ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Wacker Chemie A.G. has opened its Silicones R&D Center in Ann Arbor that will be used to develop new products for its customers in the Americas.
The 10,000-sq.-ft. site represented a "single-digit million dollar investment" that will be operated by Wacker Chemical Corp., Wacker's Adrian, Mich.-based subsidiary for North and Central America and the North Andean Region of South America. The silicones center is located at the co-work campus of the Michigan Innovation Headquarters and includes laboratories for research and development, along with analytics.
Initial staffing will be 10 "highly specialized experts in the field of silicone and polymer chemistry," Wacker officials said at the June 13 grand opening of the center. Long-term plans will be to employ 25 scientists at the center.
"We have completed the necessary preparation work and installation of equipment for several labs focusing on research and development," said David Wilhoit, Wacker Chemical Corp. president and CEO. "Right from the start we are engaged in projects involving health and medical care, paints and coatings, electronics and personal care products, all of which are key industry growth segments, particularly for silicone-based chemistry."
Axel Schmidt, Wacker Chemical vice president for silicones, said the research at Ann Arbor will be focused on "developing advanced and forward-looking solutions in concert with regional trends that can be quickly brought to market."
He added that the center complements Wacker's strategic business model of being close to its customers to be able to serve market trends.
Focus on Americas
Wilhoit said the new center is part of a changing philosophy on R&D within Munich-based Wacker over the past several years. The firm historically had done much of its R&D work at a centralized facility at its site in Berghausen, Germany.
But that focus now has changed to a more regional approach, with R&D centers located on a regional basis, with a site put in South Korea to focus on electronics and another in China to focus on silicone rubber. The Silicones R&D site in Ann Arbor will focus on health and wound care, though it also will work on projects for other industries.
"The main focus now is the American market," Wilhoit said. "Of the capital investment over the past five years, the majority of it has been in the U.S."
He pointed to $10 million in investment projects at Adrian over the past couple years, and two major investments in Tennessee, including a new facility for fumed silica in Charleston that just recently had a groundbreaking ceremony. "With this investment in the region, the confidence we have in growth in the region and the confidence of the team we have here, we have decided to build an R&D center in the U.S.," he said.