Dr. Krauch, we constantly hear how technological and economic change are happening at breakneck speed. Do you agree?
Dr. Tilma Krauch: Yes, the change is profound, especially in digitalization, mobility, and sustainability. Our place in the value chain is changing. Systems and services along with even deeper understanding of complex technological interdependencies are becoming more important. It is a challenge that we are happy to face. Innovation and change have always been part of Freudenberg’s DNA. For 170 years, we have been assisting and shaping technological change with our developments and targeted technology acquisitions.
What are the figures here? What do research and development look like now?
Dr. Krauch: 3,590 employees work in R&D. In 2018, we invested some 444 million euros in research and development activities - over 17 million euros more than in the year before. This equals 4.7 percent of consolidated sales. The amount has never been higher! At the same time, we measure this investment’s effectiveness by looking at the share of products younger than four years as a percentage of overall sales. The amount rose slightly to 33.6 percent in 2018. We are on the right path.
And the future? Please give us an outline of your innovation strategy.
Dr. Krauch: In 2016, we established a new target image for Corporate Innovation at Freudenberg (FTI) in the Horizon project. We bundle knowledge and strength in the Group to successfully carry out large-scale projects with and for our customers. The cooperation among Freudenberg Business Groups plays an elementary role. The Technology Platforms are an important element of this overarching knowledge transfer.
What is behind this term?
Dr. Krauch: There are currently nine active Technology Platforms: Digitalization, MedTech & Hygiene, Nonwovens, Sealing Technology, Molding, Friction/Wear & Lubrication, Surface Technologies, Polymers, Mixing & Reacting. In the platforms, we identify overarching themes with the goal of developing innovative technologies, to promote the Business Groups’ economic success. We then develop competencies in the relevant fields and offer them to the Business Groups. This is how we put our promise of “Innovating Together” into practice.