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"From visions to products: a new innovation process"

Eckard Foltin

Eckard Foltin started his career in 1984 in Bayer, where he completed his training in process engineering and instrumentation. He is currently a director at the Creative Innovation Centre in the New Business section of Bayer MaterialScience. Among his responsibilities are global systematic analysis for foresight and the development of new applications for Bayer MaterialScience products.

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"It is important to identify future consumer needs to tap into new business opportunities"

Due to the celebration of the Forum of Reflection on the Future, organised by the OPTI Foundation, that will be held on 28th May, it has been performed the next interview with one of our speakers, Eckard Foltin

OPTI: Which is the process to match up new consumer requirements with new products development? What is the first, the new consumer demand or the new products offer?

E.F.: In the current global environment, markets are constantly changing, which also means that customer and partner relationships are changing. We aim to be one of the top global solution providers by supplying the raw materials and technologies needed by key future industries. By building up a picture of how the future might look, we can make the development paths for our materials more transparent and shape them accordingly. This approach enables us to tap into new business opportunities. In order to arrive at a realistic assessment of market opportunities, it is important to identify future consumer needs early on and ensure that technological developments are in line with these needs. Consumer needs are at the very forefront of our projects and it is these needs that result in new applications.

OPTI: What is the prospective role in the innovation strategy at the Creative Center of the Bayer MaterialScience AG?

E.F.: It is important that an innovative company like Bayer MaterialScience identifies trends such as the development needs and market opportunities for new plastics applications as early as possible. The goal is to provide the right material solution, at the right time, in the right place. Our product-based business units are working on material and application developments for the next three to five years. However, as a market leader for polymeric materials, we also need to analyze and monitor our market opportunities beyond this timeframe. That's why we focus on future markets with a more distant timeline. The Creative Center develops new application solutions for growth markets that focus on a timeframe of over ten years. We are working together with industry partners, universities and the creative industries to develop today what will be needed tomorrow and share this with our internal research and development partners.

OPTI: How is it implemented the "collaborative innovation" process in your company?

E.F.: The New Business (NB) department safeguards the long-term future of our company and is thus a core element of the Bayer MaterialScience (BMS) growth and innovation strategy. NB works very closely with the Business Units (BUs), acting as a connecting link throughout the entire BMS organization and reports as part of the Corporate Development (CD) Group direct to the Board of BMS. The objective of NB is to exploit synergies as effectively as possible in order to identify and create new business opportunities above and beyond the existing BMS portfolio of products and processes. NB is divided into:

Creative Center (CC) initiates innovative project candidates with high growth potential for BMS.

New Technologies (NT) goes beyond the research activities of the Business Units and concentrates on fundamental technical innovations in chemical and material science that have the potential to lead to new products and processes.

Industry Innovation (IND) manages marketing platforms and develops market-ready products and technologies for use in new applications. We are working as global teams and act with respect to local requirements.

OPTI: What are day by day challenges being the Head of the Creative Center?

E.F.: The objective is to identify what factors will influence the market needs and consumer needs in the future, what intelligent solutions, processes and specific products will be needed, and how plastic can showcase its full innovative potential in meeting these needs. We want to identify and set trends early on, research innovations and achieve sustainability. The big challenge is the communication of future targets in a world of fast changing circumstances and conditions. I believe that innovations need to make an impact, arouse curiosity and create enthusiasm. This is the path to initiate the communication which is the most important factor to connect people with interdisciplinary skills for the development of a the next innovative solution.

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