Innovation central to new plan

23 April 2012 00:00  [Source: ICB]

Europe's chemical sector continues to lead the way in innovation, with the region home to 37% of global expenditure. Equally, research and development (R&D) plays a major part in versalis's new philosophy - with €35m-40m ($46m-53m) being invested in new products and processes this year, and plans underway to enhance its bio-based offering.


The Porto Torres joint venture will play a vital role in the future

The company aims to set the industry benchmark, says Sergio Lombardini, head of research and development - with particular emphasis on its elastomers, monomer and polystyrene (PS) units.

"We are increasing our efforts in research to keep our products and facilities strong. We have to compensate for the disadvantage we have in terms of production costs with other regions.

"This is why we are focusing on products with higher added value such as niche markets and specialties."

The company is taking big steps in the bio field and working alongside the Eni-Donegani Institute in Novara - one of Italy's leading industrial research centers. Together, research projects and synergies will form between renewables and the existing business units, Lombardini says.

Besides technologies being outsourced and customized, notably a tackifier resins plant in Priolo and processes to separate C5 to produce monomers for elastomers, green chemistry will play an important role in the future.

The company is working with Italy's Novamont in a €500m joint venture in Porto Torres (see page 5). The Matrica project will supply intermediates and additives for versalis's elastomers business.

"We really believe that bio and fossil products can really complement one another in elastomer and polyethylene [PE]. Our aim is to find a way to produce intermediates for our downstream processes directly from bio."

Even after a difficult economic period, the company has increased R&D spending - the plan marking the biggest changes in the company's history.

Next article - Streamlined Portfolio

By: Andy Brice
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