Innovation and Technological Advances
A strong focus on innovation and Research & Development is one of the five pillars of Clariant’s strategy to become a global leader for specialty chemicals. Clariant tackles emerging macrotrends to stay ahead in dynamic markets, creates high-performing solutions for rapidly changing customer needs, and drives profitable growth in all its businesses.
Innovation also supports the strategic pillar »adding value through sustainability«: The company’s cutting-edge innovations meet the increasing demand for sustainability performance and create long-term value for Clariant’s stakeholders.
Innovation activities at Clariant focus on products, processes, and services affecting the company’s entire value chainValue chainThe value chain describes the series of steps in the production process, from raw materials through the various intermediate stages to the ﬁnished end product. from suppliers to internal operations, customers, and end users. A culture of innovation is also an important factor in creating a compelling work environment, boosting employee motivation, and helping Clariant attract and retain talent.
Clariant’s Global Innovation & Sustainability Council (GISC) oversees all innovation activities across the Group. It shapes the sustainability and innovation agenda of the company, focusing on a sustainability-driven portfolio transformation. Under the lead of one Executive CommitteeExecutive CommitteeManagement body of joint stock companies; at Clariant the Executive Committee currently comprises four members. member and the Chief Technology Officer (co-chair), the GISC comprises the Executive CommitteeExecutive CommitteeManagement body of joint stock companies; at Clariant the Executive Committee currently comprises four members., the business units’ innovation heads, the head of Sustainability Transformation, and the head of the Group Innovation & Sustainability (GIS) Program Management Office. Upon invitation, key functions from GIS and representatives from Corporate Planning & Strategy also join the GISC.
The charter of the GISC outlines its focus: reviewing Clariant’s sustainability, innovation, and technology strategy; ensuring that value creation is sustainability-focused and market- and customer-driven; challenging the effectiveness and efficiency of strategy execution; deciding on global or regional cross-BU programs, projects, and initiatives; and acting as an advisory platform to the Executive CommitteeExecutive CommitteeManagement body of joint stock companies; at Clariant the Executive Committee currently comprises four members..
As of January 2021, Clariant’s new service unit Group Innovation & Sustainability (GIS) has been bundling innovation and sustainability competencies. It comprises the following units: Sustainability Transformation, Global Product Stewardship, Emerging Technologies, Group Biotechnology, and Global IP Management. A lean Program Management Office & Innovation Center Management function manages Clariant’s Innovation Centers and ensures standardized processes, tools, and reporting.
Clariant regularly reviews its innovation approach as part of the Strategic Management ProcessStrategic Management ProcessClariant’s Strategic Management Process (SMP) is conducted by the business units in collaboration with Corporate Planning & Strategy. The SMP ensures that Group-level as well as businessunit-level strategy development is an iterative process that addresses the relevant megatrends observed by Clariant..
Strategic innovation process
Clariant’s innovation pipeline is built along the Idea to MarketIdea to MarketCore 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. process, one of the three value-creation processes at the core of Clariant’s business modelBusiness ModelThe business model illustrates how a company draws on various capitals as inputs and converts them into outputs, such as products and services, through its business activities. The company’s activities and outputs lead to outcomes that affect the capitals, thus impacting the company and its stakeholders.. This process involves scouting global trends, identifying business opportunities, exploring unmet customer needs, developing products, and commercializing and monitoring business performance. It is essential for developing a well-filled product and service pipeline that delivers marketable innovations.
According to the Idea to MarketIdea to MarketCore 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. process, Clariant groups all innovation projects into three categories. Class 1 projects have a sales potential in the double-digit million CHF range and have strong strategic relevance for Clariant. These projects are managed by Innovation Black Belts. Innovation Black Belts typically dedicate all their time to managing Class 1 projects. Class 2 and Class 3 projects are usually led by Innovation Green Belts, who dedicate part of their work time to these projects next to other R&D tasks. Innovation Black and Green Belts are trained and coached on tools and process know-how by Innovation Master Black Belts.
