Annual Report 2022

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Creating tomorrow’s solutions

Research and Development

WACKER’s research and development (R&D) activities pursue three goals:

  • We contribute to our customers’ market success by searching for solutions that meet their needs.
  • We optimize our methods and processes in order to be a technology leader and to operate sustainably.
  • We concentrate on creating innovative products and applications for new markets and on serving highly promising fields such as energy storage, renewable energy generation, electromobility, modern construction and biotechnology.

WACKER’s R&D ratio – research and development spending as a percentage of Group sales – was 2.2 percent. While that was less than the previous year (2021: 2.6 percent), R&D spending was higher in absolute terms.

R & D Expenses






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Research and development expenses











In 2022, we filed 53 patent applications (2021: 77). As part of the Shape the Future program, we have continued to slim down our patent portfolio in line with our patent strategy. It now contains about 3,300 active patents worldwide, with about 1,200 patent applications currently pending. We license only a small amount of know-how from third parties. In our research partnerships with entities such as universities, our policy is to ensure that the results are made available to us by transfer of rights of use.

We have invested in laboratories and equipment, as well as in pilot reactor technologies and pilot plants. At the silane facilities at the Burghausen and Nünchritz sites, we are advancing new techniques to further enhance energy efficiency. In a pilot plant at the Ulsan site in South Korea, we are developing new technologies for polymeric binders. We have further automated our innovation management system and linked the international R&D competence centers even more closely with the aid of digital technologies. We have enhanced our research capabilities in Brazil by expanding the Jandira site’s laboratory infrastructure. At the Ann Arbor, Michigan, site in the United States, we opened an Innovation Center for silicone specialty products, especially for the medical and biotech industries. We are expanding the competence center for mRNA actives at the Halle site. Our biotech research activities will be combined and intensified at the Consortium für elektrochemische Industrie, WACKER’s corporate research facility in Munich, where we are investing in a new Biotechnology Center.

Investments in R&D Facilities

€ million

Investments in R&D Facilities (bar chart)

WACKER is active in many highly promising fields including, in particular, medicine and biotechnology, energy, electronics, automotive, consumer care and nutrition, as well as construction applications. We are devoting particular attention to efficient energy utilization, energy storage and renewable-energy generation. We are examining the use of renewable raw materials and carbon dioxide in our value chain. The development of products and production methods accounted for a large share of R&D costs.

Breakdown of R&D Expenditures


Breakdown of R&D Expenditures (pie chart)

The aim of our New Solutions initiative is to develop technically and commercially superior solutions for new applications. We combine our company-wide expertise and apply it across different divisions as needed.

Some of our research projects are subsidized by government grants. In the reporting period, these projects were focused on process development, electromobility, lightweight construction, carbon recycling, artificial intelligence and biotechnology. The following are a few sample projects:

  • Together with XL-protein GmbH and Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU) Munich, we are developing a long-acting immunosuppressive anti-CD40 antibody. The antibody fragment is expected to reduce toxic side effects and suppress organ rejection, which occurs especially in cardiac xenotransplantation using hearts of discordant species. It could also find application in the treatment of autoimmune diseases. The CD40 project is funded by the Bavarian Research Foundation.
  • Together with partners, we are developing a material and cell configuration for lithium-ion batteries with high energy density in the PerForManZ project. The new configuration replaces the graphite in the anode with silicon. We are developing the anode material using a new manufacturing process. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research is funding this partnership.
  • In our Glycoside Production project, we are conducting research into enzymes for the production of human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs). These are used as nutritional supplements in infant formula to stimulate the immune system as well as brain development.
  • We are working with partners to develop antimicrobial peptides (AMPs). These amino-acid chains occur in the human body and repel pathogens. With this property, they can be used as a preservative in dairy products such as yogurt. The bioactive compounds offer potential for further applications in food and beverages, personal hygiene, animal breeding and crop protection. This AMPuro project is funded by the Bavarian Ministry of Economic Affairs, Regional Development and Energy (StMWi) and focuses on the development, large-scale production and purification of AMPs.

Research and Development at Two Levels

WACKER conducts R&D at two levels: centrally at our Corporate Research & Development department (Corporate R&D) and locally at our business divisions, where the focus is on specific applications. Corporate R&D coordinates activities on a company-wide basis and involves other departments. We use Project System Innovation (PSI) software to steer the Group’s product and process innovations by systematically evaluating customer benefit, sales potential, profitability, technology position and contribution to sustainability.

