A growing need for food, energy and clean water, limited resources and a booming world population – reconciling all these factors is the greatest challenge of our time. Innovations based on chemistry play a key role here, as they contribute decisively to new solutions. Effective and efficient research and development is a prerequisite for innovation as well as an important growth engine for BASF. We develop innovative processes and products for a sustainable future and drive forward digitalization in research worldwide. This is how we ensure our long-term business success with chemistry-based solutions for almost all sectors of industry.
For BASF, innovation is the key to successfully standing out from the crowd in a challenging market environment. Our innovative strength is based on a global team of highly qualified employees with various specializations. We had around 10,000 employees involved in research and development in 2017. Our three global technology platforms are run from our key regions – 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). Together with the development units in our operating divisions, they form the core of our global Know-How Verbund. BASF New Business GmbH and BASF Venture Capital GmbH supplement this network with the task of using new technologies to tap into attractive markets and new business models for BASF.
In 2017, we generated sales of over €9 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.
Our global network of about 600 universities, research institutes and companies forms an important part of our Know-How Verbund. We collaborate with them in many different disciplines. The direct access to external scientific expertise, new technologies and talented minds from various disciplines helps us to strengthen our portfolio with creative new projects. For instance, we are working on innovative materials for electrochemical energy storage with the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) at the BELLA (Battery and Electrochemistry Laboratory) joint laboratory.
We use the Creator Space® approach developed by BASF to generate innovative ideas and continuously promote dialog with customers, partners and suppliers. We draw on cutting-edge innovation methods here.
In our excellence program UNIQUE – The BASF Academic Partnership Program, we are working with fifteen leading universities around the world. BASF also runs four postdoctoral centers that pool collaborations with several research groups on a regional level.
The North American Center for Research on Advanced Materials (NORA) and the California Research Alliance (CARA) postdoctoral centers are located in the United States. In 2017, BASF extended the cooperation between NORA and its academic partners by another five years and celebrated the 10-year anniversary of the partnership with Harvard University. Focus areas include materials science, bioscience, catalysis research, digitalization and cooperation with start-ups. The CARA multidisciplinary collaboration has been working on new functional materials and in the area of biosciences for three years now. It has established more than 25 research projects, which have resulted in many scientific discoveries and patent applications. In 2017, we announced that the collaboration between CARA researchers and BASF experts will continue for another five years.
The Joint Research Network on Advanced Materials and Systems (JONAS) postdoctoral center is active in Europe, while the Network for Asian Open Research (NAO) covers the Asia Pacific region. The Network for Advanced Materials Open Research was renamed the Network for Asian Open Research in 2017 after NAO’s research projects were expanded to include process research, chemical engineering and biosciences.
In 2017, our research pipeline comprised approximately 3,000 projects. Expenses for research and development amounted to around €1,888 million, just above the prior-year level (€1,863 million). The operating divisions accounted for 80% of total research and development expenses in 2017. The remaining 20% related to cross-divisional corporate research focusing on long-term topics of strategic importance to the BASF Group. We strive to maintain a high level of spending on research and development.
The needs of our customers are the starting point for chemistry-based innovations, requiring market-driven research and development. Creativity, efficiency and collaboration with external partners are among the most important success factors. In order to bring promising ideas to market as quickly as possible, we regularly assess our research projects using a multistep process and align our focus areas accordingly.
The aim of our innovation approach is to increase our company’s power of innovation and to secure our long-term competitiveness. We aim to achieve this by concentrating our research focus on topics that are strategically relevant for our business, strengthening our existing scientific processes and increasingly using new scientific methods and digital tools, and optimizing our organizational structures.
Our cross-divisional corporate research is closely aligned with the requirements of our operating divisions and allows considerable space to quickly review creative research approaches. We strengthen existing and continually develop new key technologies that are of central significance for our operating divisions. Examples include polymer technologies, catalyst processes or biotechnological methods.
We continued to refine our innovation approach in 2017 and have identified additional, far-sighted topics that go above and beyond the current focus areas of our divisions to drive innovation in new business fields and with new technologies. The aim is to use these to exploit new business opportunities within the next few years. We are also working on overarching projects that are highly relevant from a technological, societal or regulatory point of view.
In 2017, we continued to work on the systematic application of digital technologies in research and development. In the years ahead, we plan to consistently expand existing expertise in fields like modeling and simulation and to develop new digital applications.
Our global research and development presence is vital to our success. We want to continue advancing our research and development activities, particularly in Asia as well as in North America, and are adapting this to growth in regional markets. A stronger presence outside Europe creates new opportunities for developing and expanding 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.
In addition to the Innovation Campus Shanghai (previously Innovation Campus Asia Pacific) which opened in 2015, we inaugurated the Innovation Campus Mumbai in 2017 to further increase our research capacity in Asia. The new Campus brings together existing and new research and development activities in Mumbai, India, under one roof, where up to 300 scientists focus on crop protection and process development. Ludwigshafen remains the largest site in our Research Verbund. This is underscored by the investment in the world’s largest supercomputer for research in the chemical industry, which was put into operation in 2017. With a computing power of 1.75 petaflops,1 Quriosity offers around 10 times the computing power previously available to BASF researchers worldwide. In collaboration with the Hewlett Packard Enterprise group, the new supercomputer was custom designed for chemical research and will drive forward the digitalization of BASF research globally.
The number and quality of our patents also attest to our power of innovation and long-term competitiveness. We filed around 800 new patents worldwide in 2017. In 2017, we once again ranked among the leading companies in the Patent Asset Index, a method that compares patent portfolios industry-wide.
1 One petaflop is equal to one thousand trillion (1015) operations per second.