Open Innovation in the Chemical Industry: DuPont & the Polymer Science Park Show Why

It’s going to take a world of collaboration, openess and partnerships between companies, governments, and non-governmental organizations to be able to solve mega-issues such as fossil fuels dependency and feeding the planet, according to Jim Weigand, president of sustainable solutions at DuPont. Secondly, on March the fifth, the Polymer Science Park (PSP) in Zwolle, the Netherlands opened. It’s an open innovation centre founded by DSM, Wavin, universities and government to become the knowledge and innovation entity within the polymer and coating sector.

Jim Weigand, who oversees sustainability initiatives DuPont, is one of the speakers who will open this week’s Globe 2012 conference with a session on building a green economy through innovation.  Globe has evolved in the 22 years it has been tackling issues of business and the environment to the point that it is attracting Fortune 500 companies like DuPont.

Mr. Weigand likes to use the word collaboratory to describe the collaboration and openess:

“Collaboratory is a word; it means a laboratory without walls and without borders. These issues around food, energy and protection are huge issues and world issues. Not one company, not one country or not one industry is going to solve it. We have to form partnerships, we have to collaborate and we have to be open.

“It’s not just about DuPont or another company; it’s about all of us working together.”

DuPont is known for developing polymers like nylon and neoprene, but it has also invested heavily in sustainability. In 2011 alone, DuPont launched more than 1,700 new products and invested 22 per cent of its $1.7 billion research and development budget on new chemistry and materials to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

DuPont had a record-breaking year with 910 new U.S. patents granted in 2011 — an increase of 8 percent over last year. DuPont patent filings in 2011 mirrored the company’s R&D investment and the pursuit of more nutritious and healthier food, reducing global dependence on fossil fuels and protecting people and the environment.

And it’s all made possible by the excellent collaborative work among our scientists, expert patent team and our marketing teams, according to DuPont Chief Science & Technology Officer Douglas Muzyka.

Polymer Science Park

DSM, Wavin, university Windesheim, Deltion College, municipality Zwolle and the Overijssel province have set up the Polmyer Science Park to realize value-creation, defined as following:

“The establishment and expansion of the Polymer Science Park to become the regional, national and international business location for educational institutions, research organizations and government in the field of plastics and coatings.”

Just one year ago, senior projectmanager Ron Nuwenhof of the East Netherlands Development Agency (OostNV) contacted DSM’s site-director Ed Kooijman who showed interest in an open innovation centre, because DSM was developing a strategy for DSM to stay at the global top for their resins and coatings.

In order to stay a leading player, DSM’s Kooijman explained:

Better ideas need to be developed faster and produced cheaper.”

Open innovation and being better, faster and cheaper

Both DuPont and the Polymer Science Park are collaboratively innovating with (external) stakeholders to solve issues in a viable way.

Ron Nuwenhof’s view on this summarizes open innovation well (translated):

“If you cannot share, you cannot multiply”.

To create better, faster and cheaper multiplication, organizations need to collaborate and open up, as DuPont’s Weigand mentioned in order to benefit from the global fragmented knowledge and expertise:

“There are a lot of smart people out there, but most of them don’t work for you” – Henry Chesbrough

Social media and social technologies as business performance accelerators

In a fast-paced global business environment, with shorter product life cycles and quickly changing customer behaviors, can open innovation be supported and enriched to enable faster, better and cheaper business output if social media and social technologies are being deployed?

Yes, social media and social technologies help organizations to aggregate and make sense out of the fragmented global knowledge and expertise in order to be more agile and adaptive. Engagement is key to spot and involve relevant stakeholders. (Faster)

They also enable continuous understanding of (local) customer anxieties, needs and behaviors that can be used for as direction and validation for market-driven innovations. (Better)

Adding social media to the (open) innovation process enables a 20% more likely successful innovation and get it faster to market (McKinsey research). This is realized on two levels. Spotting changed and customer needs via continuous listening or via co-creations. Secondly, social technologies provide the infrastructure to quickly and effectively collaborate throughout the process, virtually.  (Cheaper)

How do you think DuPont and the Polymer Science Park can create faster, better and cheaper output?

By Gianluigi Cuccureddu

About the author:

Gianluigi CuccuredduGianluigi Cuccureddu, contributing editor, is an experienced writer specializing in innovation, open business, new media and marketing. He is also Managing Partner of the 90:10 Group, a global Open Business consultancy, which helps clients open their activity directly and indirectly to external stakeholders through the use of social media, its data and technologies for the purpose of competitive advantages in marketing, service- and product innovation.