The new centre in Frankfurt will support
But there is a sense that a herd mentality has set in here now - with some proponents really not up to exploiting the mega-trends they have identified, given lack of core expertise in some vital areas. I discussed this idea with Alasdair Nisbet of Lazard bank not so long ago - you can see his views in this ICIS article.
A quick search over the strategy pronouncements of the the leading innovation-centred chemical producers shows that many are focusing on the same mega-trends - not so much room there to carve out a competitive edge.
Take AkzoNobel - it is focusing its longer-term strategic thinking around population growth, climate change, scarcity of natural resources and improvement in quality of life in high growth markets. Or BASF - urbanisation, demographic change, growing energy and mobility needs and world population growth. And Dow - energy, transportation and infrastructure, health and nutrition and consumerism... see what I mean - I could go on with another half a dozen companies. Well why not: Lanxess - mobility, agriculture, urbanisation and water; DSM - global shifts, climate and energy, health and wellness...
My point is that to exploit a growing mega-trend a company needs a wide range of associated innovation competencies - some of which may be lacking. This may, as Nisbet predicts, spur M&A activity as producers try to buy in technology to widen their competency. Or it might really lead to step-out innovation in new areas.
Which I guess is where we get back to the Clariant investment. The new innovation centre will house 500 scientists and business personnel, in open-plan architecture designed to combine chemical research and development activities with application-oriented labs and technical marketing functions of several business units. In this respect it looks to emulate Evonik's science-to-business centre philosophy which has garnered critical acclaim in recent years.
But whether anyone can forge ahead with the mega-trend bus is now a moot question, as everyone seems to be onboard and heading in the same direction!