BASF, one of the leading technology developers in the less-than-100-year history of engineering plastics, is planting deep roots in the United States to advance its long-term research efforts.
It has launched a research initiative called ”North American Center for Research on Advanced Materials” through which it is collaborating with Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and the University of Massachusetts (UMass) Amherst. About 20 new post-doctoral positions will be created at the three universities to develop new materials.
”This collaboration with these prestigious American universities is an important expansion of our international research network,” said Dr. Hans-Ulrich Engel, CEO of BASF Corp. and CFO of BASF SE. ”It is part of BASF’s strategy to further extend our global research and development activities. We rely on strong partners for this project.”
It’s an interesting sign of the times.
The German companies historically were very Germany-centric. Manufacturing had to be in Germany. The best research was in Germany.
BASF has made some of the biggest breakthroughs in the history of plastics in its massive site in Ludwigshafen, Germany on the western side of the Rhine River across from Mannheim. I toured the R&D facilities there once when I was proudly showed where some of the pioneering work took place on lost-core molding that paved the way for nylon intake manifolds. During World War II BASFchemists worked for I.G. Farben and pioneered plastics made from alternative feedstocks because the German war machine had no indigenous oil. One result was nylon made from castor oil—a plastic that is hotter than ever right now.
My impression—possibly wrong—is that BASF has focused on incremental, very practical innovations particularly related to molding technology. It does not seem to have the bona fides in basic chemical research of a DuPont or Bayer, or even the former GE Plastics.
That seems to be changing.
BASF has assembled an American all-star team to work with its scientists: Prof. George Whitesides and Prof. Dave Weitz from Harvard, Prof. Robert Langer and Prof. Mary Boyce from MIT and Prof. Todd Emrick and Prof. Alan Lesser from UMass Amherst.
It will be fun to watch to see what specific projects are launched.