Research and Development is a key component of sustainable innovation-led growth. It helps to create the higher value-added products, processes and services on which the future of Umicore is increasingly focused.
Umicore has world class R&D capabilities. More than 500 employees worldwide are involved in research and development activities. R&D spending is 5% of revenues, excluding metal value. This puts Umicore at the top end of the league of chemical companies in terms of R&D intensity (ref. The 2004 R&D scoreboard, Department of Trade and Industry, United Kingdom, 2004). We operate a central R&D facility in Belgium and have Business Unit dedicated research centres in Germany, Japan, Canada, France and Liechtenstein.
More than ever, the successes of the businesses in our company are the result of a relentless pursuit of new, innovative solutions and developments. Research and Development plays an important and strategic role but also a structured approach to creativity is used to stimulate innovation in the company.
R&D has a dual focus:
First and foremost it has a responsibility to each Business Unit to make sure that their core business continues to be at the leading edge of technology. In addition to incremental research, a great deal of effort is expended on next generation processes and products. In certain instances breakthroughs are sought to fundamentally change the business.
The main projects undertaken for the benefit of the Business Units include the development of new and next generation products and solutions in areas of powder metallurgy, precious metals chemistry, battery materials, automotive catalysts, target materials, alloys, galvanochemistry, contact materials, the semiconductor industry and die-casting. The projects are market-driven and focus both on the short and the longer term. In this respect, fine-tuning Umicore’s products to provide a perfect fit for the applications of our customers is an increasingly integral part of Umicore’s R&D effort. Another area of focus is the development of the most appropriate industrial production and recycling processes in order to guarantee a high quality product made in a cost competitive way.
Secondly, a corporate technology portfolio has been initiated to develop materials beyond the scope of today's businesses. They include developments of new technology platforms, of the venture activities and more generic Research and Development for the benefit of the entire company.A number of promising ideas are presently under investigation for example in the fields of nanomaterials, functional materials and high purity metals.
Umagine - Innovation and Venturing
The "Umagine" programme is an innovation process designed to stimulate creativity and foster new business development opportunities for Umicore that lie beyond the mandates of the respective Business Units. In addition, Umagine provides a business development infrastructure for the corporate R&D portfolio.
Potentially interesting ideas are sought out actively either within the company or externally. A multi-disciplinary team coaches, screens and incubates the projectsuntil such time as they are able to demonstrate both their technical and especially their business viability.
Successful Umagine projects "graduate" and are either integrated into an existing business unit, if appropriate, or are further developed within a Venture type start-up environment.