License for growth

23 April 2012 00:00  [Source: ICB]

The decision whether to license technology poses a dilemma for any business. Versalis sees it as a huge opportunity, particularly for elastomers

Stefano Soccol 
Retaining control of its technologies or sharing valuable intellectual property with third parties can be a critically important decision for leading producers. While one approach is to keep data confidential, this could be a missed opportunity that gives rivals an advantage should they take the initiative instead, says Stefano Soccol, head of licensing.

As part of its new strategy, the company intends to target significant growth via licensing agreements during the coming years and hopes to double the volume of sales from licensing within the next four years. This will be through a combination of technology licenses, using them as an asset for joint ventures, he says.

"Our licensing activity started over five years ago and we are now trying to enlarge this part of the business," says Soccol.

The main focus is to form new ventures for the elastomers unit, the fastest-growing business that generates the most profit.

"We're trying to develop in areas that are fast-growing markets outside of Europe, using our intellectual property as an asset. Besides generating income for the company, licensing will be used to cultivate relationships in key regions.

"Market requirements are different in the various countries so this gives us the opportunity to understand their needs and meet market demand. Licensing is the vehicle to start relationships and establish production through a joint venture with a local company. In some cases, we have seen this as pre-marketing of our products in areas where we are not present; this makes penetration into the market far easier," he says.

There are discussions underway to establish partnerships in both the Far East, specifically Southeast Asia, and South America. Talks with potential partners are ongoing and are expected to be finalized later this year.

Soccol admits the Middle East could pose several opportunities in the future too. "In principle it is very attractive to us, but the drawback right now is that we're particularly looking towards the development of elastomers, which requires butadiene [BD] availability; clearly, most crackers in region are ethane based. We are absolutely interested in the Middle East but at the moment the main difficulty is the availability of feedstock."

Next article - Innovation central to new plan

By: Andy Brice
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