Closer partnerships boost sustainable innovation

New regulations and the urgent demand for more sustainable coatings call for even closer collaboration in product development. Head of Global R&D, Nigel Shewring knows that only collaboration with partners such as customers, universities, and suppliers will speed up early research and testing of new solutions.

Before the summer, R&D shared the technical challenges distilled from technology roadmaps with researchers and professors from DTU's Coatings Science and Technology Centre (CoaST), with the intent to spark innovation. Hempel has done that before, but this time the task is futureproofing our 'bread & butter' solutions.

"The R&D team is constantly developing new formulations and testing new raw materials,” Nigel explains. "But the urgency and pace needed in responding to the markets' demand for sustainable coatings to better protect their assets or improve their energy efficiency is accelerating. One entity cannot solve these issues alone. We need to form closer partnerships and leverage each other's diverse competencies, both within and beyond the industry," says Nigel.

Over the years, Hempel has sponsored several PhDs at CoaST. These have typically been PHDs where deep exploration has been needed to understand the mechanism of performance in our leadership positions, such as; Fouling defense, Passive fire protection (PFP) etc. Last year, R&D invited CoaST to look at the technical challenges from Hempel's waterborne technology roadmap. This has triggered two collaborative initiatives with DTU.

Battling on two fronts

Only 1% of Hempel's carbon footprint comes from our own operations, according to the Science Based Targets, which Hempel is signed up to. On the other hand, raw materials account for more than 66% of our carbon footprint when the full value chain is included (so called Scope 3). So, with the ambitious targets set to reduce 'Scope 3' by 50% in 2030, the race is on to innovate and reformulate to reduce the carbon intensive ingredients and test to ensure the new solution is fit for purpose.

Getting even closer with suppliers

Collaboration outside of Hempel does not end with universities, and Hempel's sustainable procurement program has proven to be very effective in creating visibility on, as well as reward, sustainability performance across our full supply chain. According to Nigel, there is also an untapped potential with the hundreds of chemists and scientists working for our suppliers. "We have a close and confidential relationship with many of our suppliers already and have started to share our technology challenges with them and inviting them to innovate with us," Nigel concludes.