Innovation is considered to be the cornerstone of profitability and growth for chemical companies and a prerequisite for long-term performance in the industry. While most chemical innovation continues to be solidly rewarding and returns well above the cost of capital, there are chances of major variations in the outcomes of innovation projects. Therefore, deciding on how and where to deploy capital may be one of the most challenging tasks for executives of chemical companies. Responsible deployment of capital and the sustainable use of ongoing resources is critical to the success of mega-project development. Therefore, it’s not enough to understand past successes or failures. To plan investments that will meet the near- and mid-term goals, companies also need to be able to anticipate potential outcomes catalyzed by factors such as feedstock, technology, and regions.
How technology and market familiarity affect financial returns in the chemical industry?
Chemical engineers and other researchers are continually introducing new innovations. The development and commercialization of these new technologies, which are highly disruptive will impact capital deployment decisions. The rate of return on a project that involves innovation-investment also varies depending on the company’s level of familiarity with the market and the technology. For instance, several companies are finding new ways to support molecular valorization, the practice of enhancing the value of feedstocks, which is a key goal of disruptive technology development.
How can chemical companies improve innovation performance?
There is immense scope for improvement in terms of innovations for chemical companies. Here are areas where change can have a significant impact on chemical companies:
Improve innovation discipline
Most innovations, especially those that involve new technologies, require the deployment of new capital during commercialization. If performed incorrectly, this additional capital requirement can easily destroy innovation returns. Many chemical companies consider that new products must be launched from full-scale plants to meet cost targets and qualification requirements. Chemical and material innovations are most often adopted at a higher cost than other essential products. Instead of deploying large amounts of capital to build world-scale plants, companies should take a measured approach with flexible pilot plants that allow for modification of properties to meet market needs. This approach reduces the overall risk in two ways: it lowers the total capital outlay and also increases the probability of adoption.
Improve market-insight capabilities
Chemical companies are often good at understanding the needs of existing customers in existing markets. However, they have proved to be weaker at generating insights about new markets. Hence, the risks of market entry for companies in the chemical industry are similar to those of developing new technology. The focus on market insight capabilities at most chemical companies to be far lower than the focus on technology capabilities. While developing market insights is neither easy nor cheap, doing so is far quicker and less expensive than developing a technology. Investing in this area reduces risk, accelerates commercialization, and increases returns. If done well, market insight capabilities will prove to effectively be a force multiplier for technology investment.
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