1 Juli 2014

Clariant: biobased chemicals new driver in the chemicals industry

New facility as ‘One-Stop-Shop’ solution for biobased absorbents, as well as enzymes, catalysts, process chemicals and the process know-how

The new Clariant Innovation Center, inaugurated in Frankfurt last year in October, was the venue this year for the company’s annual Media Day event, appropriately themed ‘Discover Innovation’.

The event offered an opportunity for Clariant to showcase the new facility, which features CIC an alternative workplace design and has been built around the principles of open communication to foster an ongoing exchange of ideas.

As Clariant CEO Hariolf Kottmann emphasized: “This often sparks further ideas and solutions. The new CIC will facilitate this, fostering creativity and know-how exchange.” He added that in the former situation, R&D was very decentralized. As a believer in centralized R&D, he is extremely satisfied with the way the new CIC is organized. “It’s a good basis to develop innovative products,” he said.

He went on to discuss the company’s current growth strategy, now that the repositioning of the portfolio has more or less been successfully accomplished. “The margin diluting businesses have gone. But there is still a gap with the target set for 2015 and beyond, which needs to be closed. The key elements for in 2014 are therefore performance, growth and innovation.”

Innovation driven by global trends and challenges is vital in pushing Clariant to the next level. Among these megatrends are the development of alternative energy sources, energy storage and renewable raw materials. Kottmann identified Bio-based chemicals as one of the company’s key growth areas, next to personal care and catalysts, to name another two.

“Sustainability is an important success factor,” he said. “In fact, it’s a prerequisite for success. Sustainability has been established as a key criterion for decision making and a key part of company strategy.”

Kottmann’s presentation was elaborated on by various on the members of the executive committee and senior management. CFO Patrick Jany provided more detailed insight into the financial strategy going forward and key decision criteria for innovation and investment. He reinforced Kottmann’s position that sustainable long-term value creation is based on innovation and growth.

Executive Committee Member Christian Kohlpaintner and CTO Martin Vollmer presented some of the innovations in greater depth, while highlighting how the active management of the innovation portfolio drives growth and profitability. “Innovation focuses on attractive market segments linked to megatrends,” said Kohlpaintner. “These include such market segments as coal-to-gas chemicals, functional packaging, shale oil and gas – and bio-based chemicals.”

Calling bio-based chemicals a new driver in the chemicals industry, Kohlpaintner put the market for these chemicals in 2012 at over 240 billion US dollars. He commented: “The Christian Kohlpaintnershare of biobased chemicals in the global chemicals market is estimated to grow from 8% in 2012 to >20% in 2030. Emerging biorefinery technologies and 2nd generation processes will be the main drivers.”

New products from Clariant are the development of sugar-based surfactants called glucamides, which represent a market opportunity of over 50 million Swiss francs; the company’s Sunliquid 2G cellulosic sugar platform for biofuels and bio-based chemicals; and Clariant’s cross-business value proposition for downstream processing.

Kohlpaintner: “Downstream processing of biobased chemicals is a major cost driver, accounting for up to 90% of production costs. Also, biofeedstock requires cleaning before it can be converted via the chemical route. We saw a need for effective solutions, and now offer a ‘One-Stop-Shop’ solution, which includes new absorbents, based on, for example, Bentonite, as well as new enzymes, catalysts, process chemicals and the process know-how.”

“Innovation excellence has proven to deliver on a solid innovation pipeline to rejuvenate the portfolio of Clariant.”

Source: Bioplastics Magazine, 2014-06-26.

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