Interview: “Austria has been an important location for Allnex since 1948
What makes Austria an attractive location for your R&D centre?
Ruben Mannien: Austria has been an important manufacturing and R&D location for Allnex since 1948. During this time many inventions have been made here, making Allnex the pioneer and inventor of numerous water-borne resins for industrial coatings. That early start shaped the leading position Allnex holds today in the field of sustainable resins, which contributes to the green transition of our customers worldwide.
We believe that there is a healthy R&D climate in Austria, thanks to the proximity and close cooperation with the University of Graz and other Austrian universities, as well as excellent access to highly educated talents, academic contacts and government support to drive innovation.
Having the R&D centre in close proximity to one of our key sites, allows us to accelerate the innovation process and shorten the time to market.
What are the main features of this new site?
Mannien: The new R&D centre will be state-of-the-art, filled with the latest equipment and automation tools, which will enable advanced innovations while reducing time to market. In addition, the centre will be a healthy and safe work environment. It will also provide various “innovation corners” where our scientists will be able to meet and discuss their challenges and ideas in a comfortable and stimulating environment.
A key element of the investment is the increased automation of both synthesis and application activities. Using the latest robots and digital technologies, numerous manual tasks will be automated, resulting in increased productivity and the ability to run a large number of experimental iterations simultaneously. All this will not only reduce time to market, but also allow our scientists to improve the solutions they offer.
How big a factor is R&D for giving you a competitive edge?
Mannien: Allnex is the global leader in industrial coatings and a specialty resin producer. Throughout its history, Allnex has made many firsts through inventions like powder coating resins, being among the first to introduce the technology, going right back to 1968, UV-curable resins and various water-borne resins for auto OEM and industrial coatings, SCA resins for rheology control and isocyanate-free, disruptive technologies.
To maintain our leading position and continue to develop the coatings industry in terms of performance and sustainability, R&D is a key pillar for Allnex, along with our extensive application know-how, technical support and our global presence.
Can you tell us more about your digitalisation plans please?
Mannien: Digitalisation is not new to Allnex and has been part of our work for many years. Synthesis and application robots were first introduced about 20 years ago. And advanced analytics, electronic project management and algorithms for predicting formulation results are part of our daily work. As developments in this area evolve almost daily, Allnex will continue to invest and contribute to digitalisation. Significant investments in automation at our R&D centre in Austria as well as the modernisation and expansion of our production facilities for next-generation water-borne products are a prime example of this commitment.
Will you roll out these new advancements globally to your other sites in the near future?
Mannien: Absolutely. The different research and development centres in our global network have different levels of automation and digitalisation. The know-how we can immediately share with other centres, we do. And in other cases, we first accumulate expertise in one centre with certain advances, and then gradually spread it to other R&D centres. Our research centres around the world are closely connected, and this is where digitalisation plays a key role.