Responses by Gerhard Müller, Country Manager and Market Developer of BASF Slovensko spol s.r.o.
One of the main goals of BASF is to strengthen its position as a leading global chemical company. This is in part thanks to chemical innovations made by the company. What innovations in this respect have been developed in Slovakia?
Creating innovations for a sustainable future is a strategic priority for us to help achieve future growth. When we think of innovation, we do this less along the lines of countries than global customer needs and related technologies. Consequently, we have established a global network of what we call “Technology Platforms”. These are basically R&D centers located in Europe, North America and Asia.
What does this mean for our customers in Slovakia? Whenever we develop, for instance, a new solution in the field of Advanced Materials in our center in Shanghai, our business units bring this innovation to our customers – including our Slovak customers.
We don’t have any dedicated R&D resources in Slovakia and this is true for many other countries as well, but we cooperate closely with our customers here to better understand their needs, to customize our solutions and products accordingly and feed this information back to our R&D people.
The company pledged to actively contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. In what ways does this impact the activities of your company?
We believe that chemistry is an enabler for a sustainable future. Consequently, it was clear for us from the beginning that we want to be part of this initiative. The UN’s approach to bring together different stakeholders such as policymakers, NGOs, scientists, employee representatives and industry is a very good one – it involved different views and opinions right from the start.
Not only have we, together with others, been involved in the development of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, but they also guide us in our decision making when it comes to our business strategy. Many of our products and solutions already contribute significantly to achieving these goals and more will do so in the future.
Here, for the sake of space, I can only give you a few examples: Ensuring the availability of water for all is one of the SDGs. Our water filtration and desalination solutions contribute to achieving this goal but also, reducing the water needed in our production processes is how we, as a company, contribute. Another example – energy and climate protection is a SDG. Our insulation products help home owners and companies to save energy but also, managing our own carbon footprint as a producer is important to us. We often make use of both an external and internal perspective in order to contribute to the UN goals. I picked only two of the SDGs here, but we actively contribute to every single one of them.
BASF supports various projects aimed at the education of children and young adults in natural sciences. What projects have you recently supported? Are young people interested in them?
Education is the key to the future of our children and it plays an important role in the development of society. That is why BASF focuses its social engagement efforts on education. Since 2011, the organization in Slovakia runs two projects – Kids’ Lab (a global activity) and the Chemgeneration.com project (launched in the Central Europe region). As a leading chemical company, we aim to stimulate an interest in science and foster curiosity. In hands-on chemistry workshops called Kids’ Labs, girls and boys aged 7-12 years get to be researchers and discover the fascinating world of science. So far more than 7,600 kids in Slovakia have taken part in experimentation programs.
For secondary school students, BASF launched an educational website named CHEMGENERATION.COM with the aim of increasing the interest among students in science and presenting the role of chemistry in our world. Thanks to interactive science workshops we engage young people in discovering the exciting side of chemistry and help them to understand how innovations, new materials, future technologies, and, above all, chemistry can help in creating a sustainable future.
Besides the above mentioned long-term projects, we support other various educational initiatives and participate in science popularization events. Fully booked workshops and an increasing number of participants encourages us to continue these activities.
What are the future development plans for Slovakia?
We have been active in Slovakia since 1993. Especially after the recent global financial crisis, Slovakia has developed in a very positive way. Constant above average GDP growth rates, ongoing investment activities and economic and political stability characterise Slovakia.
Today, Slovakia is both an interesting sales market but also the home to a production site for us.
Our customers include not only many of the international companies that are present with production sites and R&D activities here, but also numerous Slovak companies. Business is always challenging and predictions are difficult, especially when concerning the future, but I personally believe that overall, industry in Slovakia will continue to grow. By the way, it is absolutely amazing to see the local innovation drivers like Aeromobil and C2I.
In conclusion, I am convinced that we will see positive development in Slovakia in the future and we at BASF want to fully contribute and participate in this. Our approach to seeking opportunities beyond the boundaries of individual businesses is going to help us here. We focus on bringing together experts from different BASF divisions to offer more holistic solutions to our customers.