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Dow Chemical places its chips on cutting-edge innovation

By Wang Ying in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2016-09-04 08:07

Although China is undergoing an economic transition, American multinational chemical corporation Dow Chemical Co remains extremely positive of the Chinese market, as it looks to extend its double-digit growth rate in the coming years.

Yoke Loon Lim, president of Dow Greater China, believes that China will see research and innovation play a greater part in the economy following the completion of this economic transition, and that Dow will be well placed to capitalize on this, given that innovation has always been a cornerstone of the company.

In light of China's 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20), Dow has identified new strategic areas of focus in energy, environment at protection and infrastructure. The company said that it would also be looking at growth opportunities in building water infrastructure and soil remediation facilities.

The company has also established a business center in Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region in September 2015, as part of efforts to foster closer cooperation with local enterprises and to support the Made in China 2025 plan, which aims to transform the country into a world manufacturing power.

In December 2015, Dow announced its merger with Dupont, as well as the implementation of a restructuring plan for Dow Corning, which would make it the world's second-largest chemical company. The restructure with Dow Corning will allow Dow to gain access to a broader product line and boost its research and development, service and creative abilities.

To date, Dow has 19 production sites across China, its second-largest market globally. Lim said that there will be another two production lines entering the construction phase - an agricultural chemicals production line in Zhangjiagang of Jiangsu province and a coating plant in Chengdu of Sichuan province.

Dow set up its first office in the Chinese mainland in Guangzhou of Guangdong province in 1979, before opening its Shanghai office a year later. In 2004, Dow made Shanghai its R&D and commercial headquarters in the Greater China region. Five years later, the company commenced operations at its R&D center in Shanghai's Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Park, also known as Zhangjiang Core Park. The facility is the company's biggest outside of the United States.

Located in Pudong New Area, the Zhangjiang Core Park is one of the 22 parks within the 531-square-kilometer Shanghai Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Industrial Development Zone.

True to its company slogan, which states a commitment to innovation, Dow boasts the largest R&D investment budget in the global chemical industry, spending about $1.7 billion on R&D every year. The company currently has more than 500 key research projects, of which more than 100 are being carried out in the Shanghai Dow Center.

"Since the Shanghai Dow Center started operations six years ago, the R&D center in Zhangjiang has mechanized more than 800 new products, and to date, about one-third of the revenue generated in the Chinese market comes from innovative sales," said Yao Weiguang, Asia-Pacific chief technology officer with Dow Chemical.

According to Yao, the Shanghai Dow Center is home to more than 80 laboratories and employs more than 500 scientists. Its key focus areas include food safety, infrastructure construction, energy and environmental protection.

The company also actively seeks out the best minds around the world to maintain its edge in R&D. Yao said that the chemical giant has established partnerships with many outstanding universities to advance scientific research and develop the next generation of scientists.

Dow, which currently has more than 6,000 people around the world contributing to its R&D efforts, has also established strategic partnerships with leading Chinese universities, such as Fudan University and East China University of Science and Technology. It also funds collaborative R&D projects between these universities and provides support for academic infrastructure.

According to Yao, the establishment of the Dow-Fudan Joint Material Research Center in 2012 has enabled the two parties to broaden their partnership through collaborative research, resource sharing and joint talent programs.

Academic institutions aside, Dow also has an R&D partnership with Haier, the leading appliance maker in the world, which has resulted in the invention of next-generation eco-washing machine technology.

Yao said that this technology will reduce water usage by 50 percent while removing more than 99 percent of bacteria, and will be commercialized soon.

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