Research & Development (R&D) is integral to executing Kemira’s strategy. We’ve been working to move our project portfolio towards bigger and more impactful projects for the last couple of years and this direction will continue. A portion of our projects are scheduled for completion this year and it’s important to get those finalized and commercialized, at the same time, we need to look forward and pursue new discoveries and feed our innovation pipeline.
Some new technology areas include bio-based and biodegradable products and barrier materials. In fact, we have a number of projects that target developing products to replace petroleum-based materials with more sustainable bio-based technologies. Our initial focus is on developing the “building blocks” that can then be used in different products and for varied applications. Along with this, we are looking at our existing product portfolio and working to develop products similar to what we have today but based on bio-derived rather than fossil fuel derived feedstocks. We already have made progress in this area and it remains an area of focus in our R&D efforts.
Over the last couple of years, there has been an upsurge in commercial interest for barrier properties in mill applied paper coatings as an alternative to traditional polyolefin films. Our gen 1 products, launching now, is based on Kemira’s existing, innovative polymer chemistries and is already partly based in renewable materials, and, longer term, our customers are eager to know when we will be able to deliver a renewable raw material based product that has the same barrier properties as the current petroleum-based products. Our challenge is to get a product into the market for our customers to meet the increasing demand for sustainable coatings, particularly for food packaging. It is quite exciting to be working in this area.
Aligning our digital services and our technology is another key initiative for the business and a part of our technology roadmap. For R&D, it’s about expanding expertise in monitoring, data science and analytics as well as in process control, modelling and optimization. A lot of key technical competence supporting our current digital offerings and projects is coming out of R&D, but we will need to grow this area as we look to maximize this new business model.