Solvay innovates to address societal challenges and answer citizen’s needs: energy storage, bio-based materials, water, light-weighting, and advanced materials along two main axes - "clean mobility" and "resource efficiency". Solvay develops a more sustainable chemistry based on new materials, new chemistry, and technologies to bring valuable innovative solutions to its customers.

75%

of expected Research and Innovation revenue from sustainable solutions

€352m

Research and Innovation efforts

2,150

Research and Innovation staff (FTEs)

264

Patent Families

19%

New sales ratio

Definition

Research and Innovation policy supports Solvay’s ambition to grow profitably while reducing its environmental footprint and increasing the proportion of its revenue that meets the challenges of sustainable development. Global Business Units and Functions are working together using a cross-functional approach to provide customers with significant added value through innovative and competitive solutions tailored to the present and future needs of end-users.

Management approach

Innovation levers driving Solvay Research and Innovation efforts

  • A process of innovation excellence to improve efficiency and shorten time to market: this process was launched in 2014 and has been rolled out in all Global Business Units throughout the Group; it covers all aspects of the innovation process, from ideation and market validation all the way to scale-up and intellectual property protection;
  • An extended network of open innovation through partnerships with academics and key market players to maximize efficiency and tap into the creativity and competencies of the outside world;
  • Investments in start-ups and venture capital funds that allow Solvay to develop partnerships for accelerating developments in strategic areas.

Solvay has also dedicated 16% of its total Research & Innovation efforts to corporate activities, with the clear intention to maintain a healthy portfolio of adjacent and breakthrough projects aimed at either building know-how and competencies in emerging technologies or at developing diversification and new business development opportunities through breakthrough innovations.

Six major scientific areas

The Group’s breakthrough innovation projects have a typical time frame of four to seven years and can be grouped into six major scientific areas:

  1. New supramolecular materials: a new class of materials with the potential to overcome the traditional technical trade-offs. The Group will first concentrate on supramolecular polymers, building on key properties of Solvay’s unique and broad portfolio of polymers, in order to create a new class of sustainable properties enabling recycling, self-healing, etc.;
  2. Surface modification: within surface technologies, Solvay's first focus will be on anti-deposit solutions addressing key unmet needs in market applications, for example where cleaning might be an issue, affecting the yield of the devices, while avoiding the use of cleaning agents or hazardous chemicals;
  3. Electro-active hybrid formulations: Solvay intend to enter the new world of hybrid formulations, focusing first on piezoelectric hybrid materials formulations that could find applications in sustainable electricity generation – a direct link to clean technologies;
  4. Functionalized biomolecules: the aim is to develop special chemicals from bio-based products, enabling Solvay growth engines to bring new solutions with a minimal environmental footprint to the customers in their markets;
  5. Sulfide chemistry: Solvay wants to lead the new sulfur-based chemistry, which has not yet been investigated. The Group sees huge potential here and think it could bring value to sustainable energy and electronic applications;
  6. Breakthrough processes: Solvays intends to invent breakthrough process technologies aiming at drastically minimizing the plants’ environmental footprint, safety impact, and capital expenditure intensity.

Growth Acceleration Program for Businesses

Alongside the implementation of growth initiatives and breakthrough innovation, Corporate Research and Innovation has established the "Global Business Units-Driven" program, which helps diversify Global Business Unit portfolios by bringing them additional skills and resources to boost innovations. These projects are aimed at deploying new technology in an existing market, or adapting an existing technology to a new market. They are expected to bolster Research and Innovation and generate short-term sales (two to five years), hence their importance for Global Business Units.

This process is combined with Marketing Excellence initiatives, aiming at promoting technology solutions or detecting unmet market needs, expanding the impact beyond Global Business Units roadmaps.

Research and Innovation collaboration

Solvay continued to develop collaborative innovation in 2018

Solvay cares about working together with its customers, with academia, and with other companies or startups in order to leverage multiple sources of ideas to identify solution to a problem. Overall, the Group currently manages more than 100 collaborative innovation projects.

In Europe, Solvay is fully involved in Horizon 2020, the current framework collaborative program to foster more research and innovation, which is aimed at competitiveness and economic growth. Solvay is engaged in several Public-Private Projects.

In all regions, Solvay is a strong actor in collaborative ecosystems that are catalyzing innovation projects with partners: customers, suppliers, academia, etc.

Venture capital and start-up

Fund-of-Funds - Since its inception, Solvay Ventures has joined a total of 11 specialized venture funds that had assembled portfolios totalling 125 startups at end-2018. 44 of these companies are developing sustainable energy technologies (generation, storage, efficiency); 12 are working on bio-based chemicals; and 14 are dedicated to solving health-related issues. For example, in 2018:

  • Solvay finalized an exclusive agreement with French biotech startup Deinove SA to commercialize ReGeN-oPhyt®, a novel, natural active ingredient for skin-care products;
  • Solvay began hosting Saroléa, an e-bike developer, at its Brussels Research and Development Campus. Saroléa is exploring a range of products marketed by Solvay to create lighter technology solutions for its electric motorcycles.

Solvay and Saroléa

Community - The Solvay Ventures team maintains a strong involvement in the cleantech and deeptech communities by participating as panelists or jury members in venture events such as the Cleantech Group meetings, the Nordic Venture Forum, etc. In 2018, Solvay Ventures also hosted a Startup Day at its Brussels Campus with the support of the European Commission.

Solvay Stand Up for Start-Ups

Acquisitions / Investments

Solvay is engaged in a transformation process, putting its clients and talents at the heart of its organization to enhance long-term growth. In this context, two projects were launched on the Brussels Campus to expand Research and Innovation in advanced materials science, and in Lyon’s renowned Chemical Valley, with a state-of-the-art Innovation and Technology Center set to become the new largest hub for innovators in the heart of Europe.