Congress (CCC) took place in Trinidad & Tobago from May 23-25. The event attracted more than 200 scientists and educators from over 30 countries across the Commonwealth to exchange knowledge, foster collaboration and address some of the most pressing challenges in the field of chemistry. 

The Commonwealth Chemistry is the Federation of chemical societies from Commonwealth countries established in 2020 with goals to advance equal opportunity for all, inspire innovation, and champion excellence in the chemical sciences for the benefit of member nations and their people. The Commonwealth represents a population of 2.5 billion and is home to 12% of the world’s researchers. 

CCC 2023 was hosted by the University of West Indies at its St Augustine Campus. Under the theme “Partnerships for the Goals”, attendees discussed the role of chemistry in achieving the following United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):

#2 – Zero hunger; 

#3 – Good health and wellbeing; 

#6 – Clean water and sanitation; 

#7 – Affordable and clean energy; 

#12 – Responsible consumption and production; and 

#13 – Climate action. 

The congress featured a number of plenary speakers including Norelle Daly from the Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine at James Cook University in Australia, Phillip Jessop from Queen’s University in Canada, Annamma Anil Odaneth from UPL Ltd in India, and more. 

Daly spoke about the potential of peptides, such as those found in the venom of spiders and scorpions, as drug candidates for therapeutic applications including wound healing or inflammatory diseases. Jessop explored how systems thinking – a holistic approach to analysis that focuses on how a system’s parts are interconnected and on understanding those dependencies – can be applied to biomass conversion research. Odaneth discussed her work engineering biocatalysts to be used in processes that are sustainable and have commercial value. 

Other topics under discussion included: the development of environmentally benign materials for renewable energy or for manufacturing processes; the design of new drugs to treat diseases; and innovative technologies to tackle pollution and contamination and protect the environment to name a few. 

CCC 2023 also offered three panel discussions that brought together high profile stakeholders from government, industry and academia who examined how Commonwealth chemists can contribute to the SDGs; shared experiences and data on issues and barriers around diversity, inclusion and equity in the chemical sciences; and identified how chemistry education needs to evolve so that the next generation has the skills to tackle the challenges they will face and transform our societies.

One such stakeholder was the Chemical Institute of Canada’s (CIC) Executive Director, Josephine Tsang, who was a panelist in the “Chemistry, the Commonwealth and the SDGs” discussion. In addition to Tsang and Jessop, Canadian chemistry was represented by CIC Board of Directors Chair Deborah Nicoll-Griffith, CSC President Jennifer Love, Susana Kimura-Hara and Pierre Kennepohl from University of Calgary, Peter Mahaffy from King’s University, Audrey Moores and Marc-André Légaré from McGill University, Cora Young from York University and Francesco Gentile from University of Ottawa. 

“Connecting with delegates from over 30 Commonwealth countries left me with a profound sense of optimism, reaffirming our commitment to fostering equitable partnerships. The Sustainable Development Goal 17, “Partnerships for the Goals”, will continue serve as a guiding principle for both myself and the CIC. My sincere thanks to the Commonwealth Chemistry and University of West Indies, St. Augustine Campus for creating this opportunity for collaboration among the delegates and countries”, said Josephine Tsang.

The congress put a special focus on early career scientists who, in addition to networking and career development opportunities, participated in poster sessions and flash presentations. 

CCC 2023 also featured a number of social events, including a welcome dinner, a networking reception, a gala dinner, and a cultural show. These events provided an opportunity for the delegates to network and to learn more about the culture of Trinidad and Tobago.

CCC 2023 concluded with a poster prize giving ceremony and the congress’ closing session, which were followed by the Commonwealth Chemistry’s 3rd annual general meeting. 

The 2nd Commonwealth Chemistry Congress had originally been scheduled to happen during 18-21 May 2020 but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The next Commonwealth Chemistry Congress will take place in 2025.