Idea to Market

Idea to Market

1. Idea to Market

Developing market-ready solutions that satisfy unmet customer needs requires a strong focus on innovation and technology. With its extensive Research & Development resources and a strategic innovation approach, Clariant is well-equipped to exploit opportunities presented by emerging trends and to stay ahead of the competition.

1.1. Supporting the transition to a sustainable economy

Sustainability and the circular economy continued to dominate the innovation agenda in 2019. The circular economy challenges the chemical sector to better understand end-to-end material flows and find new ways to reuse products at the end of their life cycle. Driven by stricter regulatory requirements and increased ecological sensitivity to issues such as the persistence of plastics in the environment, Clariant set out to create high-performing solutions with distinct environmental benefits and support the transition to a system with closed material loops. The latter is important for Business Units that are working on products that are recyclable or supporting their customers’ recycling objectives, particularly the Business Units , , and . The transition to a sustainable, circular economy is also supported by Business Unit Functional Minerals through its products, for example, as well as by Business Units Industrial & Consumer Specialties (ICS) and through their use of agricultural waste streams, as another example. Read more in

Clariant also focused on advancing the use of renewable and natural raw materials, particularly within its consumer goods and additives businesses. Given the strong demand for plant-based ingredients, Clariant unveiled its new »Envisioning Beauty« brand in 2019 and introduced an active ingredients platform that allows customers to discover the entire portfolio of natural ingredients in order to label their own products as »natural.« Read more in , and

1.2. New innovation governance fosters strategic innovation management

In 2019, Clariant restructured its innovation organization by establishing an Innovation Committee, which immediately began to oversee all innovation activities at Clariant. This committee reviews and shapes Clariant’s innovation strategy and ensures best practice application in innovation to maximize the value and delivery of the innovation pipeline.

»The new innovation unit combining Innovation Excellence and Clariant’s Business Incubator will drive strategic innovation focusing on discovery, incubation and acceleration and help Clariant to create bigger, more strategic innovation projects and ensure a healthy innovation pipeline for the coming five years and beyond.«

Martin Vollmer Chief Technology Officer and Head of Group Technology & Innovation

At the operational level, Clariant Innovation Excellence (CIX) and New Business Development (NBD) were merged into the new unit »Innovation Excellence & Business Incubator,« belonging to Group Technology & Innovation (GTI). The reorganization expands Clariant’s innovation capabilities and enables more strategic innovation management in order to commercialize innovative products faster and more reliably.

Going beyond the current approach, the new strategic innovation process consists of three phases: Discovery, Incubation, and Acceleration (DIA). The underlying idea of this approach is to increase the speed and impact of innovations by applying agile project management and lean start-up methodologies, helping the innovation teams to adopt entrepreneurial behaviors and mindsets. Read more in Innovation Excellence continues to provide state-of-the-art innovation and capacity-building tools, including Innovation Green Belt and Innovation Black Belt trainings, innovation workshops, and innovation portfolio management support.

1.3. Gaining innovation efficiency through digitalization

Increasing efficiency in the innovation process by exploiting the potential of digitalization is imperative to Clariant’s competitiveness. Therefore, Clariant enhanced the capacities for High-Throughput Experimentation (HTE) by opening a new laboratory in Houston, Texas, USA. By applying automation and robotics, HTE enables Clariant to synthesize a vast variety of new molecules and test large numbers of formulations in parallel, discovering and delivering value-adding solutions to its customers at an unprecedented speed. Read more in Further, an Electronic Lab Notebook (ELN) was introduced to gain efficiency in the R&D system. The cloud-based tool works as a digital knowledge base that captures all relevant information along the innovation chain. Read more in

1.4. Driving research with a strong innovation network

Clariant’s Research & Development network consists of eight Research & Development Centers, more than 50 Technical Centers, and over 1 000 employees. Under the umbrella of Group Technology & Innovation, research activities are structured along four Technology Platforms: Chemistry & Materials, Biotechnology, Catalysis, and Process Technology. These work closely with the Business Units to ensure that technology push and market pull go hand in hand.


Clariant Innovation Chain (graphic)

In 2019, the Technology Platform Chemistry & Materials focused, among other things, on computational chemistry as a new technology focus field – including a collaboration with the Barcelona Supercomputer Center (BSC). This opens a new dimension in chemical product design deploying in-silico chemistry. Read more in

The Technology Platform Biotechnology uses cutting-edge technology, such as molecular biology, bioinformatics, and High-Throughput Screening, to further develop improved enzyme solutions for biomass degradation and to continuously support the Business Line Biofuels & Derivatives in further developing the sunliquid® technology. This includes research on a new yeast strain, which showed very high ethanol yields in the fermentation step of the sunliquid® process. By applying Lean Six Sigma tools as part of the LabX program Read more in , it was possible to quickly and reliably set up many small-scale bioreactors, which are necessary to identify improved strains that deliver superior performance under industrial-scale conditions.

