Clariant: Innovative technology that reaches across borders

For the Clariant Competence Center Micro Reactor Technology (C3-MRT), Clariant, a globally active, world-leading producer of specialty chemicals, received the ‘Best Innovator’ award in the category ‘Supporting factors’. It is the second consecutive year that the Swiss company is a winner of this innovation award for the German companies, a competition that is jointly held by the management consulting firm A. T. Kearney and the German business magazine WirtschaftsWoche. Already in 2003, the Pigments & Additives Division of Clariant received the ‘Best Innovator’ award in the individual award category ‘Excellent program and project management’.

The aim of the ‘Best Innovator’ innovation award for the German companies is to identify the companies with the best innovation management. More than 100 companies participated in this year’s competition. The candidates initially provided written information about their innovation performance. Based on this information, Clariant and 19 other finalists were selected in the categories of Strategy, Organization and processes, as well as Supporting factors.

MRT – a technology with many benefits

The field of expertise of the award-winning C3-MRT is micro reactors – miniaturized flow channels ranging between several micrometers and 1 millimeter in size. To reach the usual throughput of specialty chemical producers of several hundred tons annually, a large number of these flow channels are connected in parallel (’numbering up’), whereas the conventional method increases the reaction volume (’scaling up’). Compared to conventional methods, micro reactor technology has significant advantages. In addition to an increased transfer of material and heat, the modular set-up of micro reactors allows a fast adaptation of the process to the varying requirements of different chemical reactions and a fast screening of reaction parameters such as temperature, residence time, concentration, and more. Also, due to their small reaction volume, micro reactors are viewed as inherently safe installations.

Until now, the use of micro reactors was limited mainly to research and development, an area where this new technology established itself over the last decade in a few companies as a standard tool. In industrial applications, however, experience on a larger scale has been lacking so far. Clariant recognized the importance of MRT for the specialty chemicals sector in the late 1990s, when the company decided to build its own resources, with the aim of being at the core of the development and establishment of micro reactor technology for industrial applications from the very beginning.

Know-how transfer across divisions and companies

In 1999, Clariant developed a program in ten steps, which comprised two parallel sets of action: in addition to laboratories and pilot plants, Clariant created the necessary infrastructure for cross-divisional transfer of MRT know-how, and the transfer of its know-how to other companies. The new know-how was simultaneously secured by numerous patents, including a method for the manufacture of high-performance pigments. In 2001, a cross-divisional MRT team was formed, which was followed by the Clariant Competence Center Micro Reactor Technology (C3-MRT) in early 2004. The mission of the center is not only to foster a more intensive use of MRT in all of Clariant’s Divisions, but also to market the know-how to third parties with the aim of external return-on-investment.

The award-winning (C3-MRT) illustrates how Clariant has been successful in strengthening its market and technology standing through its own know-how by implementing innovation management in a key technology of the future.

More information is available under ‘Service’ on the website of Clariant Pigments & Additives www.pa.clariant.com.

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