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Plastics Innovation in China

Posted on June 13th, 2016 by in Chemical R&D

plastic packaging

Sometimes writing a blog takes effort, but fortunately sometimes, it more or less just writes itself. This is a case of the latter – reading through various reports and press releases made at the plastics fair Chinaplas last month by leading plastics producers and compounders,I found numerous examples supporting my hypothesis that China is becoming an innovation leader in chemicals.

ExxonMobil launched a new, improved polyethylene grade for flexible packaging in China. The rationale given by Ms. Shulman, Plastics and Resins VP of ExxonMobil Chemical, is that the equipment in China is leading edge. “Over the last three decades state-of-the-art equipment … has been installed and [China] is really an innovation leader”. While the new material will be available globally, it was launched at Chinaplas because of the high market growth and “the high drive for innovation” in this market.

Jerry Bristow, GM APAC of plastics compounder A. Schulman, made similar statements. “We see Asia becoming a global technology driver. We’re seeing some of the biggest converting machines coming into China, far in advance of anything else globally.” As a consequence, solutions for China cannot be just taken over from other countries. “The machines going into China need to run bigger and faster. We can’t cut and paste what we’re doing elsewhere.” For example, while European customers may be satisfied with speeds of up to 200 meters a minute, customers in China need 400 meters a minute.

And DSM has launched a pilot production line for plastics at its Chinese research center, allowing DSM to make batches large enough for customer production tests. The Chinese customers are so important now that in the words of DSM Engineering Plastics APAC President Ivo Lansbergen, “You can’t have a request for 100 or 200 kilograms and say, ‘Thanks, I’ll deliver it in three weeks.’”

All three examples indicate that China is indeed becoming a leading location for innovation – the place with the most innovative customers, the biggest and most recent investments, and the largest market. Probably these factors will be much more important than a supportive Chinese government policy to make China a global innovation leader.

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