DuPont’s history in innovations continues to this day.
NYLON, Rayon, Lycra, Neoprene, Teflon, polyethylene, cellophane – these household names can all be traced to one company: DuPont.
For more than 200 years, DuPont has introduced innovative materials to fulfil every imaginable human need, including those we didn’t even know we needed such as nylon hosiery or Lycra, the stretchy fibre that revolutionised clothing (and enabled us to squeeze into those skinny denims), or even graffiti-resistant coatings.
Founded in 1802 in Wilmington, Delaware, DuPont first produced black powder for explosives. By the early 1900s, the company’s focus shifted to chemicals and materials to meet the changing needs of consumers and businesses. Today, it delivers innovations in food and nutrition, healthcare, apparel, safety and security, construction, electronics and transportation. In fact, most homes and workplaces around the world have dozens of innovations made with DuPont-created materials.
Market-driven science is what steers the company, chief executive officer Ellen Kullman told journalists last month at the company headquarters in Wilmington. “Through our science and technology, our innovations provide real solutions for real needs while driving growth and maximising shareholder value.”
As the world gets crowded, there will be more demand for food, energy and greater security as well as growths in new markets. Responding to these so-called “megatrends” is the current focus of DuPont, says Kullman.
Of the US$1.4bil (RM5.04bil) spent on research and development last year, threefourths were directed at the four global challenges: increasing food productivity, decreasing dependence on fossil fuels, protecting people and the environment, and responding to growth in emerging markets such as China, India and Asean. The rest of the R&D expenditure went to electronic materials, designer surfaces, coatings and chemicals.
While much of the research takes place at DuPont’s Experimental Station in Wilmington,
DuPont scientist Paul Viitanen develops biocatalysts which are used to derive ethanol from corn stover. about two-and-a-half hours’ drive from New York, the company also has 75 other research facilities, of which 35 are in 11 other countries. The company’s more than 8,500 scientists and engineers employ cutting-edge science to develop high-yield seeds, better crop protection methods, nutritious food, alternative energy technologies and new protective materials for food and people.
The year 2009 was a record-breaking year for DuPont in innovation, reveals executive vice-president and chief innovation officer, Tom Connelly. “We launched more than 1,400 new products, a 60% increase over the previous year, and filed over 2,000 US patents.”
To date, DuPont has been awarded patents for more than 35,000 inventions – that’s one new invention every other day for 208 years.
Research effort is now under way in areas that include nanotechnology, emerging displays technologies, crop genetics, and biomaterials produced from renewable resources such as corn. These developments could lead to foods that help prevent diseases and brittle bones, “smart” materials that can adjust performance on their own, microorganisms that produce biodegradable products and innovative materials.
In line with its sustainability goals, the company is skewed towards developing products that create energy efficiency and significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It estimates that these products will contribute