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Innovation, our passion
AZ Electronic Materials was acquired by Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, a leading company for innovative and top-quality high-tech products in the pharmaceutical, chemical and life science sectors. In the United States and Canada the subsidiaries of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany operate under the umbrella brand EMD.

Innovation, our passion

Innovation is the lifeblood of our business and the ultimate competitive advantage. Our customers’ industries are fast moving and technically demanding, so we must generate new materials which are aligned to their evolving needs and enable us to grow our revenue. Our products are vital to our customers’ success, so we work closely with them, and others, to develop new products and maximise the effectiveness of our R&D. 

Big R and Big D 
In order to structure, monitor and maximise the effectiveness of our R&D investment, EMD Performance Materials has established the “Big R, Big D” model.

In the initial stages of a project, which we call “Big R”, our focus is on research and exploration – basically understanding and developing custom chemistry platforms for the area of interest. The timescales involved are relatively long when compared to the development phase, and it is more important in Big R to be based close to our technology partners and innovators than it is to be near to our customers. 

The development stage, which we call “Big D”, is an iterative process where success often depends on the number of learning cycles that we can complete in the time available. Here, the focus is on converting the chemistry platform into a product, and then fine tuning and adapting it to specific customer requirements. We do a lot of this work at our R&D centres in Asia since, with some 80% of our revenue derived from that region, it is important to locate programmes near to our customers when a product is in the Big D stage (and nearing market introduction) to allow quick turnarounds.

EMD Performance Materials has six R&D centres of excellence – two focused on Big R in Germany and the USA, with the remaining four in France, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, focused on Big D. 
Big R: It’s all in the chemistry
Great ideas and innovative approaches can come from any direction, so we purposely operate our R&D model to ensure we collaborate with many partners to supplement and accelerate our learning and expertise. Of course, this includes working closely with our customers, but it also includes working closely with other companies in the materials and equipment sectors, and with world-leading institutes and universities. Historically, EMD Performance Materials has been very successful in licensing-in technologies and many of our most successful IC Niche product lines have their origins in this process. We continue to actively monitor and pursue these types of opportunities, both within our existing product lines and for technologies which would lead us into new fields.

EMD Performance Materials is also a member of several internationally renowned institutions which operate as industry consortia, solving technical issues common to a particular market segment. We are a member at imec in Belgium in both the IC patterning and advanced packaging programmes, where our on-site employees work with imec engineers and the staff of other member companies to develop materials which will be used for semiconductor production one or more generations in the future. We are also a member at SEMATECH, the US-based industry association, where work includes support for our EUV materials development. 

Academia abounds with new ideas and EMD Performance Materialss is tapping into this innovation wellspring by collaborating with universities and start-ups spun off from universities. Here we bring our product and market application knowledge to the table, while they bring their specialised research capabilities. For example, in 2012 we licensed new technology from and entered into a sponsored research programme with William Marsh Rice University in Texas for grapheme nanoribbons – a novel form of carbon related to both graphene and carbon nanotubes that has interesting potential applications in a number of areas, including electronic and advanced optical devices. We view this kind of activity as a longer-term technology platform development rather than a short term programme leading to immediate revenue. Such collaborations are an important and proactive component of our R&D model.

Big D: Customer-focused solutions
Innovation and product development are central to the future of our business. 
The industries we serve are fast moving and our customers’ processes are technically demanding. Although our products represent only a small fraction of the customers’ overall production cost, often around 3%, they are vital to their manufacturing processes and overall success. Our customers therefore depend on us to develop new materials that enable them to run either new processes or existing ones at lower cost. 

Many projects in the Big D category are extensions of our existing product lines. 
They may be adaptations to a customer’s processes or re-formulations to meet their needs, or require new chemical approaches. What they all have in common is that we have to quickly turn around samples to enable frequent learning cycles, which is why we tend to locate Big D projects close to our customers. Working with and listening to our customers will result in better and quicker solutions than just working on our own. Finding out what they need to make them more efficient, cost effective and competitive – and then delivering the solutions when they need them –creates the critical match between developer and user.
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