TechConnect News speaks with Charles Paul, VP Technology - Adhesive Technologies at Henkel.
Please tell us about yourself and your role within Henkel
My career, including my PhD studies at Berkeley, has focused on polymers – from plasma polymerization to starch cooks, from polyimides for aerospace to acrylic hair sprays. Most of my 30+ years have been spent in R&D and I have over 50 US patents, many papers, and five book chapters on adhesives. In 2015 my role switched from developing technology to finding and assessing technology outside of Henkel. I support our M&A process, but spend the majority of my time in our Corporate Venture effort with responsibility for North America.
Tell me more about Henkel and the role of Venture Investments
Henkel is a global company with leading positions in both industrial and consumer businesses. With our three business units – Adhesive Technologies, Beauty Care and Laundry & Home Care – we generated sales of about 20 billion euros in 2018.
In November 2016, at the presentation of its strategic priorities “Henkel 2020+”, Henkel announced to step up its corporate venture capital activities. The company committed to invest a total amount of up to 150 million euros in start-ups with specific digital or technological expertise. For our industrial business, Adhesive Technologies, the focus is on new technologies and applications expanding our material science platform in adjacent markets for adhesives, sealants and functional coatings. In Henkel’s consumer businesses, Beauty Care and Laundry & Home Care, the focus is primarily on digital – from “internet of things” to social media, e-commerce as well as personalized products and services.
At TechConnect, we concentrate on the Adhesive Technologies business unit, where we are looking for collaboration / investment opportunities with start-ups in the fields of functional coatings, thermal interface materials for batteries and other electronic components/devices, or with novel solutions to the barriers in 3D printing, printed electronics, and consumer packaging, especially those that involve material-critical elements.
How did you choose these search fields?
The fields we search are derived from market scouting activities and in collaboration with the business units. They represent substantial new or adjacent markets where our technical attributes and business model are suited to participate, but which we have no obvious way to enter.
Investing into technologies for new markets helps us learn about the pain points and limitations that need to be addressed. Sitting on the board of suitable start-ups gives us detailed and current knowledge of market dynamics we could not gain as an external observer. As such we are positioned to participate as a leader rather than follower in growth markets.
Start-ups of course are risky, and most fail. However, critical knowledge is gained, even from failure.
What makes Henkel a good strategic partner for a start-up?
Henkel is by far the largest adhesive company in the world, touching virtually every manufacturing industry and country. As such, Henkel can provide unparalleled market access as well as a broad range of complementary technologies and testing capabilities to any new venture.
What level of commercial maturity do you typically look for in technology partnerships?
Collaboration can take place at a very early stage and can even start with samples from a university lab – pre-incorporation. Investments have ranged from seed to series B, but could be even later. For investment we need to verify internally the potential of the new technology.
Tell us why you participate at TechConnect World
Our Corporate Sponsorship of TechConnect World provides a very effective means of connecting with a wide scope of innovations at various stages of development ranging from academic IP to late stage start-ups. Through interviews and the Expo we get our key people face to face with the right players. In addition, the session speakers provide context and perspective on important issues facing the latest technical trends.
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