Interview: Chemical Parks Interview: Currenta CEO Hilken Plans to Make Chempark Europe’s Chemical Flagship

Editor: Gerd Kielburger

A company that operates and manages a chemical park needs to be involved in a broad range of activities, from networking to infrastucture via innovation. Currenta CEO Günter Hilken is nevertheless certain that the Chempark in Germany, located in the Rhine area, is excellently positioned.

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Chempark Dormagen (Picture: Currenta)
Chempark Dormagen (Picture: Currenta)

Mr. Hilken, Currenta is a 60/40 joint venture between Bayer and Lanxess. How is decision making shared when infrastructure or new development projects are planned?

Hilken: As a general rule, the owners support our management policies. They benefit from the efficiency and high utilization factors.

As you can imagine, they might not be thrilled to have a competitor move in next door. Sometimes decisions have to be made on a case-by-case basis. Partnerships, even between competitors, are now common in the chemical industry. Unusual constellations can be acceptable if they produce a win-win situation for everyone involved.

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Growth in the world economy is now concentrated in the BRIC countries. Why would a multinational chemical producer want to locate in a high-cost country like Germany?

Hilken: The attractiveness of a production location depends on a number of different factors. Companies operating in Germany have access to a highly skilled labor force and an excellent research environment which creates the foundation for “innovation made in Germany”.

With a population of 82 million, the country is Europe’s largest market for chemical products. A transportation and logistics infrastructure which is highly developed by international standards is another factor which makes Germany attractive. Direct foreign investment in the German chemical industry increased threefold in the 15 years up to 2007. After China, Europe is the world’s most attractive location for direct investment according to a recent survey conducted by Ernst & Young.

“Networking is Crucial for Competitiveness”

A number of chemical parks have been set up in Germany. These sites compete for investment not only with each other but with locations around the world as well. What is it in particular that Chempark with its three different sites has to offer?

Hilken: First and foremost, we have been very successful in setting up networking at Chempark and with our internal partners. Business networking is crucial for sustained competitiveness. The chemical companies themselves are important to us of course, but networking is becoming increasingly vital.

Can you site a specific example to clarify that a bit more?

Hilken: To take one example, Finnish chemical producer Kemira plans to construct a facility at Chempark Dormagen to produce chemicals for treating drinking water and effluent. The company is working closely with Bayer MaterialScience which will supply hydrochloric acid, a by-product from production of polyurethane precursors.

Apart from the strategic partnership, the ecological value-add is also significant, as the hydrochloric acid can be delivered to Kemira directly through the internal system of distribution pipes, reducing road and rail traffic. This is a good example which shows that a chemical park can offer more than just shared infrastructure. It can make a valuable contribution to enhanced competitiveness in the chemical industry.