Strategic Innovation Process: Discovery, Incubation, and Acceleration (DIA)
To accelerate the innovation process and establish new business in uncertain environments, Clariant implemented a strategic innovation process, which consists of three phases: discovery, incubation, and acceleration. Specialized teams with diverse mindsets, agile project management, and lean start-up methodologies allow for fast learning to quickly confirm or reject given assumptions at the basis of a business idea. Once an idea proves viable, Clariant can draw on its production network and market access to commercialize the product with short lead times. This innovation process concentrates on strategic opportunities or threats beyond the current market and/or technology focus that have a significant financial or sustainability impact. The process follows a lean, customer-centric, and evidence-based approach.
Development of key performance indicators
After achieving its growth target for innovation sales in 2020, Clariant met expectations again in 2021 despite supply chain shortages and the challenging economic environment linked to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Clariant strives to realize a local currency growth rate of 2–3 % through innovation, with a target of 1–2 % sales growth from top-line innovations alone, which means innovations that create new sales in new markets, actively contributing to Clariant’s net growth. In 2021, innovation sales of the continuing businesses strongly contributed to the company’s overall recovery, growing by more than 3.5 %. This was a result of Clariant’s continuous commitment and efforts to understand its customers’ needs and to deliver better and more sustainable solutions.
Research & Development spend in 2021 was CHF 155 million for the continuing businesses, a decrease compared to CHF 190 million in 2020, which then still included the discontinued Business Unit PigmentsPigmentsPigments are substances used for coloring; they are used in a technical manner, for example in the manufacture of dyes, varnishes, and plastics. In 2020, Clariant launched the divestment process of its Pigments business, which was completed on 3 January 2022.. As a share of sales, R&D spending for the continuing businesses was 3.5 %, a decrease compared to 2020, reflecting the efficiency gain in the streamlined R&D organization after the divestment of Business Unit MasterbatchesMasterbatchesThese are plastic additives in the form of granules with dyestuffs or other additives used to dye or alter the properties of natural plastic. and the planned divestment of Business Unit PigmentsPigmentsPigments are substances used for coloring; they are used in a technical manner, for example in the manufacture of dyes, varnishes, and plastics. In 2020, Clariant launched the divestment process of its Pigments business, which was completed on 3 January 2022.. R&D employees (in full-time equivalents) decreased from 950 to 860.
Clariant’s state-of-the-art equipment and infrastructure in three Clariant Innovation Centers, ten contract R&D Centers and dedicated Technology Centers, and 45 regional Technical Centers form the basis for successful innovation while ensuring proximity to the customer. In 2021, the overall number of active projects in the innovation pipeline was stable at 325 projects in the continuing businesses. With still more than 80 active scientific collaborations, the number decreased compared to 2020, as several projects were completed during last year.
In 2021, Clariant kept the number of employees trained as innovation belts constant at 365. These employees are a key factor in ensuring a well-filled project pipeline and efficient project management. The number of Class 1 projects increased from 55 to 65 in comparison to the previous year.
At the end of 2021, Clariant’s continuing operations’ patent portfolio counted 4 900 patents, and the continuing operations’ trademark portfolio included 6 000 trademarks. The number of patents and trademarks decreased in comparison to 2020 due to the divestment of Business Unit MasterbatchesMasterbatchesThese are plastic additives in the form of granules with dyestuffs or other additives used to dye or alter the properties of natural plastic. and the planned divestment of Business Unit PigmentsPigmentsPigments are substances used for coloring; they are used in a technical manner, for example in the manufacture of dyes, varnishes, and plastics. In 2020, Clariant launched the divestment process of its Pigments business, which was completed on 3 January 2022., as well as due to stringent portfolio optimization measures.
Since January 2021, Clariant has structured its Research & Development activities along five technology platforms: Chemistry & Materials, Biotechnology, Catalysis, Process Technology, and Emerging Technologies. All technology platforms collaborate closely with the business units to ensure that technology push and market pull go hand in hand.
