Sika’s research and development activities are designed to generate long-term customer benefits in alignment with net zero emissions targets. But sustainable innovations do not come about by chance – they require unwavering commitment from the whole organization.
Innovation is a fixed part of the Sika culture. More than 1,330 employees in 21 global technology centers, as well as 64 local and 19 regional research and development facilities, work on finding innovative solutions. They are in constant dialogue not just with experts from other corporate areas, but also with customers, suppliers, tertiary education institutions, and start-ups. With its openness to new developments, Sika has evolved into a recognized global technology leader.
"The road to net zero goes hand in hand with cultural change." Patricia Heidtman, Chief Innovation and Sustainability Officer and Member of Group Management
Net Zero Requires Cultural Change
Sustainability is also an area in which Sika is very much a pioneer. “The road to net zero goes hand in hand with cultural change,” emphasizes Patricia Heidtman, Chief Innovation and Sustainability Officer and Member of Group Management. “Sustainable solutions are not created out of the blue just because someone suddenly has a brilliant idea. The whole organization needs to commit to this objective – from product development to marketing to sales.” She also emphasizes the importance of taking a holistic view, as sustainability has several different dimensions. “It’s not just about the CO2 footprint of individual products. The efficient use of materials and the extension of building lifecycles also contribute to sustainability,” explains Patricia Heidtman.
Tapping Into New Expertise
In addition to its own research and development activities, Sika enters strategic partnerships to promote innovation. This involves making a conscious effort to engage with concepts outside of its normal purview. “In areas where we are already a technology leader, we don’t necessarily need external expertise,” points out Philippe Jost, Head Construction and Member of Group Management. “But in areas where we have less expertise – for example in digitalization or biobased materials – we are open to all sorts of possible approaches and forms of cooperation.”
Motivating Customers With Performance and Sustainability
To Philippe Jost, it is clear that new competencies are more necessary than ever to reach net zero targets while meeting the needs of all stakeholders. “Sustainability places higher requirements on products, and the circular economy calls for all stakeholders to work together.” This development opens numerous opportunities for Sika, as the company has always put the focus on quality and innovation. In product development, Sika strives to offer both performance and sustainability benefits. “We must never lose sight of the needs of our customers. For many customers, sustainability is now just one attribute alongside many others – such as compressive strength or durability,” explains Philippe Jost. “If our products are sustainable while exhibiting strong technical characteristics, then we can also motivate customers who are not yet that sensitive to the issue of sustainability.” It’s not just Sika that profits from the success of these products, but also the environment and the climate.
"Sustainability places higher requirements on products, and the circular economy calls for all stakeholders to work together." Philippe Jost, Head Construction and Member of Group Management
Cooperation in Clinker Reduction and the Circular Economy
Sika’s activities to promote a resource-saving, sustainable construction economy are multifaceted. One success story is the company’s collaboration with the world’s largest iron ore mining company, the Swedish firm LKAB. The two companies jointly developed a “Zero Cement” shaft renovation concrete – an innovation of great significance. This “Zero Cement” concrete will be used in 2023 for the renovation of 38 pit shafts at LKAB’s Kiruna mine in the north of Sweden, the largest iron ore mine in the world. Around 100,000 cubic meter of the new "Zero Cement" concrete will be used annually. The CO2 emissions released in the production of this shaft renovation concrete in 2023 will be reduced by 93% compared to 2022.
“In the development of the ‘Zero Cement’ System, LKAB and Sika moved away from the traditional customer-supplier relationship and jointly developed an innovative system that benefits both parties equally,” explains Benjamin Krutrök, Team Manager at LKAB Berg & Betong AB, Sweden. Martin Hansson, Key Project Manager at Sika Global Mining, stresses that both companies are keen to continue their successful collaboration: “In the next step we will be developing a ‘Zero Cement’ shotcrete.” Going forward, the Kiruna mine is expecting to use about 100,000 cubic meter of this product each year as well.
In its collaboration with international cement manufacturer Cementir Group, Sika reviewed the use of Limestone Calcined Clay Cement (LC3) in various concrete applications. For the use of LC3, Cementir developed a proprietary technology known as FUTURECEM®, for which Sika is supplying various cement additives and concrete admixtures. For the construction industry, LC3 technology is an important initiative on the road to achieve the net zero target, as it facilitates a reduction in the amount of clinker required by about 50%. There are some potential challenges in its application linked to water requirement, workability, and early strength. Sika and Cementir have already tested several concrete applications in field tests. The results were convincing, as all challenges were mastered.