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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 products and processess for a more sustainable future.
Innovation has always been the key to BASF’s success. The knowledge and skills of our highly qualified employees are 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 are mainly application and customer-related, accounted for 83%. Corporate research, in which we bundle cross-divisional and long-term topics, was responsible for 17% of these expenses.
Research and development expenses by segment 2022
Our innovation focus is on developing new products and solutions that help our customers achieve their sustainability goals. By helping them to reduce their carbon footprint, use resources more efficiently, or manufacture products in a more environmentally friendly way and to recycle them, we ensure our long-term competitiveness and, at the same time, play a role in breaking the link between growth and 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 research 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 organic growth.
We have bundled research activities relevant to several operating 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. This will enable us to offer our customers products with a lower carbon footprint in the future.
For more information see low-carbon production processes
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.
For more information on our academic research alliances, see BASF Report 2022
BASF is the largest chemicals supplier to the transportation industry, with more than 20% of sales to this market in 2022 and leading market positions in OEM coatings, engineering plastics and mobile emissions catalysts. In battery materials, BASF is developing tailor-made high-performance cathode active materials (CAM) in close collaboration with its customers to enable the industry transformation toward e-mobility. We complement our portfolio with recycling offerings and, as a CAM producer, are uniquely positioned to offer our customers closed-loop metal recycling solutions. BASF’s unmatched access to OEMs and their suppliers enables an early understanding of market needs, leading to product development from a well-established position in key CAM technologies like NCA (nickel cobalt aluminum) and NCM (nickel cobalt manganese). Our portfolio addresses various customer requirements and ranges from cost-efficient manganese-rich solutions to high-performance high- and ultra-high nickel products, as well as high-performance LMO (lithium manganese oxide) and high-voltage LCO (lithium cobalt oxide) products.
CAM is a very dynamic market driven by battery performance, safety and cost requirements, which are all key parameters for the demand of battery electric vehicles. Chemistry-driven innovation is one of the biggest levers to improve energy density, reliability and safety and reduce the cost of batteries for electric vehicles (EVs). We anticipate annual production of more than 48 million EVs by 2030. Driven by the high growth in e-mobility applications, the compounded annual growth rate for global CAM demand is expected to be about 24% until 2030. As a result, the overall demand for CAM could reach over 7,700 kilotons, representing a value of over €150 billion, depending on base metal price developments. BASF has the required financial strength and is committed to driving the expansion of a global, cost-competitive asset footprint.
BASF’s battery materials and recycling business units generated sales of well over €1 billion in 2022 thanks to growing volumes and favorable metals prices. With increasing amounts of production scrap and used batteries, recycling will grow in importance. We offer CAM based on recycled metals as a closed-loop solution and based on responsibly sourced primary metals from mining operations. As the most economical and energy-efficient path with the lowest CO2 footprint, closed-loop solutions will increase in importance during the next decade and will continuously grow to reduce the need for primary metals.
BASF has contracted the required base metal raw material supply for its European CAM investments and is working on the integration of a precursor (PCAM) production site in Harjavalta, Finland.1 In addition, BASF has announced a collaboration with Eramet in Indonesia to evaluate the potential to build a high-pressure acid leaching (HPAL) refinery as a source of nickel and cobalt intermediates, which are critical base metal raw materials for the lithium-ion battery value chain.
In 2020, BASF selected Schwarzheide, Germany, for CAM production in Europe,2 enabling the supply of cathode active material for approximately 20 GWh cell capacity per year. The Schwarzheide production plant uses an industry-leading energy mix with a low CO2 footprint. Commissioning began at the end of 2022.
In Asia, BASF serves its CAM customers through its joint ventures BASF TODA Battery Materials LLC in Japan (BASF: 66%) and BASF Shanshan Battery Materials Co., Ltd. in China (BASF: 51%), both of which are undergoing expansion. These entities plus the U.S. and European plants make BASF the first company with capacities in all major markets, increasing its annual capacity to around 190,000 metric tons by 2024 with further expansions underway. Future growth plans are being developed in all regions.
In 2023, we plan to start up a prototype recycling plant in Schwarzheide. It will apply proprietary processes from BASF and Tenova Advanced Technologies for hydrometallurgical recycling with leading recovery rates and a low CO2 footprint. Moreover, BASF plans to start up a commercial-scale battery recycling plant for the production of black mass in 2024. It will mechanically treat end-of-life lithium-ion batteries and scrap from battery production before extracting valuable metals using chemical processes. With both recycling plants, BASF aims to further increase sustainability in the battery value chain – from collecting end-of-life batteries and recovering mineral raw materials to using these in the production of new battery materials.
Around the world, BASF experts are working on innovative cathode active materials for lithium-ion batteries and recycling solutions to meet the growing demand for powerful, reliable and affordable electric vehicles. These efforts will make the battery materials and recycling business a significant earnings contributor to the BASF Group, with expected sales of more than €7 billion and an expected EBITDA before special items margin (excluding metals) above 30% by 2030.
BASF battery materials – best-in-class CO2 footprint and closing the loop
The battery materials and recycling business is set to become one of the key growth engines in BASF’s portfolio, establishing a leading and profitable position.
1 The investment in Finland is co-financed by Business Finland, the Finnish government organization for innovation funding and trade, travel and investment promotion.
2 The investment and research activities in Schwarzheide and Ludwigshafen, Germany, receive funding from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action and the Ministry for Economic Affairs, Labor and Energy of the German state of Brandenburg under the IPCEI on Batteries (funding code 16BZF101A/B).
Driving sustainability with microorganisms
With its broad technological expertise, BASF is well positioned to develop innovative solutions for a sustainable future. One of our key technologies is white biotechnology. White biotechnology enables us to produce a wide range of products using a variety of feedstocks in an efficient, resource-conserving and flexible manner: biopolymers, essential ingredients for human and animal nutrition, crop protection products, flavors and fragrances, or ingredients for cosmetics. We also produce enzymes from fungi and bacteria for use in detergents. One example is BASF’s protein-cleaving enzyme Lavergy® Pro, which removes tough stains even at low temperatures and in short wash cycles, thus saving energy and water.
Microorganisms are not just used to manufacture products but at the end of the product life cycle as well. We are working to understand how microorganisms metabolize complex organic compounds into energy, water, carbon dioxide and biomass. A fundamental understanding of such biological processes is needed to use this natural method and develop biodegradable products. In addition, digital tools are an important component of the research work to predict the properties and biodegradability of molecules and materials at a very early stage of product development, enabling their structures to be adapted accordingly. This is important for products that end up in wastewater treatment plants at the end of their life cycles, such as cosmetics, laundry detergents and dishwashing products. Another example is our certified biodegradable biopolymer ecovio®. This can be used to produce mulch films that can be plowed under after use in the field to be completely metabolized by microorganisms.