Research development and innovation

As a materials technology company, our future success and sustainability depend on our ability to develop and market innovative products and services. We strive to meet the needs of a rapidly changing world and continuously search for new solutions for our customers. We dedicate our research and development (R&D) to solving some of the world’s largest societal challenges in the areas of clean mobility and clean air, resource scarcity and sustainability.

Technology is at the core of our success. 

From production and process technology to deep knowledge of metallurgy and materials science, a significant part of our technology is delivered using Umicore R&D findings. Umicore also develops technology in collaboration with industrial or academic partners and, where appropriate, we protect our intellectual property with patents.

We have prioritized our R&D programs to support our Horizon 2020 ambitions with a focus on the development of innovative material and process solutions. Every year, the Executive Committee identifies innovation projects (“Top 10”) in product and process developments which are key to achieving future growth ambitions.

We are working to meet growing demand by consistently investing in research for clean mobility and to secure future success and sustainability through innovation. Umicore’s technology roadmap includes programs covering short-, mid- and longterm research horizons for cathode and composite anode materials and for solid state technologies, also including innovative production processes.

Our work focuses on improved catalyst materials for gasoline and diesel vehicles to meet increasingly stringent regulations. For battery materials, current work includes silicon-based anode materials, cathode materials for Li-ion and solid-state batteries and fuel cell catalysts.

In 2018, Umicore invested € 196 million in R&D, € 21 million more than in 2017, driven by a higher level of R&D in Catalysis and in Energy & Surface Technologies. The R&D spend represented 6% of revenues and capitalized development costs accounted for € 20 million. Intensified R&D efforts resulted in a 56% increase in the number of patent family filings compared to 2017.

The higher R&D expenditure in Catalysis was mainly associated with new product developments to help customers meet upcoming emission regulations in Europe and China, which require a broader range of more technologically advanced automotive catalysts such as gasoline particulate filters and NOx abatement systems

R&D efforts in Energy & Surface Technologies were primarily driven by programs aimed at developing new product technologies to deliver higher energy density, faster charging times and lower costs.

In our refining and recycling activities, new metallurgical processes to further reduce CO2 footprint and waste streams are under development. Process flows based on recycling streams such as spent automotive catalysts and end-of-life batteries are being addressed.

We are committed to technology innovation to maintain our competitive lead with an R&D organization fit to deliver our future growth.

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