Innovations based on chemistry play a pivotal role in overcoming the greatest challenges of our time. Our activities are aimed at developing new products, entering new markets and further increasing our productivity. That is why we are working together with our customers on innovative processes, technologies and products for a sustainable future.
At a glance
Research and development expenses
New patents filed
- Close cooperation between research and business units
- Innovation focus on developing sustainable products and processes for our customers
- 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 2022.
Our research and development expenses amounted to €2,298 million in 2022 (2021: €2,216 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 new products and solutions that help our customers achieve their sustainability goals. By helping them reduce their carbon footprint, use resources more efficiently, or manufacture products in a more environmentally friendly way and recycle them, we ensure our long-term competitiveness and at the same time, play a role in decoupling growth from the consumption of limited resources.
In 2022, we generated sales of around €12 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 further increase sales and earnings with new and improved products – especially with products that make a substantial sustainability contribution in the value chain.
We reorganized 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. Business and application-driven units that were previously part of the research divisions were integrated into the operating divisions, aligning them even more closely with the needs of our customers. This further shortens the time to market for new products and accelerates BASF’s growth.
We have bundled research activities relevant to several divisions – such as chemical synthesis, process development, biotechnology, catalysis, analytics and digitalization – in a central research division, Group Research.
This new research division supports all operating divisions and drives forward projects that address major sustainability topics like reducing emissions from chemical processes and products, energy efficiency or recycling technologies.
The unit is globally positioned with research centers in Europe, North America and Asia Pacific. Together with the research and development units in our operating divisions, Group Research forms the core of our global Know-How Verbund.
We 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. We strengthen existing research focus areas and develop new technologies that are of central significance for our business units and their customers, such as digital tools, polymer technologies, catalyst processes or biotechnological methods.
We promote creative research approaches and drive 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.
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 (see Energy and Climate Protection). 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, establish new customer relationships and leverage growth potential. Scientific collaborations give us access to talent, strengthen our Research and Development Verbund and make BASF an even more attractive partner and employer.
The largest and most important site in our research network is Ludwigshafen in Germany. 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. The state-of-the-art laboratory building took three years to build and was was put into operation in October 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, we completed the third expansion phase for the BASF Innovation Campus in Shanghai, China, at the end of 2022, with new laboratories for advanced materials and systems as well as for chemical engineering.
The number and quality of our patents also attest to our power of innovation and long-term competitiveness. In 2022, we filed 1,013 new patents worldwide, of which 39.2% were for innovations with a particular focus on sustainability. The Patent Asset Index, a method that compares patent portfolios, once again ranked us among the leading companies in the chemical industry in 2022.
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. Our academic research alliances bundle partnerships with several research groups in a region or with a specific research focus.
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.
Academic Research Alliances
Access to scientific expertise, talented minds and new technologies
The Joint Research Network on Advanced Materials and Systems (JONAS) is active in Europe and concentrates on supramolecular chemistry, polymer chemistry and 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. Our most important partner in the U.K. is Imperial College London with thematic clusters in chemical engineering (flow chemistry) and digitalization (crystallization, corrosion).
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 220 universities and research institutes as well as collaborations with a large number of companies.