Annual Report 2023

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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 2.9 percent. While that was more than the previous year (2022: 2.2 percent), R&D spending rose in absolute terms.

R & D Expenses






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Research and development expenses











Our portfolio contains about 3,300 active patents worldwide, with 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 our research and development sites, we are investing in new technologies for high-performance polymer dispersions and dispersible polymer powders, as well as in formulated specialty products and their scale-up. In Burghausen, we have set up a pilot plant to manufacture a new product for thermally conductive filling materials. 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. In our Central R&D facility, we have invested in analytical equipment for high-throughput screening of strain libraries and expanded our fermentation plants.  

Investments in R&D Facilities

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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. Research into 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)

Some of our R&D projects are subsidized by government grants. In the reporting period, these projects focused on process development, semiconductor applications in microelectronics and communication technologies, electromobility, lightweight construction, carbon recycling, artificial intelligence and biotechnology. The following are a few sample projects:

  • In a project called Etching Line Next, we are developing an innovative production process for next-generation semiconductor-grade polysilicon to support pioneering microelectronic applications. These semiconductor applications will be used in even smaller design rules (< 2nm) in the production of chips in the future. They are used, for example, for the most sophisticated artificial intelligence applications and for quantum computers. The higher purity of the semiconductor-grade polysilicon enables innovations for stable mass chip production for 5G/6G technologies. These communication technologies play a key role in the development of autonomous driving, and in the digital transformation and networking of Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things (IoT). The Etching Line Next project sees us combine an innovative etching system with a novel crushing process and a high degree of automation. The project is receiving total funding of €46 million from the German Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Protection and the Bavarian Ministry of Economic Affairs, Regional Development and Energy under the EU “Important Projects of Common European Interest” (IPCEI ME/CT) program.
  • Our InProMaL project has seen us join forces with partners to work on integrated and accelerated process optimization in the production of prelithiated electrodes for energy storage with better electrochemical performance. Our efforts are focused on combining prelithiation with innovative, silicon-containing anode materials. We use machine learning to manufacture battery cells with much higher energy densities and to increase rapid chargeability in battery cells. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is funding this project.
  • “H2-Reallabor Burghausen – ChemDelta Bavaria” is a project that aims to transform the chemical industry into a sustainable, hydrogen-based sector. 35 partners in industry and science have come together to test hydrogen technologies under realistic industrial conditions as part of a four-year production plan. WACKER is playing a key role in the project, which is being funded by the BMBF in the amount of €39 million. This lighthouse project is intended to guide the chemical industry in Germany toward a net-zero hydrogen economy.
  • WACKER is participating in two publicly funded projects for nucleic acid research. In Project AIRMAIL, which includes the use of AI methods, we are developing novel RNA-lipid formulations. The project involves close collaboration with our partners – the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich and the company CordenPharma.
  • We play an active role in the Cluster for Nucleic Acid Therapeutics Munich (CNATM). The CNATM is one of seven winners of the BMBF’s Clusters4Future initiative. Partnerships within the CNATM form a network that allows nucleic acid-based actives and next-generation vaccines to be developed.
  • Together with Johannes Gutenberg Universität Mainz, WACKER is developing modular, scalable alluvial cells for the electroconversion of L-cysteine under its MOSAIC funding project. The goal is to develop a new, more sustainable method for producing cysteine. MOSAIC is part of the Electrifying Technical Organic Syntheses (ETOS) network, which, in turn, is part of the BMBF’s Clusters4Future initiative.

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.

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.

Wacker Chemie AG and the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have deepened 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 2023, the Group had 906 R&D staff (2022: 794), accounting for 5.5 percent of the workforce (2022: 5.0 percent). Of these, 697 were employed at R&D units in Germany and 209 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. In the year under review, this award was granted in recognition of improvements to the polysilicon manufacturing process that further increased efficiency in production. They involved optimization of control equipment allowing parameters for polysilicon deposition to be adjusted in real time and, as a result, enabling ideal growth of the polysilicon rods.

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 also researching recycling 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 both thermal stability and lightweight construction. Another of WACKER’s research projects involves the fire safety of carbon-fiber-reinforced concrete, which is stronger but many times lighter than conventional reinforced concrete. The fiberwoven structure is coated with siloxanes to develop a material that fulfills the relevant fire safety standards in the construction of buildings. Regional markets are supported by local competence centers like our Medical Care Center in the USA, where we are developing silicone systems that can selectively release active substances in adhesive-bandage applications.

WACKER POLYMERS is focusing on the research and development of sustainable and functional polymer binders for the construction industry and for the production of consumer goods. We continually review and optimize our product range on the basis of sustainability criteria. We focus on using renewable raw materials in our production processes. We develop solutions for the circular economy, such as binders with a high percentage of renewable raw materials. During the reporting period, we introduced functionalized polymer dispersions, dispersible polymer powders, resins, sustainable binders for adhesives and cement-based construction materials. WACKER POLYMERS launched efficient products in the paper-to-paper bonding segment, enabling us to support the plastic-to-paper trend. We are focused on further developing our product and production technologies to save energy in our processes as well as in those of our customers.

WACKER BIOSOLUTIONS is strengthening its biotech expertise for biopharmaceutical and food applications. During the reporting period, we continued to develop our ESETEC® microbial production platform. We supply our customers with technologies to produce plasmid DNA (pDNA) and for various classes of pharmaceutical proteins. In this way, we support customers from preclinical development right up to commercial production in compliance with Good Manufacturing Practice quality guidelines. At the Amsterdam site, we are able to produce mRNA-based actives for pharmaceutical customers in line with GMP. The project to build an mRNA competence center at the Halle site ran on schedule during the period under review, thereby further intensifying our mRNA expertise. For the food industry, WACKER BIOSOLUTIONS is developing fermentation-based methods for the production of high-quality, bio-based ingredients so as to supply customers with sustainable amino acids, vitamins, saccharides, flavorings and aromas that are not based on petrochemicals. We are working with partners to create production technologies for cell-based meat (cultivated meat) and provide high-quality components for this field. We collaborate with partners to develop applications for cyclodextrins in the food, agricultural and pharmaceutical sectors.

In order to exploit the potential of modern microchips, the semiconductor industry needs ultrapure polysilicon. WACKER POLYSILICON has initiated several research projects to this end. Some involve the production line currently under construction at the Burghausen site, where semiconductor-grade polysilicon will now be produced. We stepped up the Quality LeaP (Quality Leadership in Polysilicon) project in the year under review to expand quality control. The type of pure polysilicon to be produced will also enable the production of 3-nm chips or smaller for computer applications in the field of artificial intelligence for data centers and for autonomous driving. The same also applies to solar modules: high cell efficiencies are attainable only with hyperpure polycrystalline silicon. Reference studies such as the International Technology Roadmap for Photovoltaics (ITRPV) show efficiencies that now exceed 23 percent for monocrystalline solar cells produced with PERC (passivated emitter rear cell) technology. Heterojunction or interdigitated back-contact solar cells achieve efficiencies of over 24 percent. High-performance segments like these need polysilicon of the highest quality. WACKER POLYSILICON meets the growing demands of the solar industry for quality by continually developing its manufacturing processes. What is more, the division is a member of the Ultra Low-Carbon Solar Alliance (ULCSA), which advocates for the use of photovoltaic components with a low carbon footprint.