Collaboration with Customers and Research Institutes

We collaborate with customers, scientific institutes and universities to achieve research successes more quickly and efficiently. These partnerships cover topics such as electrolysis, recycling and construction applications, as well as process simulation and development.

Back in 2006, Wacker Chemie AG joined forces with the Technical University of Munich (TUM) to establish the WACKER Institute of Silicon Chemistry, located on TUM’s Garching research campus near Munich, and has funded the institute ever since.

Now WACKER and TUM are deepening their partnership with the founding of the TUM WACKER Institute for Industrial Biotechnology. The goal is to ensure research in the field of industrial biotechnology in Germany is conducted at the highest international level. The two partners will bring their combined forces to bear on researching new approaches to manufacturing products for the pharmaceutical, food and chemical industries from renewable resources as a basis for sustainable business management. Under a six-year contract, WACKER is funding research at the institute with more than €6 million. The new institute commenced its work in the 2022/2023 winter semester.

Research Work at WACKER

In 2022, the Group had 794 R&D staff (2021: 762), accounting for 5.0 percent of the workforce (2021: 5.3 percent). Of these, 599 were employed at R&D units in Germany and 195 abroad.

Alexander Wacker Innovation Award

The Alexander Wacker Innovation Award, a €10,000 prize conferred since 2006 for outstanding performance in product innovation, process innovation and basic research, is presented at the annual WACKER Innovation Days research symposium. The German-Spanish team of researchers honored with the 2022 award developed a more efficient fermentation process for producing L-cysteine by significantly increasing the natural fermentation power of the E. coli strains employed. Through their work, the team has set new standards for converting glucose into cysteine and achieved improved space-time yields.

Corporate R&D Topics

Our work in Corporate R&D is focused on projects to advance sustainability, such as the circular economy, silicon-containing battery materials and techniques for electrolysis. We are conducting research into the use of sustainable raw materials to continuously reduce the carbon footprint of our products. One key research area centers on biotechnology, where we are increasingly automating and digitalizing our work. In fermentation, we collect extensive process data for computer-assisted simulation and optimization of production methods. In microbiology, we have prioritized two areas. One of these is to develop and improve technologies for the production of proteins and nucleic acids (DNA, RNA) for the pharmaceutical sector. The other main research area involves work on production systems for new food ingredients using fermentation and biotransformation.

Divisional Research Projects

Sustainability and carbon-footprint reduction are at the heart of WACKER SILICONES’ innovative activities. Our research work is aimed at using renewable raw materials, degradability and product recycling. To achieve these aims, we are combining silicones with degradable organic raw materials. We are using pyrogenic silica as a substrate for absorbing and selectively releasing carbon dioxide. We are researching technologies to convert crosslinked silicones into recyclable materials. In global competence centers, WACKER SILICONES is working on trends such as electromobility, electronics and sustainability. One of the focus areas concerns thermally conductive filling materials and their surface treatment. The work of the Electronic Excellence team in South Korea is centered on optically transparent silicone systems for electromobility applications. To enhance battery safety, we are working on fireproof fiber composites in which silicone resin binders are used to ensure thermal stability and lightweight construction. We support regional markets with competence centers like the one for medical care in the USA, where we are developing silicone systems that can selectively release active substances in adhesive-bandage applications.

Research at WACKER POLYMERS is centered on sustainable functional polymer binders for use in consumer goods and the construction industry. We continually evaluate our product portfolio and work to improve it in terms of sustainability criteria. We are focused on bringing renewable raw materials into our production processes and on developing solutions for the circular economy. Areas of emphasis include product solutions for biodegradable items and recycling options such as using recycled concrete to replace sand in dry-mix mortars. In the reporting period, we launched functionalized polymer dispersions, dispersible polymer powders and polymer resins, which our customers use, for example, to make high-performance adhesives and dry-mix mortars. We held a symposium on resource-conserving construction with the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), which we have supported in setting up an innovation platform for sustainable construction.

WACKER BIOSOLUTIONS is strengthening its biotech expertise for biopharmaceutical and food applications. During the reporting period, we continued to develop our ESETEC® protein production platform and further improved the capacity to supply pharmaceutical proteins, which are difficult to produce. We are optimizing processes for producing plasmid DNA (pDNA), which we offer to our customers under the LIBATEC® brand, in compliance with Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) quality guidelines. We have continued refining our LIBATEC® technology to enable the production of live bacteria for use as pharmaceutical active ingredients. At the Amsterdam site, we are able to produce mRNA-based actives for pharmaceutical customers in line with GMP. We are establishing a new mRNA competence center at the Halle site. For the food industry, WACKER BIOSOLUTIONS is developing fermentation-based methods for the production of high-quality bio-based ingredients. In the market for cell-based meat (“cultivated meat”), we see ourselves as a supplier of high-quality medium components, and we are also working with partners on production technologies and product offerings. We are developing applications for cyclodextrins in the food, agriculture and pharmaceutical industries.

