Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Faster, scientists, do it, do it!

Also in this week's C&EN, an article by Alex Scott on the latest moves from BASF:
“The company needs to adapt its established approaches to changing conditions,” Martin Brudermüller, BASF’s board member responsible for technology, told journalists at a briefing in Ludwigshafen, Germany. “Our research commitment will not increase at the same rate as before, but our commitment to R&D will not go down.” 
One of the ways BASF intends to generate more without increasing spending is by conducting R&D faster. The firm plans to achieve this by, among other things, working more closely with academia and doing away with some lab experiments by first predicting outcomes with the use of computational chemistry. 
“In the future, we will need more computational chemists than lab technicians,” Brudermüller said. 
But BASF is also putting systems in place to ensure that creativity is not sacrificed in the drive for efficiency. For example, the firm recently started encouraging scientists within its central R&D organization to spend 20% of their time working on their own ideas, rather than solving problems for BASF’s businesses. 
“We call these ‘just do it’ projects,” said Bernhard von Vacano, senior research manager for material physics. Such projects might run for just a few weeks. But they are taken seriously, said von Vacano, who heads a team of materials scientists in a new R&D building in Ludwigshafen. 
In line with previously announced plans, BASF will maintain R&D personnel at its Ludwigshafen headquarters at the current level of about 4,900. Any increase in BASF’s worldwide R&D staff—which numbers about 10,000—will be in Asia.
If you clear away all the corporate speak, it is appears that BASF is doing the following:
  • Not hiring any more R&D staff anywhere other than Asia. 
  • Working with academia more 
  • Performing more computational chemistry
  • Allowing current R&D scientists time for blue-sky projects
An interesting set of moves - will be interesting to see how this reflects on R&D chemist hiring by BASF in the US. 


  1. "Working with academia more" It just occurred to me that this is bad for industrial scientists. Academics can rely on the tax payer to fund their capital requirements. Hard to compete if you run an analytical service lab. Now there are two reasons academics complain that industry does not collaborate with them. 1) Academics need good ideas for research that serves an actual purpose other than curiosity, which they lack; 2) they want to tap into the money

  2. "One of the ways BASF intends to generate more without increasing spending is by conducting R&D faster."

    Why has no one thought of that before? Brilliant! Maybe they could also focus on successful projects to increase R&D productivity? Think how much R&D effort is wasted on stuff that doesn't work.

    Nothing like white boarding a green fields strategy under blue skys!

    Seriously, how do these idiots get paid such large sums of money to pretend that this is real?

  3. I would suggest focus on implementation of the elements mentioned for working with academia, reliance on computer modeling and "in-sourcing" to Asia all run counter to desire for making R&D go "faster" particularly as introduce communication variables that often are nontrivial across such relationships. Sound like much of the MBA and/or High priced Consulting firm pontification typical get from Pharma restructurings although here more driven by the Dow-Dupont merger as probably more direct competitor to BASF main businesses