“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