Arnhem, June 8, 2000 – Akzo Nobel Chairman Cees van Lede will plea this coming Saturday during a European Research and Development workshop for closer links between university research and industrial product development. “The interface between fundamental scientific research, on the one hand, and developing concrete applications for the market by industry, on the other, must be strengthened,” Van Lede said. “Each has its own role and its own strong points. Government should reshape its subsidy policy accordingly.”
Together with a number of top-ranking managers from European industrial companies, Akzo Nobel’s CEO will be spending part of the Whitsun weekend in Brussels at the European Business Summit. He will introduce a discussion on “Refocusing Public R&D Spending,” part of a workshop on the role companies can play in revitalizing research. “There are more than enough knowledge institutes in Europe. What we want now is greater cohesion,” Van Lede said. “Subsidy policy needs to be adjusted to make that possible. Government pays for fundamental research, and industry picks up the cost of making it marketable. For both parties there is a joint responsibility for the gray area in between, where ideas are converted into applications.”
The average time between the birth of an idea and bringing a product to market can be up to 15 years. In fields such as pharmacy it can take longer. In others such as electronics it is shorter. The first few years are needed for the generation of ideas, followed by a shorter period for follow-up research into more concrete applications. Final product development, however, takes many more years. Under pressure from international competition, particularly from the United States, most companies no longer do the first phase themselves, preferring to buy in potentially successful applications. This cuts out unnecessary expenditure. Industry concentrates on final product development for a designated market and applies stringent project management to keep a tight rein on the budget and on development time. In the long term this approach can cause the pipeline of new applications that form the basis for a new generation of products to dry up. As a result, economic development can be threatened. With improved links between fundamental research and industrial requirements, the “drought” can be avoided and, at the same time, existing subsidy flows can be used more effectively.
Akzo Nobel, based in the Netherlands, serves customers throughout the world with healthcare products, coatings, and chemicals. Consolidated sales for 1999 (excluding Acordis) totaled some EUR 12 billion (USD 13 billion, GBP 8 billion). In the beginning of 2000, the Company employed 68,000 people in 75 countries. Financial results for the second quarter of 2000 will be announced on July 26, 2000.