Evonik has an extensive patent strategy to protect new products and processes. The value and quality of our patent portfolio have increased steadily in recent years. Some 240 new patent applications were filed in the reporting period. In 2018 we had approx. 26,000 patents and pending patents.
Patent-driven sales accounted for around 50 percent of our total sales. Product sales are defined as “patent-driven” if there is at least one relevant pending patent application or patent in force worldwide. In 2018, products and applications introduced in the past five years accounted for 12 percent of Evonik’s consolidated sales. The significant increase compared with 2017 (10 percent) is attributable to innovations from the businesses acquired and to initial market successes from our innovation growth fields.
Our innovation pipeline addresses completely new business options as well as activities to secure and enhance the prospects of existing business operations. Alongside product and process innovations, the focus includes innovative business models and product and process innovations. Our project portfolio is aligned to the differing strategies of the various business entities.
R&D expenses declined by 4 percent to € 459 million in 2018 as a result of target-oriented management. Our R&D projects are managed using the multi-step Idea-to-Profit process developed by Evonik to support the systematic development of projects right up to profitable commercialization.
Evonik’s global R&D network comprises 40 locations with approximately 2,780 R&D employees.
Evonik also obtains access to innovative technologies and new business options through its corporate venture capital activities. We invest specifically in specialized technology funds and start-ups of strategic relevance to Evonik. In this way, we gain insights into innovative developments at a very early stage. We have made more than 24 investments since 2012. In addition to investments to strengthen the Sustainable Nutrition growth field, in 2018 Evonik invested, among others, in Velox Puredigital Ltd, Rosh Ha’Ayin (Israel). Velox has new digital printing technology that allows top-quality printing of metal, plastic, or glass packaging, either in extremely small series or on an industrial scale. This opens up opportunities for the Coating Additives business line to partner with Velox on the development of customized additive solutions for the growing packaging industry market.
Opportunities offered by digitalization
Evonik aims to be the digitalization leader in the chemical industry. With this in mind, in 2018 we invested in the US high-tech start-up mySkin Inc., Jersey City (New Jersey, USA), which is facilitating a breakthrough in how consumers can determine and improve their skin properties. The company has developed a mobile device that analyzes skin properties and recommends care products. A culture of innovation is a key factor in a company’s innovative capability. Alongside commitment, passion, and stamina, that entails the strength to halt R&D projects if their prospects of success are too low, as well as a constructive attitude to mistakes. We therefore regard Evonik as an open, learning company.