ICIS Innovation Awards 2012: Putting innovation at the centre

19 October 2012 09:47  [Source: ICB]

Innovation and sustainability take a high profile at ICIS Innovation Awards sponsor Bayer MaterialScience, which has a long line of breakthroughs to it name


The Solar Impulse aircraft has been built to demonstrate the enormous potential that renewable energies and technologies harbour for saving energy

Copyright: Bayer MaterialScience

Innovation sits at the heart of Bayer MaterialScience's strategy. The German manufacturer will be 150 years old next year, which it attributes to its history of creating sustainable products and processes.

Richard Northcote, head of sustainability at Bayer MaterialScience, says: "We have made many breakthroughs in several areas: in healthcare, crop protection as well as polymer science. Innovation is in our blood."

In the past five years, Bayer MaterialScience has made a number of major advances in improving its product portfolio and its manufacturing processes. Among these is its toluene di-isocyanate (TDI) gas-phase technology, which uses 40% less energy and cuts emissions and solvent use substantially.

The technology, already commercialised in a 250,000 tonne/year plant that went on stream in China last year, will also be installed in a new, similar size plant in Dormagen, Germany, which is due for completion in 2014.

The company has also developed new chlorine process technology in partnership with Germany's Thyssenkrupp Uhde. This breakthrough - the oxygen depolarised cathode (ODC) - will reduce energy consumption in the chlorine process by 30% and is already in use in Germany and available for licence.

Northcote says that there has been a major change in the last few years in the way the company looks at research and development (R&D) and innovation. "If you look at some of the recent product innovations we have delivered, they are often done in partnership. Solar Impulse or the Bayer MaterialScience-led EcoCommercial Building (ECB) project are good examples of this. Individual companies can deliver better, more sustainable products, but when we work together tackling some of the bigger challenges, we deliver an awful lot more," he says.

Solar Impulse is a solar-powered manned aircraft built to demonstrate the enormous potential that renewable energies and technologies harbour for saving energy. Work is progressing on a second Solar Impulse aircraft that needs to be even more lightweight and stable so that it can circumnavigate the world, currently scheduled for 2015.

Bayer MaterialScience has a number of different technologies developed from polyurethane (PU) and polycarbonate (PC) chemistry that are being used on the current, and the next Solar Impulse.

Northcote says that some of the research done for the project has already found a place in the market. This, he comments, shows that developing specific solutions for some of the problems faced by individuals seeking more sustainable, lighter or stronger products, are not unique.

The ECB programme is another example of successful partnering. There are now more than 80 companies involved in the initiative which was set up in 2009. The first eco-building in Monheim, Germany, which is used by Bayer as a child daycare centre, is climate-neutral with all its energy obtained from renewable sources such as geothermal heat and sunlight.

The company has since opened several eco-buildings in various locations around the world and its new headquarters building in Greater Noida, India, has received top ranking in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system.

Bayer MaterialScience believes that partnering and working closely with other companies and institutions - universities, technical centres, customers, retailers, for example - is the way forward for the chemical industry. "This is a much more successful route. In the past, we have come up with clever technology but the market was often not ready," remarks Northcote. The chemical industry should also welcome moves by consumers to be more environmentally friendly, he adds.

By: Elaine Burridge
+44 20 8652 3214

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