INSIGHT: Diversity of new product innovation defines strength

08 September 2010 17:30  [Source: ICIS news]

By Nigel Davis

LONDON (ICIS news)--Chemical companies rely on process and new product innovation as much if not more than those in most other sectors of industry. Producers eye mega trends such as global population growth, the need for food and clean drinking water and changed regional demographics, and seek to tailor products to fit.

Fundamental chemical and materials research exposes some new applications with real potential in growing markets such as electronics.

Entries for this year’s ICIS Innovation Awards have highlighted the focus at so many firms on a green or environmental angle. Also, companies have shown they are keen to showcase products and services that demonstrate their corporate social responsibility (CSR) credentials.

The awards process itself is encouraging and highlights the importance placed across the sector on new products, processes and applications.

Research spending was not surprisingly squeezed through the downturn - more by some than by others - but it does not look as though sector-wide there was much change. A company is not going to make much progress in this business if it does not push at the boundaries of its capabilities, wherever they may be.

Last year, the winner of the ICIS award for Best Product Innovation was the Arkema subsidiary CECA for the surfactants it had developed for use when laying tarmac. ‘Greener’ road construction and improved working conditions were the targets. CECA was also the overall awards winner.

The short-listed product innovations this year are waterborne anti-corrosion coatings from BASF; Eastman Chemical’s Tritan copolyester; a low-cost water-purifier from Tata Chemicals; from Teijin a heat-resistant bioplastic made from polylactic acid (PLA); and from Bayer Technology Services a process to treat high concentrations of sulphur dioxide (SO2) and produce sulphuric acid from gas emissions.

The breadth of product ideas here is impressive and shows just how diverse new product applications in chemicals might be. Pushing those products and innovations successfully through to market is key.

In diversity, there is strength. New product opportunities - often the further development of existing technologies - offer new avenues to growth.

It is good to see product innovation in chemicals delivering on so many fronts - new polymers, new applications and new processes. The ICIS Innovation Awards also recognise innovation excellence in other categories: by SMEs (small to medium size enterprises); in business; in CSR; and innovation with the best environmental benefit.

The selection process for the awards has been ongoing for some months now but with the short-list decided, contenders do not have to wait long for the results. They will be released in the 11 October issue of ICIS Chemical Business.

To discuss issues facing the chemical industry go to ICIS connect

By: Nigel Davis
+44 20 8652 3214

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