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Open innovation

We use the power of technology, innovation and data to help people have better lives and to reduce our impact on the planet. 

We continuously strengthen our in-house competence expertise in metallurgy, chemistry and material science, while constantly expanding our external collaboration network. Umicore commits to open innovation; a dedicated team facilitates the collaboration with dozens of research institutes, start-ups and universities worldwide. Foresight is crucial now, more than ever, and we composed a strategic insights and analysis team to develop a coherent view on future scenarios.

Often multiple innovation disciplines contribute to the result. For instance, the Umicore open innovation and digitalization teams help in setting up the collaboration with an external partner to bring robotization expertise to battery recycling. In another example, Umicore and other partners have started to work together in the development of a new sensor for harsh industrial environments.

A worldwide, ever more diverse Umicore community of over 1300 scientists is collaborating with customers, academic and technology institutes to sharpen our skills, improve the quality of our products, develop our processes, speed up development, lower costs, improve safety and reduce our environmental impact.

World-class expertise is used and developed into effective building blocks of our innovation engine. The most important building blocks include:

  • Metallurgy
  • Materials science
  • Analytics, trace analysis and material characterization
  • Chemistry and PGM chemistry
  • Surface science
  • Computational science including data science
  • Application testing and testing methods
  • Process technology and process scaling

These areas are all undergoing rapid developments, creating opportunities to improve our technology. We follow, test and develop these science and technology trends and integrate them in our development work.

Deeper understanding of thermodynamics, kinetics and complex element interactions are driving the speed of our development and help avoid excessive experimental or pilot validations. We work with worldwide consortia to develop and finetune methods that are applicable to Umicore’s different metallurgical flows.

Advances in modeling fuel insights on improving materials and on understanding and predicting performance. Surface engineering has become important in optimizing product performance, complementing our expertise in materials synthesis and colloid chemistry. Increased availability, development and deployment of accurate analytical methods provide operational efficiency and accelerate both our innovation process and learning speed.

Computational science and data science are essential at all phases of the innovation process and play a growing role in optimizing our workflows. Natural language processing in market and technology intelligence, image and pattern recognition, machine learning, amongst others, make computational science our fastest growing area of expertise.

Technology innovation and differentiation remain key for our future growth. Umicore’s forward-looking approach is fueled by our expanding expertise. The combination of detailed modeling and growing improvements in integrated process data, strengthened by artificial intelligence, accelerate process understanding and improvements. Our ambition is to grow our portfolio of collaborative programs focusing on measuring and understanding materials functionality, leading to better product design.

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