INNOVATION AND TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANCES
|Continuing operations||Discontinued operations||Total 2021||2020||2019||2018||2017|
|Growth through innovation (%) 2||>3.5||n.a.||n.a.||>1.5 3||<3.0||>3.0||2.5|
|Research & Development expenditures (CHF m)||155||12||167||195 1.3||207||209||211|
|Research & Development expenditures as share of sales (%)||3.5||1.3||3.2||3.8 1.3||3.2||3.2||3.3|
|Clariant Innovation Centers 4||3|
|Research & Development Centers and dedicated Technology Centers||10 4||n.a.||n.a.||8 3||8||8||8|
|Technical Centers||45||n.a.||n.a.||50 3||>50||>50||>50|
|Patents (year-end)||>4 900||>200||>5 100||>5 400 3||>6 500||6 700||6 600|
|Trademarks (year-end)||>6 000||>1 400||>7 400||>7 400 3||>9 000||8 900||8 300|
|Active innovation projects||325||n.a.||n.a.||350 3||>375||>375||>370|
|Of which Class 1 projects with double-digit million sales potential or of strategic relevance||65||n.a.||n.a.||55 2||>65||>70||>65|
|Scientific collaborations||80||n.a.||n.a.||100 3||>125||>125||>125|
2 Contains the contribution to growth of the innovation portfolio from both Top Line Innovation and Life Cycle Innovation.
Potential cannibalization of existing sales by Life Cycle Innovation has not been excluded.
3 Excluding Business Unit MasterbatchesMasterbatchesThese are plastic additives in the form of granules with dyestuffs or other additives used to dye or alter the properties of natural plastic.
4 The categories of R&D-related sites were reorganized in 2021 due to changes in Clariant's R&D landscape after, e.g., divestments.
The new Emerging Technologies Unit
The new Emerging Technologies Unit is a central platform for technologies on the rise. The goal is to deliver major innovative solutions for the business units by detecting upcoming megatrends with cross-BU relevance that are key to Clariant’s competitiveness. The unit acts as an entry point for external technology leads and ensures their initial validation and stringent follow-up, until successful integration into the business units.
One current focus area of the Emerging Technologies platform is high-throughput experimentation (HTE). This approach combines research practices designed to deliver more information with less effort. It relies on automation and robotics, miniaturization, and parallelization to plan and execute experiments with significantly increased speed and optimized resource consumption. Combined with computational tools, intelligent experimental design, and cutting-edge data analytics, HTE enables Clariant to explore the full solution space and find correlations that are undetectable using traditional methods.
Transformational platform technologies such as HTE enable the digital transformation of R&D and innovation processes, accelerating the development of new products and the optimization of existing products, and reducing time-to-market. By generating very large sets of product performance data and efficiently exploring new research areas, HTE makes it possible to acquire in-depth knowledge and quickly identify new leads. Research topics include the library synthesis of molecules for personal care applications; microbiological efficacy testing via high-throughput biological assays for crop applications; and fast-response-unit approaches for the discovery and development of optimized chemistries and formulations for hydrate inhibitors, pour point depressants, and asphaltene inhibitors for the oil business.
In addition to existing labs in Frankfurt (Germany), Palo Alto (USA), and Houston (USA), Clariant is implementing further HTE labs at the One Clariant Campus in Shanghai, China. Their launch is expected in early 2023. All these facilities have a similar instrumentation, infrastructure, and operational model. They are designed to serve all Clariant business units and assure a quick transition from one project to another. Clariant manages them centrally to ensure that successes experienced in existing HTE labs also spread to the new ones.
Key areas of innovation
The technology platforms fuel Clariant’s innovation pipeline and drive progress in four key areas: bio-economy, hydrogen economy, circular solutions, and digital innovation. While Clariant already generates sales in these fields, the company aims to play an even stronger role in the future – by creating safer products and contributing to a more sustainable industry with a reduced CO2 footprint.
Clariant contributes to the bio-economy with its sunliquid® technology – a highly efficient means to convert renewable second-generation sugars into a broad range of chemicals, such as bioethanol. Other bio-based products include the low-carbon footprint surfactants from the GlucoTain® and GlucoPure® lines, which are readily biodegradable and have a Renewable Carbon Index of up to 96 %, and the Licocare® RBW Vita solutions, which are highly effective lubricants and dispersion aids derived from a natural, non-food-competing by-product of rice oil production.
