Two of the core research challenges for the Institute for Molecular Science and Engineering are sustainable technologies and industrial innovation. Combining these makes IMSE a natural research partner for BASF, the world’s largest chemical producer. BASF has plants all over the world, and is headquartered in Ludwigshafen, Germany. Both IMSE and BASF are interested in innovating for sustainability. 

BASF has a long-standing relationship with Imperial College London, which is one of their 15 strategic global partner Universities. This link recently formalised by the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the two organisations.

Developing the partnership

Within the overall Imperial umbrella, IMSE has had strong relationships with BASF since its foundation in 2015.

In 2015, IMSE organised a co-creation workshop, bringing together 35 Imperial academics and early career researchers with representatives from several BASF departments. The group discussed and developed new themes and collaborations, including novel continuous production methods, digital chemistry, low cost green energy technologies, corrosion, and formulation design.

In 2017, IMSE hosted BASF’s then Chief Technical Officer (now CEO) Dr Martin Brudermüller for a special seminar on innovation in the chemical industry. He provided an inspirational vision of the need for more rapid innovation in the chemical industry to meet the dual challenges of global competition and the move to sustainable production and usage.

Between 2017 and 2021, the collaboration has generated 11 joint Imperial-BASF MRes projects. These included both lab-based and simulation/modelling projects, tackling research questions in crystallisation, materials ageing, coatings, equilibrium modelling, disperse systems, and high-throughput automation. See examples of MRes projects.

Listen to a podcast episode about a BASF MRes project

The molecular science and engineering approach is embedded within Imperial

Current IMSE Affiliates with active research projects with BASF include:

Dr Christian Holtze, Academic Partnership Developer at BASF, said “Collaborating with IMSE is a unique opportunity for us in industry to explore fundamentally new and disruptive concepts to shape the chemical industry’s future jointly with a cutting-edge academic partner. We think that the interdisciplinary and holistic approach underpinned by the digital sciences is particularly well suited to drive industrial impact. In fact, working with IMSE is special, as striving for impact is deeply rooted in its mindset – we can feel that when talking to our collaborators and when hosting industrial placements for MRes students.”

Professor Nicholas Harrison, IMSE co-director, said “The Institute for Molecular Science and Engineering seeks to accelerate innovation, getting from the molecule to the market efficiently. This involves deep collaboration between academics, policy makers and those making and distributing the new products in industry. We are at the beginning of a long-term relationship with BASF which is likely to significantly shorten the innovation cycle in new sustainable chemistries.”   

Dr Patrick Keil, Research Fellow and Director Corrosion Protection Research at the Coatings division of BASF, said “The path to disruptive innovation is often defined by many different challenges. Our cooperation with IMSE is a great example of how academia and industry can work together as equals to tackle corrosion issues related to sustainability and foster exchange on scientific topics to drive innovation."