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With new R&D center, Clariant plans to create a “powerhouse of innovation”

During a gathering this week at the Hoechst Industrial Park on the fringes of Frankfurt, Germany, Hariolf Kottmann, CEO at chemicals and additives supplier Clariant, told the gathered guests that the company will invest more than €50 million ($66 million) in a new "innovation center" in the Park, bringing together the company's R&D and product development personnel in a move he hopes will help propel the company into a "powerhouse of innovation."

During a gathering this week at the Hoechst Industrial Park on the fringes of Frankfurt, Germany, Hariolf Kottmann, CEO at chemicals and additives supplier Clariant, told the gathered guests that the company will invest more than €50 million ($66 million) in a new "innovation center" in the Park, bringing together the company's R&D and product development personnel in a move he hopes will help propel the company into a "powerhouse of innovation."

Clariant's planned R&D center
Clariant's new Innovation Center, due to be ready in late 2012, is part of a plan to propel the company into the premier league of specialty chemical R&D.
For Clariant (Muttenz, Switzerland), which supplies additives and colorants into the plastics industry, the move also is a shifting of the company's gears from a restructuring mode back into a growth gear, added Kottmann. The company released about 15% of its employees and closed numerous facilities in the past years, he explained, adding, "Everything we did (restructuring the company) in the last two years we needed to do, regardless of the financial crisis." But now, he said, "We're changing our focus from restructuring to a focus on our profitable future."

 The new innovation center is to playa major part in that shift of focus. The Hoechst site already is home to 100s of Clariant employees, but these are spread throughout multiple buildings. Its new building, due to be completed by the end of 2012, will serve as its global research and development (R&D) headquarters and provide space for 500 people. The new, 23,0002 meter "Clariant Innovation Center" will closely cooperate with all of the company's R&D satellite sites in Gendorf (near Munich, Germany), Lamotte, France and Suzano, Brazil, plus with the company's additives R&D center in Knapsack, Germany. Clariant invested more than $134 million in R&D in 2010. "After the completion of the successful restructuring, innovation in combination with an increased strategic focus on profitable growth will be a key cornerstone for our company. The goal is to establish Clariant as an innovation leader in the field of specialty chemicals within the next few years", said Kottmann, who admitted the firm is not yet where it needs to be in terms of innovation.

Kottmann went off script to tell the guests that his firm is financially sound. "We're on our way to one of the best business results of the past years," he said, with sales and EBIT up significantly compared to 2009. In news that plastics compounders may not welcome hearing, he also showed some pride in relating that the company has been successful in pushing through higher prices in 2010.

Kottmann indicated that the company is seeing especially strong demand growth in developing markets, naming India, China, Brazil, and Indonesia, but that nevertheless Frankfurt still was the right site for the new R&D headquarters. Many of the people to work in the new center already are Clariant employees n the area, but new hires also will be needed, said company officials.

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