Blue and green hydrogen will play a key role in the upcoming energy transition, enabled by Clariant’s state-of-the-art catalysts. The company is already involved in more than 40 projects for the conversion, storage, and transportation of green hydrogen. In collaboration with Technip Energies, Clariant reached a breakthrough both in catalystCatalystA substance that lowers the activation energy, thereby increasing the rate of a chemical reaction without being consumed by the reaction itself. and reactor design for steam reforming to produce hydrogen, offering its customers up to 20 % lower CO2 emissions or increasing production output by up to 20 %.
Clariant’s EcoCircle initiative focuses on circularity in the plastics industry. However, the challenges ahead will require implementing circularity in many other areas of life. Therefore, Clariant already develops solutions to enable circularity beyond plastics and will continue its efforts in this key area toward a more sustainable future.
Digital innovation at Clariant encompasses a full array of digital-relevant capabilities and tools, including lab automation, high-throughput experimentation, data science, computational science, and IT capabilities. By smartly leveraging such digital technologies at each stage of the product innovation cycle, Clariant has the ability to design new offerings, discover new applications for existing products, reduce environmental impact of chemicals, and maximize their sustainable value, while decreasing the overall time-to-market.
Besides investing in digitalization and continuously adopting digital technologies as they mature, Clariant has also recently launched the Digital Innovation Factory, an innovation program that drives business opportunities through a comprehensive digital approach, making it possible to continuously differentiate offerings and get better products to the market faster.
Initial focus has been given to selected business segments where digitalization can significantly improve efficiency and effectiveness of formulation processes and simultaneously enable new digital business models and go-to-market strategies. Via the Formulation Factory approach, digital assistants support Clariant formulators and customers to quickly identify the most suitable products for a given application.
In mid-2021, Clariant completed the rollout of the newly implemented Electronic Lab Notebook (ELN) for digitalization of R&D data with more than 740 active users globally. The ELN gives access to more data in a structured and searchable way, improving the exchange of data between labs, departments, business units, and service units. It has three core elements: a chemical inventory management system to backtrack and manage reagents used in laboratories, a study notebook with templates to enter R&D data, and analysis and visualization tools to analyze and correlate experimental data.
Innovation management formats
Clariant has two cutting-edge innovation formats: the Innovation Engine (iEngine) and the Innovation Garage (iGarage).
iEngines implement a sequence of virtual and face-to-face workshops to identify, prioritize, and develop high-quality, less obvious technology solutions for unmet customer needs. iEngines take place at a very early stage of the innovation process to eliminate unattractive options quickly, as developing viable technology options often takes several years.
iGarages host a cross-functional team that is supported by external experts and innovation coaches. The team convenes off-site over two to six months to develop business options in collaboration with prospective customers and other stakeholders. By applying agile design thinking and lean start-up methodologies, the iGarage format fuels the innovation pipeline through fast-paced, highly efficient ideation processes that support the development of market-validated innovations in discovery and incubation stages, which the business units subsequently scale further.
In 2021, Clariant complemented these innovation management formats with a lean four-week format called miniGarage. It is limited in scope and accelerates innovation projects by applying an outside-in view on a set of critical assumptions.
All these formats take place according to the business units’ needs and availability of prospective team members. In 2021, Business Unit Catalysts held an iGarage on energy transition. The team assessed applications in the area of blue and green hydrogen as well as ammonia as a means to decarbonize chemical production, refining, steel production, and power generation. It conducted more than 50 customer and industry expert interviews to better understand the market and upcoming business opportunities.
Clariant continuously seeks collaboration with external partners to promote innovation. Its vast network encompasses experts in various trending fields. In 2021, Clariant further developed its innovation governance to strengthen the link between innovation and sustainability, and leveraged its collaborative innovation formats to support creative and sustainable solutions.
