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Posted: February 2, 2009
BASF's Research Strategy Focuses on Innovative Solutions for the Issues of the Future
(Nanowerk News) BASF’s research units are its pulsating lifelines. The worldwide Verbund of creative thinkers is constantly producing new ideas and projects, driving forward the company even in economically difficult times.
“The goal of our research is to expand existing technologies and markets and tap into new business potentials. We want to generate organic growth exceeding market growth levels,” emphasizes Dr. Andreas Kreimeyer, Member of BASF’s Board of Executive Directors and Research Executive Director. With innovative products and tailored solutions for its customers, BASF is consolidating its leading position in the chemical industry. With new or improved processes, the company is continuing to increase sustainability and efficiency in production.
BASF’s Research Verbund consists of the central technology platforms and the international network of research and development units of the business segments and group companies. About 8,600 employees are involved in research and development projects at 80 sites around the globe. For 2009, BASF is planning research expenditures at the same high level as in the previous three years. In 2008, the company spent altogether approximately €1.34 billion on research and development.
As part of its research strategy, BASF combines the projects of its key technology-driven topics of future relevance in defined Growth Clusters. At present, these are the areas of Energy Management, Raw Material Change, Nanotechnology, Plant Biotechnology and White (Industrial) Biotechnology. The research projects for these complex topics are to be driven rapidly to success through interdisciplinary cooperation.
In 2009, more than €300 million from BASF’s research budget will be flowing into future-oriented projects in these Growth Clusters. Investments totaling up to €1 billion in these key research areas are planned for the period 2009 to 2011.
Cooperations – the path to success
“With the Growth Clusters, we have identified the important topics of future relevance that will contribute to solving urgent social issues,” explains Kreimeyer. “But it will only be possible to address the challenges of the future through international and interdisciplinary cooperation. We therefore increasingly attach importance to cooperating with outstanding partners from science and business. With everyone contributing their own strengths, we advance much more rapidly and create sustainable success,” he adds.
BASF is currently pursuing about 1,800 research cooperations with partners around the world. In the plant biotechnology area, for example, the company is engaged in a collaborative project with the U.S. corporation Monsanto. The aim of this project is to develop higher yielding crops with improved resistance to adverse environmental conditions such as drought. In the nanotechnology field, BASF has founded a joint research initiative with Harvard University (Cambridge, Massachusetts) to study the formation of microbial biofilms on various surfaces and new formulations for water-insoluble active agents. In the Energy Management Growth Cluster, BASF researchers are working on, among other things, organic semiconductor materials intended to bring about the breakthrough for a new generation of solar cells. With cost effective and flexible solar cells, the technology partners want to further expand the use of solar energy in future.
Out of the Growth Cluster into the market
The successful path from the invention to the innovation – in other words from BASF’s Growth Clusters to the market – can be illustrated using fuel cell research as an example. In the last two years, BASF Fuel Cell (BFC), which was founded as recently as 2007, has become the only commercial supplier of ready-for-production high-temperature membrane electrode units (MEAs). With these MEAs, polymer membrane fuel cells can be made more economical and reliable. BFC is now investing up to €10 million in a new production plant for high-temperature MEAs in Somerset, New Jersey. The aim is to meet the greatly increasing demand from customers. The new production facility is also creating jobs. BFC will be increasing its worldwide workforce by almost one-third to 100. To ensure optimal linkage to BASF’s business processes, BFC was transferred from the research area of the Growth Cluster Energy Management and integrated into the Inorganics division when the MEAs were ready for market launch at the beginning of January 2009.