Freudenberg launches global idea competition

Shanghai. August 22, 2013. For the first time Freudenberg has launched a global idea competition for external applicants. Technology providers, research institutes, start-ups and other market experts are called upon to submit their ideas to the 2013 international "ideaTrophy" together with Freudenberg's 37,000 associates. "The constant search for innovations spurs our associates on and forms the basis of our company's long-term and sustainable success," explains Hanno D. Wentzler, Regional Representative for the Freudenberg Group in China. "Through our long-term commitment in China, we know that people are very creative and innovative here. I'm sure we will receive many great suggestions for the global ideaTrophy." Ideas in the seven fields of renewable energy, water purification, medical devices and technology, renewable resources, solvent-free surface coatings, sealing solutions for the oil and gas industry, vibration control in railway and general industry can be submitted to the Freudenberg "ideaTrophy" website www.ideatrophy-freudenberg.com before October 28, 2013. In addition to monetary prizes, there is also the possibility of seeing the idea turned into a successful start-up.

Innovations will be one of the main driving forces for the success of Freudenberg in the future. In 2012, the Freudenberg Group expensed a total of about 1.8 billion Yuan for research and development. 2,244 associates (previous year 2,187 associates) were employed in research and development with China lending significant momentum to innovation. Freudenberg has invested more than two billion Yuan in China over the past ten years. In the near future, the expansion of the Qingpu plant will be completed – a new research and development center and additional production capacity and offices for chemical specialties are being built here at a cost of about 150 million Yuan. Commitment to innovation in China is to be intensified even more in the future. The global ideaTrophy is a new approach, to involve external applicants from China into this process.

In the past, only Freudenberg Group associates were able to submit ideas to the competition and have the opportunity of turning their ideas into successful start-ups. The tender process now open to external applicants is based on the seven fields identified by the Freudenberg Group as growth areas. "The competition should strengthen the Freudenberg Group's innovation culture on the one hand. And on the other hand we want to promote new business development projects in those fields where we see growth potential, using knowledge from external ideas," says Dr. Matthias Messer, who is responsible for the "ideaTrophy".

The growth fields focus on the following issues:

  • Renewable energies: Components for electrical or electro-chemical energy storage, electricity generation from renewable energies and e-mobility.
  • Water: More efficient water purification by means of membrane and micro-filter technology as well as water-saving technologies.
  • Health: Components for medical-technology equipment, products and applications.
  • Renewable raw materials: The use of renewable raw materials at Freudenberg and alternative raw materials to produce new sustainable products.
  • Solvent-free surface coatings: Surface treatments, in particular water-based (solvent-free) polyurethane coatings for textiles, technical textiles, synthetic leather, flame-retardant textiles etc.
  • Oil and gas: Innovative sealing solutions and vibration control technology for the upstream segment as well as high temperature thermoplastics / elastomers.
  • Rail and vibration control technology for general industry: Components for rail technology and new business for vibration control technology in the general industry segment (e.g. wind energy, agricultural and construction machinery, building technology etc).

"Applicants can submit just a few descriptive sentences, a well-thought out business plan or even detailed ideas for a start-up company. It's the idea that counts," explains Messer. "The ideas must, however, be relevant to Freudenberg's strategic growth fields." Criteria to evaluate the ideas include customer benefit and ease of technical implementation, but the "maturity" of the idea is also taken into account. Within the scope of the international competition, the winning prizes receive a financial reward of 8,000 Yuan per field; the total prize is worth 16,000 Yuan in addition. And the world-wide-web community can also vote for a prize of 8,000 Yuan.

The jury consists of representatives of top management at Freudenberg as well as experts in the search fields. The closing date for submission is October 28. The winners will be announced in November and will receive a prize from the Board of Management of the Freudenberg Group. Information about the competition can be found online at www.ideatrophy-freudenberg.com.

Two ideas, which have been generated from the internal competition and have been realized are Purtex® and scaffolene.

​Purtex® – a new solution for the Chinese textile industry

Innovative Purtex® technology combines high functionality of the treated textiles with the highest possible standards for environmentally compatible production. "In the development of Purtex®, we focused strongly on environmental protection, higher safety levels in production and the protection of consumers. In the selection of raw materials, we ensure that no critical substances are used. This way, we protect the environment, consumers and textile workers," explained Alex Guo, Purtex Sales Manager, Greater China. Depending on the textile's intended application, Purtex® can be custom-formulated to create specific characteristics. Purtex® makes textiles soft to the touch, highly durable and wear resistant, water repellent, and UV-resistant.

Purtex® polyurethane emulsions are solvent-free and 100 percent water-based, offering considerable advantages compared with common alternatives. Perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) have been used for the production of impregnating agents and polymers for 50 years. For many years, some perfluorinated surfactants have attracted attention because they have become widely distributed in the environment and have even been found in human blood and mothers' milk. The most widely investigated substances are perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS). These are non-biodegradable, bio-accumulating compounds. These chemicals are therefore seen as critical to human health. With the same quality and functionality, Purtex® is entirely free from deleterious substances and therefore has no harmful effects on human health or nature. Asia, and especially China, is a key market for Freudenberg in view of the large quantities of outdoor and sports clothing manufactured in the region.

​scaffolene – Medical bioresorbable nonwoven technology

Another of the most recent successful projects started with an associate's idea to buy a candy floss machine for 30 Euros. The intention was that the machine should help to establish how gelatin can be manufactured from nonwovens. Sugar, like gelatin, is a thermally sensitive material. With the help of a candy floss machine it can be transformed into fiber. In the meantime the idea has led to the development of a marketable product: "scaffolene" – a highly innovative medical and bioresorbable nonwoven that Freudenberg manufactures using a technically-advanced spinning process. "The product demonstrates how much associates can achieve with their ideas," explains Dr. Matthias Messer. "Scaffolene is now in mass production at a modern manufacturing plant. The next step is to achieve clinical certification for our customers."