Shanghai — For Wim Roels, the CEO of Borouge Pte. Ltd., Asia is becoming an equal driver for innovation at the plastics materials maker.
Speaking at the Oct. 25 Shanghai global launch of the company's new Anteo flexible packaging film, he said product development in Asia is an example of how the region, with more willingness to experiment, is driving Borouge globally.
Anteo was developed by the company's scientists in Europe, but customer testing throughout Asia in Singapore, Malaysia and at the Shanghai plant were crucial to the development of the product, he said.
"The speed of development is significantly higher here than in the rest of the world," he said in an interview with Plastics News, at Borouge's Shanghai automotive plastics compounding plant.
"We had application tests with film customers throughout Asia. We had packaging tests in Singapore and Malaysia and some tests here, since we are using it in one of our applications here," he said. "So, it was very much the whole product design application testing was done in Asia."
Even the global nature of the launch, he said, was an indication of Asia's growing importance for Borouge.
"Traditionally they would launch in Europe or in the U.S., and it would come later to Asia. But today we launch the same time everywhere: in Asia, Middle East and in Europe," he said. "The role of Asia is changing and today it is a fully linked partner in developing new products.
"In general, the eagerness, the openness, the willingness for customers to try new things is higher in Asia and the speed of doing it is higher in Asia," he said.
Borouge is a joint venture between Abu Dhabi National Oil Company and Austria-based chemical and plastics firm Borealis. Roels heads the joint venture's Singapore-based marketing arm.
China's government has been making concerted efforts to upgrade its manufacturing economy, most notable with its Made in China 2025 initiative.
But those plans from Beijing have also drawn criticism from the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China, which argued in a September report that China has been "slow and uneven" in opening its markets and that EU businesses have been "subject to several instances of unequal treatment under the China Manufacturing 2025 (CM2025) initiative."
Roels, for his part, thinks the CM2025 policy is good for Borouge's business.
"We believe that this whole program is going to help us to grow in China," he said. "I mean every country has its own programs and their priority is to develop their own industry.
"As a company, it's important for us to be part of these programs by fitting in, into the requirements the development of the countries we operate in," he said. "Overall it is very much aligned with our company's direction. It's helping us more than anything else. We don't have real concerns."
He noted that Borouge opened a warehouse a few months ago in the western Chinese city of Luzhou, as the government is trying to shift development to the west of the country.
Roels also hinted at a capacity expansion in Shanghai, noting that the facility is nearing capacity and the company is "studying opportunities for growth here."
One of those areas is electric vehicles and self-driving cars, he said.
"In the next 10 years, we'll see massive change in this business. Growth without being part of the [electric vehicle] business would not be realistic long term," he said, adding, "every change creates opportunity. It's a question of [do] you want to be part of it or [do] you want to be hit by it? We want to be part of it."