Interviews

Regional relationships

Dow’s experts talk about engaging KAUST’s next generation

Dr Wiltrud Treffenfeldt has said that Dow is taking an interest in KAUST’s students across all levels.

How is Dow building relationships with the management of KAUST?

WT: When I visited KAUST for the first time I was blown away by the level of their equipment and academic partners. It’s very important for people to see these facilities first hand, to talk to the people there and see the excellent equipment, students and scientists they have.

So this is what we are doing currently to expand our portfolio and we are beginning to ramp up our collaborations with academia partners at KAUST more and more as we build relationships with the university management.

What I find is that the leaders of KAUST are very much supporting us because we are one of their first partners.

We have already established a couple of research collaborations with academic partners there and we are now bringing in our global R&D leaders one after another in order to screen for more potential collaboration projects with the academic partners.

How are you engaging the university’s students in Dow’s work?

WT: We are engaging students at all levels, which I think is important because we want to contribute to their education. We start by offering them internships at our own labs and in our collaborator labs and also at Dow sites in Europe.

For example we had several interns at Tarragona, Spain, at Dow Water Solution Research Facility – it’s a favourite place with many people. It gives them the opportunity to see what we are doing, how we are doing it. And it also gives us the opportunity to see how they are working and if we want to fund and develop them further.

We are also supporting continuing Masters students, either within KAUST or in our own premises, up to PhD students who are working on our projects and we are also having projects where post-docs are working on Dow research activities.

It’s the entire spectrum and in addition, extending that, we have also made a special effort to bring scientists to present seminars at KAUST. The first of these seminars on September 10 covered self assembling polymers and it was highly appreciated and valued as well, so we’re going from providing internships to presenting lectures.

How will the research conducted at KAUST enter the market?

WT: We want to see the research we are doing at KAUST being converted into business success. That’s one reason why we define and start the collaborations and our own activities in the KAUST premises towards our most interesting areas for our commercial and marketing applications, water and processed solutions, microbial control, oil and gas, but also more fundamental activities.

IK: We are working on the most pressing challenges the region faces. Water scarcity is on the national agenda, so whatever we develop of course will be welcomed by the value chain players but also by the government because a lot of public spending is going into desalination, for example.

WT: We don’t just produce chemicals and products, but solutions for certain unmet needs, not only in the water area, but the other industries that need water, such as food and packaging.

Dow products go into a lot of different applications where you would normally not expect them and it’s not always the pure chemicals, it can also be green chemicals or bio-based products.

IK: In this region Dow is working on all the mega-trends and that covers infrastructure because construction is booming and in this region you have to realise it is a pretty unregulated market compared to Europe and the US and there are no codes around paints, coatings and construction chemicals.

So we believe that this region will move sooner or later to environmentally friendly solutions and that’s why we have an asset here making water borne technologies and we announced that we will build a manufacturing asset for such paints and coatings. That’s number one.

In energy, this region has been blessed with oil and gas, less with water, but with water and energy there is a nexus and there has so far been a lot of waste of the natural resources in the region to desalinate water.

So this region will have to move away from that and find ways to generate renewable energy at least to produce water.

The next one is consumerism. The middle class is growing, has a greater income and is more aware of environmentally friendly solutions. They are buying, purchasing and procuring more and more luxury goods in a trend seen in Europe or the US decades ago. These technologies will help the middle class to grow. The next is health and pharmaceutical and this is a sector is also huge in the Middle East.

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