In 2019, R&D in the Technology Platform Catalysis has developed a number of new products, including new catalyst generations for the production of styrene, formaldehyde, and on-purpose propylene. These catalysts significantly enhance the efficiency of the customers’ chemical processes and improve their environmental footprint. In addition, the R&D team has increased its capacities in China to optimally serve local customers and to further strengthen the presence of Business Unit in this important market.

One of the technology focus fields for Technology Platform Process Technology is data science and artificial intelligence. In 2019, Clariant’s Data Science Competence Center further supported Clariant’s ambition to speed up product development by capitalizing on the large amounts of data that are collected every day by applying data mining and simulation methodologies. The team supports the Business Units in developing digital tools and applications to speed up product development, improve production processes, and intensify customer interaction. Read more in

The four Technology Platforms are complemented by the new unit Innovation Excellence & Business Incubator, as well as Group Engineering and Group Intellectual Property Management. In 2019, Group Engineering, which is responsible for the management and execution of capital investment projects, focused on the integration of a database system that facilitates the adjustment of technical specifications of factory components across a large number of connected documents. This allows Clariant to create a digital twin of a plant and facilitates building similar plants in different regions. The tool is already partially deployed to support the licensing of the sunliquid® technology. In the near term, it will enable the quick transfer of technical modifications and learnings from one licensing project to another.

Group Intellectual Property (IP) Management, which secures the generated value through intellectual property protection and enforcement, actively engaged in all Digital4Clariant projects in 2019 to ensure that Clariant’s digital knowledge is well protected in the future. Further, it drove the digitalization of Clariant’s IP management by establishing the Digital Patent File, which improves efficiency and supports better collaboration between innovation teams across sites.

1.5. Fostering innovation through new internal collaboration formats and scientific partnerships

Clariant runs several initiatives to strengthen collaboration across functions and businesses, as well as with external partners. The Open Innovation initiative identifies collaboration partners ranging from large corporations to start-ups, universities, and other research institutions. In 2019, Clariant received more than 400 technology proposals through the initiative. Launched in 2015, the Open Innovation approach is now well embedded in most strategic innovation projects and has led to many promising partnerships across all businesses. Read more in

The innovation potential within Clariant’s workforce is leveraged by innovation formats such as the iEngine (Innovation Engine) and the iGarage (Innovation Garage). In 2019, Clariant started several iGarages to explore new business opportunities, including one in the field of hydrogenation technology. Read more in Six iEngines were conducted, and the identified potential technology solutions are now being pursued as part of various Idea-to-Market projects. Read more in

Cutting-edge innovation formats iEngine and iGarage


The format consists of an elaborate sequence of virtual and face-to-face workshops to collect, prioritize, and refine potential high-quality technology solutions for unmet customer needs. The goal is to identify less obvious solutions. Since iEngines are conducted at a very early stage, and the development of viable technology options could take several years, the challenge is to sort out unfeasible options as early as possible.


By using agile design thinking and lean start-up methodologies, a cross-functional team supported by external experts and innovation coaches convenes off-site over two to six months to develop business options through constant interaction with prospective customers and other . The objective is to develop market-validated innovations through discovery and incubation, which will be further scaled in the market by a Business Unit.


A substance added to products in small quantities to achieve certain properties or to improve a product. View entire glossary


These are plastic additives in the form of granules with dyestuffs or other additives used to dye or alter the properties of natural plastic. View entire glossary


Pigments are substances used for coloring; they are used in a technical manner, for example in the manufacture of dyes, varnishes, and plastics. View entire glossary


Usually solid substances which are able to selectively accumulate certain substances from adjacent gaseous or liquid phases. View entire glossary


A substance that lowers the activation energy, thereby increasing the rate of a chemical reaction without being consumed by the reaction itself. View entire glossary

Idea to Market

Core business activities that create additional value are structured into three value creation phases at Clariant. Idea to Market encompasses scouting global trends and ideas, scoping out customer needs, executing product development and commercializing, and monitoring product performance. View entire glossary


A substance that lowers the activation energy, thereby increasing the rate of a chemical reaction without being consumed by the reaction itself. View entire glossary


Stakeholders are people or groups whose interests are linked in various ways with those of a company. They include shareholders, business partners, employees, neighbors, and the community. View entire glossary