BASF Report 2021


Protecting our climate and making the best use of limited natural resources while supplying the fast-growing global population with food, energy and clean water are among the greatest challenges of our time. Innovations based on chemistry play a pivotal role in overcoming these. That is why we are working together with our customers on innovative processes, technologies and products for a more sustainable future.

At a glance

€2.2 billion

Research and development expenses


New patents filed

  • Close cooperation between research and business units
  • Focus on customers’ needs and requirements
  • Close cooperation with universities, research institutes and companies

Innovation has always been the key to BASF’s success. The knowledge and skills of our highly qualified employees is our most valuable resource here and the source of our innovative strength. We had approximately 10,000 employees involved in research and development worldwide in 2021.

Our research and development expenses amounted to €2,216 million in 2021 (2020: €2,086 million). Research and development activities in our operating divisions, which is mainly application and customer-related, accounted for 83% of this figure. Corporate research, in which we bundle cross-divisional and long-term topics, was responsible for 17% of these expenses.

Our innovation focus is on developing sustainable solutions for our customers. We ensure our long-term competitiveness by helping our customers reduce their carbon footprint, use resources more efficiently, or manufacture products in a more environmentally friendly way and to recycle them, to name a few examples.

In 2021, we generated sales of over €11 billion with products launched on the market in the past five years that stemmed from research and development activities. In the long term, we aim to continue significantly increasing sales and earnings with new and improved products – especially with products that make a substantial sustainability contribution in the value chain.

Our central research is currently divided into three global divisions, run from Europe, Asia Pacific and North America: Process Research & Chemical Engineering (Ludwigshafen, Germany); Advanced Materials & Systems Research (Shanghai, China); and Bioscience Research (Research Triangle Park, North Carolina).

We have already brought our research and development units closer together over the past few years. We will reorganize our global research activities in 2022 to further strengthen our innovation performance and respond to our customers’ industry-specific requirements even better and more quickly going forward. Business and application-driven research units that are currently allocated to the three corporate research divisions will be integrated into the operating divisions, aligning them even more closely with the needs of our customers. The aim is to further shorten the time to market for new products and accelerate BASF’s organic growth. Research activities that are relevant to several operating divisions will be bundled in a central research division steered from Ludwigshafen, Germany. This unit will continue to be globally organized with research centers in Europe, North America and Asia Pacific. Together with the development units in our operating divisions, it forms the core of our global Know-How Verbund.

We will continue to use corporate funding to finance research of broad relevance to the BASF Group that goes beyond the industry-specific focus of the individual operating divisions.

Research and development expenses by segment 2021

Million €

Research and development expenses by segment 2021 (pie chart)

We strengthen existing research focus areas and continually develop new key technologies that are of central significance for our operating divisions, such as polymer technologies, catalyst processes or biotechnological methods.

We promote creative and agile research approaches. We are driving forward the development of new business areas. For example, we are developing innovative coating technologies and materials that make innovative surfaces and functions possible. Functional films can be used to reduce the frictional resistance of surfaces or improve UV protection and weather resistance, for example. Our innovative solutions help our customers to achieve their sustainability goals.

As part of our Carbon Management R&D Program, we are carrying out intensive research into pioneering, low-carbon production processes for basic chemicals such as hydrogen. This will enable us to offer our customers products with a lower carbon footprint in the future.

Employees in research and development


Our global research and development presence – and its effectiveness – is vital to our long-term success. This enables us to respond to the needs and requirements of the regional markets in a differentiated way and leverage growth potential.

The Ludwigshafen site in Germany is and will remain the largest in our Research Verbund. Investments there include a combined laboratory building for cleanroom and elemental analysis. The new building’s modern digitalization and automation solutions set new standards in safety and efficiency. It is scheduled to open in 2022. In addition, we will build a new Catalyst Development and Solids Processing Center in Ludwigshafen, Germany, by 2024 to bring process innovations and new chemical catalysts to market faster.

We want to continue advancing our research and development activities, especially in Asia. For instance, in 2021 we started the third expansion phase for the BASF Innovation Campus in Shanghai, China. With this expansion, BASF will strengthen its research and development capabilities for advanced materials and systems as well as for chemical engineering. Construction is expected to be completed by the end of 2022.

A strong presence outside Europe creates new opportunities for developing and expanding our customer relationships and scientific collaborations as well as for gaining access to talented employees. This strengthens our Research and Development Verbund and makes BASF an even more attractive partner and employer.

The number and quality of our patents also attest to our power of innovation and long-term competitiveness. In 2021, we filed around 820 new patents worldwide. The Patent Asset Index, a method that compares patent portfolios, once again ranked us among the leading companies in the chemical industry in 2021.

Global network

Our global network of top universities, research institutes and companies forms an important part of our Know-How Verbund. It gives us direct access to external scientific expertise, talented minds from various disciplines as well as new technologies – and helps us to quickly develop targeted, marketable innovations, strengthen our portfolio with creative new projects, and in this way, reach our growth targets.

Our eight academic research alliances bundle partnerships with several research groups in a region or with a specific research focus.

Eight Academic Research Alliances

Access to scientific expertise, talented minds and new technologies

The Northeast Research Alliance (NORA) and the California Research Alliance (CARA) are located in the United States. NORA focuses on materials science and biosciences, catalysis research, digitalization and cooperation with startups. Teams at the interdisciplinary CARA research center are working on new functional materials, formulations, digital methods, catalysis, chemical synthesis, and in engineering sciences and biosciences.

The Joint Research Network on Advanced Materials and Systems (JONAS) is active in Europe and concentrates on supramolecular chemistry, polymer chemistry and the incubation of sustainable technologies. We are working on innovative components and materials for electrochemical energy storage with the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) at the Battery and Electrochemistry Laboratory (BELLA). At the joint Catalysis Research Laboratory (CaRLa), BASF is researching homogeneous catalysis in cooperation with the University of Heidelberg. BasCat is a joint laboratory operated by the UniCat cluster of excellence and BASF at the Technical University of Berlin, where new heterogenous catalysis concepts are being explored together with the Fritz Haber Institute of the Max Planck Society, also based in Berlin. The iL (Innovation Lab) in Heidelberg, Germany, focuses on functional printing, printed sensors and IoT (internet of things) applications.

At the Network for Asian Open Research (NAO) in the Asia Pacific region, research focuses on polymer and colloid chemistry, catalysis, machine learning and smart manufacturing.

The Academic Research Alliances are complemented by cooperative partnerships with around 280 universities and research institutes as well as collaborations with a large number of companies.

Value chain
A value chain describes the successive steps in a production process: from raw materials through various intermediate steps, such as transportation and production, to the finished product.
In the BASF Verbund, plants are intelligently connected. In this system, chemical processes consume less energy, produce higher product yields and conserve resources. The by-products of one plant serve as feedstock elsewhere, creating efficient value chains – from basic chemicals to high value-added solutions such as coatings or crop protection products. Our Verbund concept – realized in production, technologies, the market and digitalization – enables innovative solutions for a sustainable future.