Dr. Henrik Meincke, Chefvolkswirt des VCI (Verband der Chemischen Industrie)
Title of the talk:
Chemistry 4.0 – the transformation of the German chemical industry
The chemical industry is an important driver for innovation and growth in the German economy. However, fulfilling this role in the long term will require significant efforts; like all industries in Germany, the sector is faced with elementary strategic and structural challenges.
On the one hand, demand for chemical products in Western Europe will grow only modestly in the decades ahead, moving the focus toward markets in Asia, South America, and, eventually, Africa. Since international and local competitors are expanding their production capacities there, and additional capacities in resource-rich regions are to be expected, the whole competitive environment in the chemical industry is about to face a transformation. In addition, manufacturers in developing and resource-rich countries are expanding their scope to include specialty chemicals that until now had often been covered by German exports. These changes mean a further increase in competitive intensity for the chemical sector in Germany, both in its European home market and in the export markets: in Europe, import pressure on base chemicals and intermediate products from resource-rich regions will go up, while in export markets, competition with local providers and other importers will intensify.
On the other hand, a paradigm change in demand structures and public preferences has been taking place for a while. The desire to use resources in an efficient and environmentally friendly way has noticeable effects on energy supply and consumption habits. The trend toward the Sharing Economy illustrates this transformation. By developing strategies to serve changing customer requirements, companies make an important contribution toward reaching UN sustainability goals. Circular economies will gain in importance, and digitalization will lead to extensive changes in all sectors. These two core topics are of central importance to the trends in the chemical sector up to 2050.
As part of these changes, a new phase of development is beginning in the German chemical industry. Following industrialization and coal chemistry (Chemistry 1.0), the emergence of petrochemistry (Chemistry 2.0), and increasing globalization and specialization (Chemistry 3.0), the industry is entering a new phase with Chemistry 4.0, in which digitalization, circular economy, and sustainability play key roles.
All are kindly welcome!