Ashish Batra

Knowledge Flows: Industrial Rheology Perspectives

November 2023

Ashish Batra

Senior Director, Global Regulatory Affairs and R&D Sustainability

Corteva Agriscience


Ashish Batra currently leads Global Regulatory Affairs within Regulatory & Stewardship and is also the R&D Sustainability Leader for Corteva Agriscience. Ashish is accountable to provide strategic and operational leadership to the Global Regulatory Affairs organization; partner across Crop Protection and Seed Business Unit Leadership teams to ensure regulatory strategy is at the highest level of clarity, consistency, and quality. He is responsible for driving sustainability into R&D functions, aligning R&D and corporate sustainability goals and objectives, and partnering with External Affairs, Investor Relations on sustainability programs and communications. He is a member of the Corteva R&D Leadership Team.

Ashish has held progressive roles in Corteva’s legacy companies over his 18-year career in the industry. His roles have spanned R&D with Dow Performance Plastics; Crop Protection Discovery Chemistry; Biologicals and Natural Products; Formulated Product Development; Process Development in Crop Protection (both synthetic and natural products) across R&D, Manufacturing Technology and Manufacturing. Ashish is a certified Black Belt Project Leader and received a Bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Bombay in 2000, and a Doctoral degree in Chemical Engineering from Cornell University in 2005. Ashish has 24 granted US patents and 18 external publications. He was the recipient of the AIChE Industrial Progress Award in 2016.

Please give a brief summation of your day-to-day work.

Corteva Agriscience is a global pure-play agriculture company that combines industry-leading innovation, high-touch customer engagement and operational execution to profitably deliver solutions for the world's most pressing agriculture challenges. Corteva generates advantaged market preference through its unique distribution strategy, together with its balanced and globally diverse mix of seed, crop protection, and digital products and services. With some of the most recognized brands in agriculture and a technology pipeline well positioned to drive growth, the company is committed to maximizing productivity for farmers, while working with stakeholders throughout the food system as it fulfills its promise to enrich the lives of those who produce and those who consume, ensuring progress for generations to come.

I am accountable to provide strategic and operational leadership to the Global Regulatory Affairs organization; partner across Crop Protection and Seed Business Unit Leadership teams to ensure regulatory strategy is at the highest level of clarity, consistency, and quality; ensure programs are appropriately invested in to deliver on regulatory milestones enabling freedom to operate for Corteva product lines globally – from pipeline development to registration maintenance.

Accountable for establishing short-term and long-term R&D sustainability priorities in alignment with corporate sustainability goals and objectives; embed sustainability objectives, metrics and criteria through-out discovery and development across all R&D functions.

How do you use rheology in your day-to day work?

Over the course of the last 18 years post PhD working for Dow Chemical, Dow AgroSciences and Corteva Agriscience, I have been close to rheology first as a practioner myself and later in my career leading teams and organizations where in rheology has been a key tool deployed for product development. In the first 5 years of my career, I have used rheology in product development of wire and cable compounds; personal care products; olefin block copolymers and formulations thereof used in soft consumer goods applications such shoe soles, gaskets etc. In my most recent roles in agrochemical formulations, over the last 14 years or so, I’ve used rheology to guide product development of sustainable crop protection formulations.

What inspired you to become a scientist and/or pursue a career in your specific field?

Growing up, I was always attracted to chemistry and the ability to make new materials. This led me to pursue a Bachelors in Chemical Engineering, followed by a PhD in Chemical Engineering with a focus on polymer science, material science and structure-property relationships.

When did you decide to pursue a career in industry/government?

One of my intrinsic motivators is to use science and technology to develop tangible products that have a meaningful impact in the lives of the consumers of those products. Towards the 3rd year of my PhD, interacting with various speakers that would come to campus to deliver seminars across various industries from pharma, biotechnology, electronic materials, materials, specialty chem or at conferences, I became convinced that a career in industry would align with that intrinsic motivator.

What has been the most rewarding part of your career thus far?

By far the most rewarding part of my career has been the opportunity to work across different cultures, geographies and scientific disciplines to deliver products that play a role in enabling food security and farmer livelihood.

How has involvement with The Society of Rheology helped to shape/influence your career?

I still distinctly remember the first Society of Rheology meeting I attended almost exactly 20 years ago in Oct 2003 in Pittsburgh with my advisor, Prof Claude Cohen. I presented my research on stress and birefringence relaxation in end-linked elastomers with pendant chains. In attendance were the luminary professors whose papers you read and that had inspired entire fields of research in the field of rheology from all over the world. But also in attendance were a numbers of researchers and collaborators from companies such as DuPont, Dow, Kodak, Colgate-Palmolive etc. and their presentations on using rheology to elucidate structure-property relationships and to guide product development reinforced my decision to pursue a career in industrial product development.

After completing formal education, what is one new skill set that you developed/acquired that has been critical for your career?

One critical skill that I have developed and continue to hone to this day is to distill down highly complex technical and scientific topics into easily understood messages that can help drive decision-making for investment decisions.

What are the two most important non-technical skills for a career in science?

The ability to collaborate cross-functionally across not only other scientific disciplines but across a wide set of stakeholders. This includes eventual consumers of the technology, NGOs, regulators, investors, intellectual property lawyers, and more. This type of collaboration is key to success irrespective of an industrial or academic career in science.

What is one piece of advice you wish you had received earlier in your career?

It is not just about what you deliver as an outcome or result but also how you deliver the outcome or results. This speaks to the softer skills of how you work, be it in an industrial setting or an academic setting, that will really differentiate you from individuals that focus only on the final outcome. For example, listening to multiple perspectives, valuing the different perspectives people have to offer based on both personal and scientific experiences before making a final decision is one of those “how’s”. This requires intentional focus that did come automatically very early on in my career but as a few key situations played out, it reinforced this for me.

What advice would you give to students making the transition to their first job?

More and more a career in industry is truly a team sport. No product gets to market without the efforts of several disciplines working collaboratively together. The advice I would offer would be to get into that mind-set of collaborating and not trying to do everything yourself.

What advice would you give to students considering graduate school?

Use the opportunity to take some courses outside of your core graduate work area be it in statistics, communications, or finance. These will serve you well irrespective of future career directions.

Looking towards the future, what are you most excited about in your career and/or science?

We are truly at a cross road as a society where we face significant challenges. Challenges such as: feeding as a growing population expected to reach 10 billion by 2050; a changing climate; and consumers being even more conscious of environmental impacts of the products they consume. Advances that continue to occur in biotechnology; artificial intelligence; robotics will drive very tangible solutions to the significant challenges we face. It couldn’t be a more exciting time to be a scientist.

If you could meet and have lunch with one scientist (past or present), who would it be and why?

If I could have lunch with one scientist, it would be Dr. Norman E Borlaug who had a PhD in plant pathology. In 1970 Norman E. Borlaug was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for a lifetime of work to feed a hungry world. Because of his achievements to prevent hunger, famine and misery around the world, it is said that Dr. Borlaug has "saved more lives than any other person who has ever lived."

How has mentorship impacted your career?

I had had the good fortune of having several mentors in any given year throughout the last 18 years in industry. They have offered advice on how to handle specific situations be it people-related, technology-related, or strategy-related; they have offered guidance on job-moves; they have offered counsel on leadership styles; but most importantly many of these have evolved to life-long friendships.