Covestro operates major Innovation Centers in Leverkusen, Germany; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States; and Shanghai, China. With its strong global presence, the company endeavors to account particularly for regional market trends and customer needs.
Essential in this context is also cooperation with external scientific institutions, start-up companies and academic spin-offs. These collaborations are mainly based in Germany, the United States, China or Japan. Our partners in Germany include RWTH Aachen University, while in China Covestro maintains a close alliance with Tongji University, and in the United States Covestro supports research activities at a number of renowned universities.
Research and development is a core element of Covestro’s corporate strategy so that the company can maintain and build on its own competitive position. The company continuously works to evolve and improve its products and manufacturing, processing and business procedures. It is ensured through targeted management that ongoing projects and the project pipeline satisfy the current and future needs of customer industries and ultimately the consumer markets.
The thematic focus is on high-end applications, the enhancement of functionalities, design flexibility, cost-reducing production processes and sustainability, whereby the company also endeavors to find alternatives to petrochemical raw materials.
The Polyurethanes (PUR) Business Unit focuses among other things on driving forward new technologies such as microcellular foams that enable the development of even more efficient insulation of buildings and refrigeration chains. It also works to increase the flame-retardant properties of its materials. Another current theme is lightweight composite materials, including applications in the automotive industry that lead to weight savings and at the same time higher productivity and improved comfort.
In the area of process development, the business unit is progressing with the use of carbon dioxide as a new source of carbon in order to reduce dependence on petrochemical raw materials. The PUR Business Unit’s first priority in 2016 is to launch an innovative CO2-based form of the polyurethane component polyol.
Activities in the Polycarbonates (PCS) Business Unit are mainly geared to the development of products for the automotive and electrical / electronics industries. The focus here is on reducing weight, improving energy efficiency and safety, and enabling greater design freedom.
Light-emitting diodes contribute to sustainability in vehicles and in other applications, as they require less energy and last longer than traditional light sources. PCS has developed special materials for channeling, scattering and reflecting LED light and for discharging the generated heat. In addition, the business unit is channeling its focus on fiber-reinforced composites based on polycarbonates. These can improve performance in high-grade IT products and automotive components in particular.
The Coatings, Adhesives, Specialties (CAS) Business Unit is actively involved in the development primarily of polyurethane-based raw materials for high-performance coatings, colorants, adhesives, sealants and specialty products. One of the goals here is to open up new application possibilities and markets for the core products. CAS is also driving forward technologies such as processes that make use of sustainable raw materials, focusing consistently on the needs of the market here as well.
In April 2015, for example, the business unit presented an innovative curing agent for polyurethane coatings and adhesives for which 70% of the raw materials are derived from biomass that does not compete with food production. CAS has also developed a thermolatent curing agent for automotive coatings that can be applied at significantly lower temperatures than standard products. This in turn lowers energy consumption and shortens production times. For textiles and artificial leather, furthermore, CAS offers a new generation of polyurethane dispersions that also conserve natural resources and do not require the use of any organic solvents.