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New leader maintains Solvay Silica's focus on innovation

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An Nuyttens, Solvay Silica
An Nuyttens

BRUSSELS—Solvay S.A.'s Solvay Silica business may have a new president, but the philosophy on developing innovative products remains the same.

The firm has appointed An Nuyttens, who has been with the firm for 24 years, to run its Silica Global Business Unit.

“We look for sustainable growth in the sense of in 10, 20, 50 years, we're still on top of the market and key players in the market,” Nuyttens said. “We've always been focused on what's in the pipeline, either in product innovation, application innovation, different markets or different geographic markets. We have more people in R&D than in commercial.”

Nuyttens joined Solvay as technical manager in the group's Transformation Department in 1991, held roles in marketing and sales with the firm's Europe and U.S. operations, and returned to Brussels in 2005 to hold a variety of business positions.

She was named worldwide manager for Solvay's High Barrier Polymers in 2012 and joined Silica's management committee in June 2014 as strategy and marketing director.

“Solvay is a very diversified company in the sense that we offer a wide variety of products in different countries,” Nuyttens said. “I had a chance to gain a lot of experience in the silica world, and I come from a high performance product from our specialty polymers business.”

Solvay's biggest market for its silica business is rubber additives, with tires being the largest industry. Nuyttens said the firm is a key player in highly dispersible silica, which according to the executive was invented by the firm in the early 1990s.

The business for HDS has grown steadily since its inception, and Nuyttens expects that to continue with the rise of green tires. Fuel efficiency and new regulations place pressure for green tires, and she said Solvay will need to develop products such as HDS to help that cause.

Geographically, the strongest growth should occur in Asia, Nuyttens said. Brazil is another country where in 2014 regulations went into place to initiate tire labeling by 2016. A tire labeling of G would be banned, which would inspire growth potential for silica.

“Because of the regulation, there could be more of a movement toward green tires,” she said. “We see the market potential there growing.”

Nuyttens identified three products Solvay recently introduced. Zeosil Premium gives additional wear resistance to the tire and strong fuel resistance; Zeosil 1085 GR, which was specifically developed for Nordic tires where wet grip is important; and Efficium, which was released in February 2015 to offer improved processability.

The Solvay official said more products are on the way.

“There are still other innovations in the pipeline, but they will be announced in time,” Nuyttens said. “Innovation is key to our process; it's in the heart of the business, and we're building up for the future. We want to offer the best performing products at the best value.”

Solvay operates nine production units worldwide, three in Europe, two in South America, three in Asia and one in North America, with four research and development centers on different continents.

“We are a very global company,” Nuyttens said. “Our global footprint is something we've always been supporting and focusing on. We're investing in debottlenecking wherever needed. With Asia's growth, there is a particular interest in Asia.”