The Open Innovation (OI 2.0) initiative supports Clariant’s business units in identifying collaboration partners around the world, connecting Clariant to the external technology and innovation community. It opens up the innovation process for collaboration with external partners, such as governments, academics, companies, and citizens. It also introduces external ideas and tools to expand the innovation pipeline value and outputs. An important element of Open Innovation is the crowdsourcing of technology solutions through Open Innovation challenges. Clariant’s EcoCircle program is a prominent example of the OI 2.0 approach.
Overcoming internal and external boundaries with innovation networks1
With the advancement of communication technologies (e.g., cloud computing, Internet of things, big data, and social media), Open Innovation entered a new paradigm known as OI 2.0. This enriched the innovation ecosystems and fostered co-creative collaboration between all actors in a quadruple helix system (governments, academics, companies, and citizens), spanning organizational boundaries well beyond normal licensing and collaboration schemes. To keep up with OI 2.0, Clariant is introducing pragmatic approaches to accelerate in-house innovation efforts.
Low-Carbon Emitting Technologies Initiative (LCET) by the World Economic Forum
Clariant is a founding member of the Low-Carbon Emitting Technologies Initiative (LCET) by the World Economic Forum and the world’s leading chemical producers. It aims to accelerate the development and upscaling of low-carbon emitting technologies for chemical production and related value chains. It is the first CEO-led coalition in the chemical industry focused on transformation toward a decarbonized and circular future. LCET projects include hydrogen and ammonia production in low-carbon emission processes; the use of alternative feedstocks, including plastic waste, CO2, and biomass; and the overall electrification of the chemical industry. All of these areas are highly relevant for Clariant.
European Technology Platform for Sustainable Chemistry
Clariant is committed to the initiatives and strategies by the European Technology Platform for Sustainable Chemistry (SusChem ETP), playing an active role on its board of directors and management team. SusChem ETP’s vision is a competitive and innovative Europe where sustainable chemistry and biotechnology provide solutions for future generations. SusChem ETP focuses on technology priorities across advanced materials, advanced processes, and digital technologies. It also addresses horizontal topics like sustainability assessment innovation, the safe-by-design designation for chemicals and materials, and the enhancement of education and skills capacity in Europe.
Processes4Planet by the European Commission
Processes4Planet is a cross-sectoral public-private research and innovation partnership between industry and the European Commission. It brings together process industry (chemicals, refineries, steel, cement, minerals and ores, ceramics, nonferrous metals engineering, water, and paper), small and medium-sized enterprises, research and technology organizations, NGOs, regions, and others. Clariant actively contributes to Processes4Planet through its active role on the Board of Directors of A.SPIRE, the private partner behind the partnership. Processes4Planet is consistent with the European Commission’s New Industrial Strategy for Europe and the EU Green Deal. The partnership aims to develop and deploy the innovations needed for a profound transformation of the European process industries to make them circular and to achieve overall climate neutrality at the EU level by 2050, while at the same time enhancing their global competitiveness.
Circular Bio-based Europe Joint Undertaking
With its involvement in the Circular Bio-based Europe Joint Undertaking (CBE JU), Clariant demonstrates its strong commitment to a sustainable bio-economy and the EU’s climate targets. The CBE JU was launched in November 2021 as a public-private partnership between the Bio-based Industries Consortium (BIC) and the European Commission. Clariant is a founding member of BIC and currently an active member of the BIC Board, the BIC Programming Working Group, and the BIC Programming Core Team.
Through the CBE JU, the bio-based sector will continue to restructure the industrial landscape by creating innovative solutions and bio-based value chains across the boundaries of the industrial and academic sectors. It will also integrate primary sectors (for example, agriculture, forestry, fishing, and aquaculture), market segments (for example, cosmetics, chemicals, packaging, plastics, textiles, construction and buildings, electronics, and food), and society.
The goal is to reach a »circular bio-society« by 2050, where informed citizens actively choose a sustainable way of life, supporting an economy that couples economic growth with societal well-being and respect for the environment. This will require appropriate communication to inform and actively involve society, as well as education, science, and policy actors to create a common understanding of the benefits of novel and innovative bio-based products. Bio-based products will also underpin multiskilled and secure jobs.