In the reporting year, WACKER POLYSILICON continued its Quality LeaP (Quality Leadership in Polysilicon) project, seeking to reinforce its leadership in quality amid increasingly stringent customer requirements regarding purity. In the solar modules segment, huge technological progress is being made at every stage of the supply chain, and this trend is reflected in continually rising cell efficiencies. Maximum cell efficiencies are attainable only with hyperpure polycrystalline silicon of the grade produced by WACKER POLYSILICON. Reference studies such as the International Technology Roadmap for Photovoltaics (ITRPV) show efficiencies that now exceed 22 percent for monocrystalline solar cells produced with PERC (passivated emitter rear cell) technology. Efficiency is a measure of how much of the radiant energy absorbed by a solar cell is transformed into electricity. High-efficiency monocrystalline cells (such as heterojunction or interdigitated back-contact solar cells) achieve efficiencies of 23 to 25 percent. High-performance segments like these need polysilicon of the highest quality – the kind that WACKER supplies. We are a member of the Ultra Low-Carbon Solar Alliance (ULCSA), which advocates for the use of photovoltaic components that reduce the carbon footprint of solar systems.

Biotech processes use living cells or enzymes to transform or produce substances. Depending on the application, a distinction is made between red, green and white biotechnology. Red biotechnology: medical and pharmaceutical applications. Green biotechnology: agricultural applications. White biotechnology: biotech-based products and industrial processes, e.g. in the chemical, textile and food industries.
Cyclodextrins belong to the family of cyclic oligosaccharides (i.e. ring-shaped sugar molecules). They are able to encapsulate foreign substances such as fragrances and to release active ingredients at a controlled rate. WACKER BIOSOLUTIONS produces and markets cyclodextrins.
Cysteine is a sulfur-containing amino acid. It belongs to the non-essential amino acids, as it can be formed in the body. It is used, for example, as an additive in foods and cough mixtures. Cysteine and its derivatives are a business field at WACKER BIOSOLUTIONS.
Dispersible Polymer Powders
Created by drying dispersions in spray or disc dryers. VINNAPAS® polymer powders are recommended as binders in the construction industry, e.g. for tile adhesives, self-leveling compounds and repair mortars. They improve adhesion, cohesion, flexibility and flexural strength, as well as water-retention and processing properties.
Binary system in which one solid component is finely dispersed in another. VINNAPAS® dispersions are vinyl-acetate-based copolymers and terpolymers in liquid form. They are mainly used as binders in the construction industry, e.g. for grouts, plasters and primers.
In biotechnology, fermentation means the conversion of biological materials by means of bacterial, fungal and cell cultures, or by the addition of enzymes. For example, products such as insulin, many different antibiotics and amino acids (e.g. cysteine) can be synthesized on an industrial scale in bioreactors using microorganisms.
A polymer is a large molecule made up of smaller molecular units (monomers). It contains between 10,000 and 100,000 monomers. Polymers can be long or ball-shaped.
Hyperpure polycrystalline silicon from WACKER POLYSILICON is used for manufacturing wafers for the electronics and solar industries. To produce it, metallurgical-grade silicon is converted into liquid trichlorosilane, highly distilled and deposited in hyperpure form at 1,000 °C.
Silanes are used as monomers for the synthesis of siloxanes or sold directly as reagents or raw materials. Typical applications include surface treatment, agents (medically active substances) in pharmaceutical synthesis, and coupling agents for coatings.
Silica, Pyrogenic
White, synthetic, amorphous silicon dioxide (SiO2) in powder form, made by flame hydrolysis of silicon compounds. Variously used as an additive for silicone rubber grades, sealants, surface coatings, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.
After oxygen, silicon is the most common element in the Earth’s crust. In nature, it occurs without exception in the form of compounds, chiefly silicon dioxide and silicates. Silicon is obtained through energy-intensive reaction of quartz sand with carbon and is the most important raw material in the electronics industry.
General term used to describe compounds of organic molecules and silicon. According to their areas of application, silicones can be classified as fluids, resins or rubber grades. Silicones are characterized by a myriad of outstanding properties. Typical areas of application include construction, the electrical and electronics industries, shipping and transportation, textiles and paper coatings.