Innovation and Research
Creativity, innovation, customer-centricity, and research are dynamic components of Sika’s long-term success and future growth. Multiple large-scale projects are cultivated simultaneously around the globe, resulting not only in effective and original products for customers, but also in opportunities for knowledge sharing among R&D teams in different countries. Securing and enforcing patents is an active part of protecting Sika’s intellectual property.
Sika is dedicated to the reduction of the impact of global warming especially since climate change and growing population requires cleaner and better-functioning cities. These forces are driving the demand for intelligent construction materials and smart mobility systems to ease congestion and reduce CO2 emissions. Sika helps to reduce the carbon footprint with the help of technology platforms allowing to avoid or to use less amounts of Ordinary Portland Cement (OPC). Sika also leads the way when it comes to 3D concrete printing technology. The Group has mastered all the process steps needed to print concrete on an industrial scale, and the solution has been developed, field-tested and successfully launched in the market.
Sika’s research and development activities are carried out by 1,240 employees (2020: 1,085) across 21 global Technology Centers as well as 55 local and 20 regional research and development facilities. The research program targets the development of proprietary technology that provides both performance and sustainability benefits and thus allows Sika’s product platforms to respond to global trends such as resourcesaving building methods, energy-efficient and low-emission construction materials, high-speed manufacturing processes, modular construction, and lighter and safer vehicles.
Key projects focus on highperformance molecules with tailored features, smart refining techniques for polymers and surfaces, renewable and bio-based materials including recycling processes and sustainable construction methods, and digitalized manufacturing technologies such as 3D printing, allowing not only high-precision automation but also individualized production of complex components and structures, both in the laboratory and in full-size production. Sika’s objective is to meet the challenges customers face today by launching new products in response to tighter chemical regulations, developing new solutions to meet the ever-greater demands in terms of easy and efficient application and optimized environmental footprint, supporting customers in fostering their competitive advantage in regulation, sustainability, and market leadership.
The protection of intellectual property plays a central role in competitive markets. While own inventions need to be protected against imitators, ensuring FTO (freedom to operate) for new products over third-party IP is important too.
To achieve the best possible benefit for the Group, the patent strategy was reviewed and sharpened to focus on the three basic pillars (i) risk management and mitigation with respect to third-party patents, (ii) protection of new inventions according to commercial relevance of the products/solutions and (iii) leveraging patents to support business. For each of these pillars, characteristics were elaborated to meet the needs of the organization. Workflows were amended to involve a broader base of relevant functions in decision-making processes, while maintaining high efficiency by concentrating on the essentials.
The new strategy was rolled out throughout 2021. Already widely in line with the new patent strategy, 150 new inventions were reported in 2021 (2020: 123) and 99 new patent applications were filed (2020: 83). By the end of 2021, Sika’s patent portfolio included 986 unique patent families with 4,242 single national patents.
Digitalization of Construction and Industry
In digital construction, a range of exciting challenges across a broad spectrum of fields are evolving: economical, environmental, technical, and architectural. To master the combination of these domains is a prerequisite to be able to successfully make the digital transition in the construction industry. Sika covers all activities required for the complete digitalization of the construction: design, processes and operations, additive materials, and connected devices.
The new Sika 3D concrete printing system, combined with Sikacrete ®-7100 3D, allows a productivity five times higher than the ready-mix concrete or mortar used for 3D printing, requiring only one operator, improving the productivity of a fully automatized production 4.0. Sika has teamed up with partners in the USA and in Europe to commercialize 3D concrete printing technology in the construction industry and to capture its vast potential. In 2021, a new Digital Technology Center and a 3D Technical Center was set up and an easy-to-use one-component 3D mortar was developed. This infrastructure provides additional resources to serve the rising customer demand and to set the pace in terms of efficiency, freedom of design, and flexibility at the construction site. In 2021, Sika further developed its cooperation with CiDRA Concrete Systems Inc. in the USA. CiDRA specializes in IoT-based digital systems to monitor concrete properties during transport. Sika and CiDRA already offer this service to customers in the USA, Canada, Australia, and in the UK. Customers benefit from this offer through a data subscription service, enabling concrete producers to access real-time concrete quality data such as workability and air content through a cloud-based data portal for every truck operating in their fleet.