Enhancing research activities
- Growth cluster initiative concluded in 2011
- Research and development activities developed further in alignment with the “We create chemistry” strategy
- Stronger research orientation on the market and future growth fields
Our forward-looking research projects, in which we search for answers to pressing societal issues, are derived from global megatrends; until the end of 2011, these were grouped into five growth clusters.
Our goal in the Plant Biotechnology growth cluster is to make targeted improvements to the properties and characteristics of plants. For example, we worked together with Monsanto to develop the world’s first genetically modified drought-tolerant variety of corn (maize). This corn was approved for cultivation in the United States in December 2011. It will be grown on selected farms in the United States starting in 2012 in order to familiarize farmers with the product.
In the White Biotechnology growth cluster, we use microorganisms and enzymes to synthesize chemical products. We want to conduct extensive research on the suitability of algae, for example, as a production organism for synthesizing specialty chemicals, such as those for the cosmetics and food industries. To this end, we started up a pilot plant for algae cultivation in 2011.
In the Raw Material Change growth cluster, we are researching alternatives and supplements to crude oil as a raw material for the chemical industry. In the future, we want to synthesize important basic chemicals from natural gas or carbon dioxide, as well. One process, in which methane (the main component of natural gas) is turned into benzene at high temperatures, has proven especially promising. In addition, we are looking for ways to produce syngas from the feedstocks methane and carbon dioxide. Syngas is a universal raw material for many chemicals.
The Energy Management growth cluster focuses on solving the energy questions of the future. Cooling systems which use the magnetocaloric effect use only half as much energy as conventional systems. We are working with the Dutch Foundation for Fundamental Research on Matter to find new magnetocaloric materials with improved properties. Together with partners in industry, we are making the first appliances based on this technology ready for series production.
Our focus areas in the Nanotechnology growth cluster include formulating active ingredients for the pharmaceutical industry and additives for the construction sector. With the help of nanoformulations and microfluidics, which we are working on as part of the BASF Advanced Research Initiative at Harvard University, we can introduce specific molecules into substrates in order to create new or improve existing properties. This, for example, allows the body to absorb medications better or gives our customers more control over the hardening process of concrete.
Spotlight on electric mobility
- BASF’s innovations reduce energy consumption in electric cars, thereby increasing their range
- Comprehensive approach based on electricity generation, storage and use
- Focus on new battery materials, lightweight design and temperature management
- smart forvision concept car developed in collaboration with Daimler
We concluded the growth cluster initiative in 2011 and enhanced our research and development activities within the scope of the “We create chemistry” strategy. In the future, we will focus more intently on the market and our customers’ needs. We are broadening our long-term research activities to encompass the development of new business areas. We have identified more than ten growth fields – such as batteries, water treatment and organic electronics – that represent attractive business opportunities in our target industries. In addition, we are focusing on three pioneering technology areas that provide the technological basis for the development of future-oriented solutions: Materials, Systems & Nanotechnology; Raw Material Change; and White Biotechnology.
We have also redesigned our research processes and structures. Our knowledge and competence centers are the central technology platforms Advanced Materials & Systems Research, Biological & Effect Systems Research, Process Research & Chemical Engineering as well as BASF Plant Science. These are supported by BASF Future Business and BASF Venture Capital, which primarily focus on identifying and promoting new business areas. Together with the development units in our operating divisions, as well as the research facilities in key regions, these platforms form the core of our global Know-How Verbund. Through more efficient innovation management, we have laid the foundation for even more profitable growth.