The former chair of the USA’s largest chemical company has donated $13.5 million to help build a Brisbane university research facility.

Andrew Liveris will soon retire as chairman of DowDuPont, and says he wants to invest in the future by funding the new Liveris Academy at the University of Queensland.

The centre will train the “smartest young people and finest minds in engineering and science while addressing major challenges facing society today”, Mr Liveris said.

“We're sharing this one environment and we'd better get into the solutions space for clean air, clean water, affordable food, housing, medicines for the hundreds and hundreds of millions of people that are in poverty that are dying as we speak from hunger.”

Mr Liveris, a UQ chemical engineering graduate, worked in the chemical industry for over 40 years, eventually overseeing the multi-billion-dollar merger between Dow Chemical and DuPont - the two largest chemical companies in the US.

He has acted as an informal adviser to US President Donald Trump and headed Mr Trump's manufacturing council, as well as serving as co-chair of one former president Barack Obama's advisory committees.

The Liveris Academy will look worldwide for students of any age that show leadership in addressing sustainability issues such as clean energy, clean water and food security.

Some scholarships will be offered to Australian students.

“I think leadership today, if it's done well, is age-blind,” Mr Liveris said.

“You can be 18 or 60-something and have the energy and the passion to chase and seek creativity to help the world be a better place, a sustainable place and then of course embrace digitalisation — these are the principals that will be embedded in this facility and this academy.”

The centre will be housed at the Andrew N. Liveris building – a planned 11-storey engineering and research hub at UQ.