Power-to-X initiatives convert green electricity into chemical energy sources in order to store electricity and use it as electricity-based fuels for mobility or as raw materials for the chemical industry. The »Power« in »Power-to-X« stands for electricity from renewable sources, while »X« represents the many purposes it is used for and the many forms it is transformed into.
Carbon2Chem is a large national initiative in Germany, funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Together with partners from industry, institutes, and academia, Clariant develops technologies to reduce CO2 emissions from steel manufacturing following the Carbon Capture and Utilization (CCU) approach. Based on the very promising results achieved in the first Carbon2Chem phase, the ministry decided in 2020 to prolong its substantial funding until 2024 in order to develop the technology further and prepare for a large-scale technology rollout.
Another large national initiative funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research is Kopernikus. Together with Hydrogenious LOHC Technologies and several partners from academia, Clariant successfully addressed improvements of the Liquid Organic Hydrogen Carriers (LOHCs) technology in this initiative. The technology aims to use LOHCs to safely store and transport renewable hydrogen to filling stations or the chemical industry, for example, for glassworks.
Clariant also partners in TransHyDE, a project funded with €135 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, to develop catalysts and technology for green ammonia, i.e., ammonia produced with renewable energy. This substance is a potential substitute for conventionally produced ammonia and significantly reduces its carbon footprint. Due to its higher density, converting hydrogen into ammonia is an economically viable method for hydrogen transportation and release at the point of use. Therefore, Clariant currently develops new and improved catalysts to release the hydrogen. TransHyDE is one of three hydrogen flagship projects aiming to prepare Germany’s entry into a hydrogen economy.
Collaborations with academics
In 2021, Clariant engaged in more than 80 scientific R&D partnerships. For example, Clariant announced a new well-funded catalysis research partnership with the prestigious ETH Zurich in February 2021. Its goal is to advance the understanding of catalystCatalystA substance that lowers the activation energy, thereby increasing the rate of a chemical reaction without being consumed by the reaction itself. properties from the nanoscale to the macroscale level and their performance. Together with the ETH Foundation, Clariant will also sponsor – and collaborate in – fundamental chemical research projects, promoting talented ETH scientists and students.
»MuniCat« is a long-standing strategic partnership with the Technical University of Munich and has run since 2010. It is dedicated to the research, development, and application of innovative, pioneering catalysis technologies. One topic of this collaboration is the development of new manufacturing routes for high-quality plastic precursors that are independent of crude oil.
In 2021, Clariant also entered into collaborations with companies and customers to develop new products. Current examples are a joint ventureJoint ventureJoint ventures are all activities in which Clariant is involved with another partner. The accounting method applied for joint ventures depends on the speciﬁc conditions of the participation. with India Glycols to produce green ethylene oxide derivatives, and a collaboration with Polygal AG for superior natural rheology modifiers in skin care products.
Furthermore, the company contributes actively to industrial clusters, consortia, and organizations to drive collaboration along the value chainValue chainThe value chain describes the series of steps in the production process, from raw materials through the various intermediate stages to the ﬁnished end product., favoring a holistic approach to solve complex and challenging situations. For example, Clariant joined the Action for Sustainable Derivatives (ASD) in 2021. ASD is a collaborative initiative that brings together companies in the cosmetics, home and personal care, and oleochemicals industries to collectively tackle supply chain issues around palm oil and palm kernel oil derivatives.
In 2021, Clariant won several awards for outstanding innovative products:
- Innovation Award for Ethience® Protect (BSB Innovation Environment Award, category Environment, section Ingredients, BSB-Beratungs- und Servicebüro Dr. Riedel e.K., Hamburg)
- Innovation Award for Glucamides (American Chemistry Council/ACC Sustainability Leadership Award, category Product Safety, Innovation, and Transparency)
- Swiss Chemical Society’s Sandmeyer Award 2021 for Clariant’s catalystCatalystA substance that lowers the activation energy, thereby increasing the rate of a chemical reaction without being consumed by the reaction itself. AmoMax®-Casale Read more about AmoMax-Casale