“My relationship with chemistry started rather unassertive. In the beginning, I was not enthused about my course of studies. Inorganic crystalline structures and Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle are rather abstract special areas of the broad science of chemistry. My view changed abruptly when I started to study polymers, which are long molecule chains. This is where it got extremely exciting, because polymer chemistry is a kind of building block of chemistry. It is the art of providing materials with new characteristics and new functionalities by using selective catalysts, which are already available to a large extent and new technologies from a repertoire of building blocks - the monomers. You start by defining the physical characteristics of the final product, the physical characteristics of the plastic are then derived from the definition and finally, you review the variety of building blocks, supplement them if necessary and combine these as a new creation - the polymerisation. This is where it is decided whether the plan was successful and if a material – foam in the case of urethanes - is soft or hard, breathable or insulated. Or if it uses CO2 as a building block for example, in the case of the large Covestro-Innovation cardyon®, and will therefore need fewer fossil fuels for the synthesis.
On my first job, I experienced this complexity very strongly: As the Bayer laboratory manager of the Krefeld-Uerdingen location, I had to face a new exciting subject: How do I protect the user of products made from state-of-the-art plastics against fire dangers? These dangers are caused if metals are replaced by high performance, oil-based materials. How can I protect polymers against fire without losing their high performance characteristics? Together with a global team of experts, I was able to develop new formulae to guarantee that our customers’ products are always in accordance with the latest fire protection standards.From the laboratory to technical marketing
This user-oriented research was very exciting, however, I wanted more. I was very interested to better understand the customers and their needs, in order to sharpen the strategic view of the application development. Therefore, after five years in research I directed my attention to a new job field, namely the market introduction of new products. This provided the opportunity for me to contribute to industrial research and to drive products forward in a completely different way. The newly developed materials obviously offer the customer new functions. The benefits of these products are often complex, however, and require adaptation of the highly developed processes of the industries that process these products. This is where technical marketing comes in: as the translator between the technical requirements of the customers and the new products provided by research. I initially took on this role for our customers in the electrical and electronics area, i.e. the large manufacturers of light fittings, fuse boxes and plug systems, and later for application in medical systems – with completely new requirements for the cleanliness and reliability of products.