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Covestro at K 2019: Pushing boundaries for a sustainable and digital world

  • Strategic program for circular economy
  • Innovative solutions for key industries
  • Comprehensive interior concept for future mobility
  • Focus on trend-setting themes

October, 31, 2019 - At the K 2019 plastics trade fair, Covestro presented innovative products and solutions, particularly for sustainability and digitalization, the key trends of our time. With a strategic program, Covestro aims to advance the circular economy and the use of non-fossil raw materials in the plastics industry. The company also presented products and technologies for key sectors such as the automotive, construction and electronics industries, as well as innovative and functional applications in the healthcare, furniture, sports and leisure sectors.

In addition to digitalization, the UN goals for sustainable development will especially influence the economy and society in the coming years. Covestro says it is determined to realize these sustainability goals at many levels. Meeting them is not only a prerequisite for a better, cleaner and healthier world, but also has great long-term economic potential.

Change to circular economy indispensable

“Megatrends such as climate protection and population growth require a fundamental rethink in lifestyle and consumer behavior, not to mention in global production,” CEO Dr. Markus Steilemann said to journalists. “We need a complete transition from a throwaway to a circular economy in order to handle limited resources more responsibly and protect the climate.”

At K 2019, Covestro highlighted its committment to establishing new material cycles throughout the entire process chain with a view to making a tangible contribution to achieving this major goal. “We have set up a comprehensive and long-term program which will also open up new opportunities for value creation,” Steilemann explained. “High-quality plastics are and will remain drivers for sustainability and for overcoming global challenges. However, it is crucial to decouple the economic growth achieved from the consumption of fossil resources such as crude oil.”

Turning away from crude oil

A key aspect for developing a circular economy in the plastics and chemical industry is the closure of the carbon cycle through the recycling of raw materials. “In the long term, we want to do as much as possible without fossil resources and use alternative sources such as waste, plants and CO2 instead,” said Steilemann. “In particular, used plastics are a valuable resource. That's why we want to work with partners to intensively develop innovative recycling methods,” said the Covestro CEO. Under no circumstances should plastic waste be allowed to enter the environment uncontrolled for longer. The industry is working intensively worldwide for better waste management – for example in the Alliance to End Plastic Waste, of which Covestro is a member.

Given its importance, the company dedicated a special Theme Day to Circular Economy at its booth on Wednesday, October 23. External and in-house experts presented practical examples and discussed with visitors. At the Covestro booth, visitors could also find many examples of products and technologies that can help close material cycles in various industries.

Covestro is one of the pioneers in the use of the exhaust gas CO2 as a new raw material. A team from Covestro and RWTH Aachen University is now in the final round of the German President´s Award for the development of a corresponding process. Exhibits based on this technology were specially featured at the booth. The company also supports the supply of energy from renewable sources.

Digitalization as a growth driver

Another driving force for the development of the economy and society in the coming years is the ongoing digitalization. Covestro wants to take advantage of the resulting opportunities and has started a comprehensive strategic program which focuses on the customer. To this end, the company is anchoring digital technologies and processes along the value chain – from the supply chain through production, research and all interfaces to customers to the development of new business models. Various developments and exhibits at K 2019 as well as a separate Theme Day on Tuesday, October 22, underscored the great importance of digitalization for Covestro and its customers.

Theme Days from Automotive to Science

On each of the eight days of the fair, visitors could experience how Covestro is working on different main themes. Lectures and discussions with experts from industry and academia served to deepen the topic and promote personal exchange.

Automotive (October 16)

The highlight of Covestro's trade fair appearance was a comprehensive interior concept for future mobility: trends such as autonomous driving, electric drive and car sharing make the automobile a multifunctional, mobile living and working space. It's all about functionality, comfort and design, not least also about efficiency. Covestro has developed the concept together with important partners along the automotive value chain. The main features are newly designed surfaces, the integration of ambient lighting, the latest infotainment systems and forward-looking seating concepts. On Wednesday, 16 October, the company dedicated a special Theme Day to the automotive industry.

Science Celebration (October 17)

The second day of K 2019 was dedicated to current and outstanding research findings in polymer science.

The American scientist Dr. Newell Washburn was the recipient of the global Covestro Science Award, in recognition of his role in pioneering a scientific digital innovation that speeds the development of customized polymer formulations. Dr. Washburn is an associate professor of chemistry and biomedical engineering with a courtesy appointment in the department of materials science and engineering at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University (CMU).

The second award, the Covestro Science Medal, went to a team of Covestro chemists and engineers. Dr. Rainer Weber, Andreas Bulan, Michael Großholz, Rainer Hellmich and Giorgio Dolfini have developed and successfully applied a scientific research on producing a basic chemical with less energy consumption and thus less environmental impact: they have succeeded in saving 25 percent of electricity when producing chlorine. They accepted the awards during the Covestro Science Celebration.

Start-up Challenge (October 20)

With the Start-up Challenge, Covestro aims to promote the creativity and entrepreneurial thinking of its nearly 17,000 employees and find the best business idea of 2019. The winners were chosen at the K 2019.

The winning idea is promising: New plastic materials can contribute to faster charging times for batteries in electric vehicles. With its “Power Separator” idea, the winning team of this year's Start-up Challenge wants to use Covestro's know-how in the field of high-tech materials to launch a new generation of battery separators on the market. Their aim is to improve the reliability and operating efficiency of Li-ion batteries and contribute to the sustainable development of the electromobility sector. In this way, the idea supports several of the United Nations' goals for sustainable development.

Sustainability as a catalyst for ideas: “The winning idea has the potential to respond to the major challenges of our time, such as climate change and global population growth, and to contribute to sustainable mobility,” said Sucheta Govil, Chief Commercial Officer of Covestro and responsible for innovation. “Our goal is to use our solutions to expand the circular economy in the plastics industry and make the world a better place to live. The ideas and teams that took part in the Start-up Challenge help us to achieve this goal faster by designing concepts for more sustainable product lifecycles.”

The six best start-up teams have been intensively preparing for the grand finale over the past few months. The winners ultimately prevailed against five other projects from different business areas. In total, more than 200 applications for the second round of the internal competition were received worldwide this year.

Employees become start-up founders: for this year's winners, it's now time to get down to the business of being a founder. They will be released from their jobs for up to a year in order to realize their business idea and test the marketability of the products. Covestro will provide them with start-up financing of up to one million euros. This gives the team the chance to act as a start-up within the company and to prove their skills as founders under real conditions.

Local talent search

At K 2019, Covestro also presented itself as an attractive employer to students, junior employees and experienced professionals.

With 2018 sales of EUR 14.6 billion, Covestro is among the world’s largest polymer companies. Business activities are focused on the manufacture of high-tech polymer materials and the development of innovative solutions for products used in many areas of daily life. The main segments served are the automotive, construction, wood processing and furniture, and electrical and electronics industries. Other sectors include sports and leisure, cosmetics, health and the chemical industry itself. Covestro has 30 production sites worldwide and employs approximately 16,800 people (calculated as full-time equivalents) at the end of 2018.

Source: Covestro