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Sustainable innovation & technology

TAG overview

We are committed to creating solutions that positively impact people and the environment. To this end, we are determined to make discoveries that change the landscape of entire industries and drive technological as well as scientific innovation to solve the most critical issues of today and tomorrow. Customers, investors and regulators across our markets are increasingly seeking sustainable product solutions.

Our approach to creating sustainable innovation and technology

The sustainable innovation that we envision and drive forward must align with and support the three goals of our sustainability strategy. We define sustainable innovation as new or improved products, services, technologies, or processes that generate economic benefits and have positive environmental and social impacts. Therefore, we develop long-term solutions for our innovation and research activities that consider the entire value chain and evaluate each product’s impact over its lifecycle.

Today, our products are already having positive impact on human progress and global health, namely our medicines and our biological and chemical innovations that utilize the latest technologies. We want to continuously improve the way we measure our progress by adapting to upcoming regulations and integrating quantitative sustainability criteria into our product development processes across all business sectors.

In 2023, we continued our partnership with the patent information platform LexisNexis® PatentSight® and evaluated the sustainability impact of our intellectual property. In the reporting year, 29% (2022: 40%) of our patent families published had a positive sustainability impact. However, this key indicator is not comparable with the previous year’s figure as the underlying UN SDG terminology has changed and the LexisNexis® PatentSight® concept has been adapted accordingly.

To develop pioneering solutions that have a positive impact on society and support organic growth, we are exploring transformative technologies beyond our core products and markets. At the same time, we maintain strategic proximity to our business sectors to leverage our existing assets and capabilities. Business model innovation, including digital business models, is one approach we use to generate value for our business and stakeholders.

We fuel transformative technologies through internal incubation, partnerships and strategic investments as well as through collaboration with academia. In addition, we continually seek to foster and encourage open innovation for healthcare products.

Roles and responsibilities

The organizational set-up of our R&D activities reflects the overall structure of our company. All three of our business sectors operate in independent R&D units that pursue their own innovation strategies. Group Corporate Sustainability supports our business sectors and Group functions to advance sustainability within the R&D and innovation processes. This includes the coordination and alignment of common core sustainability criteria in line with our shared goals as well as quality and quantification requirements. In 2022, we created a Group-wide dashboard, showing the potential contribution of our R&D portfolio to sustainable solutions. In 2023, we integrated a procedure describing the global sustainability evaluation in our R&D process.

Our Group Science & Technology Office leads the implementation of our combined strategy for innovation as well as data and digital, enabling innovation across our business sectors while harnessing the power of advanced data and digital capacities. It aims to identify and integrate transformative and strategically relevant technology trends into our business sectors while maintaining a Group-wide overview of our tech roadmap and innovation portfolio. Fostering data and digital capacities is key to accelerating sustainable innovation and enabling rapid action and personalized offerings. Innovation projects are incubated either through our corporate innovation teams or in the business sectors.

Our venture capital fund, M Ventures, prioritizes sustainable innovations through equity investments. The fund’s mandate is to invest in innovative technologies and products that have the potential to significantly impact our core business areas. In addition, the fund focuses on investments in two areas of high strategic relevance to our company: digital technology and sustainability.

M Ventures’ sustainability investment strategy follows two fundamental approaches. First, it invests in sustainable solutions relevant to our three business sectors, such as novel solutions for reducing emissions and waste, green life science technologies and green electronics technologies. These solutions may be more energy- or resource-efficient or may create products designed for circularity or with a lower carbon footprint. As many of these technologies are still in their early stages, M Ventures is partnering with SEMI.org along with the leading corporate venture capital funds to help accelerate the innovation and adoption of potential sustainable semiconductor solutions. The second approach involves making investments that leverage our core competencies to drive sustainability in other markets. These may include start-ups addressing sustainable foods, bio-manufacturing or carbon capture and utilization.

Our commitment: Aiming for circularity

Within our R&D processes, we are committed to continuously improving and integrating sustainability and circular economy criteria to assess the sustainability performance of our products and portfolio, enabling us to create more sustainable products for our customers and society. We have integrated and tailored Design for Sustainability (DfS) across all business sectors and use our overarching dashboard to monitor progress on key sustainability criteria. In 2023, we assessed allmost all relevant R&D projects and thus enhanced transparency around the sustainability performance of our global R&D portfolio. We integrated a sustainability in R&D key indicator to track progress and continued advancing the use of evaluation tools such as DOZN™ and GreenSpeed. We aim to combine the insights from the R&D dashboard with those gained from our commercial portfolio evaluation to steer our future R&D activities.

We have dedicated corporate resources for our circular economy strategy and we are driving several circular economy pilots and initiatives throughout the organization. In addition, we held a global circular economy summit to provide a platform for best practice sharing with internal and external participants.

More information on sustainable product design can be found in the Sustainable products & packaging chapter.

Accelerating the future of food: Cultured meat

Our Cultured Meat Innovation Field focuses on the biotechnology required to grow real meat in a bioreactor. These research and commercial efforts aim to enable animal protein production that is healthier, more ethical and environmentally sustainable. As a technology enabler, we are leveraging our vast life science expertise to realize our vision of providing fit-for-purpose bioprocessing products and services for cultured meat production. To achieve production at scale, the cell culture media must be cost-efficient, produced from a robust food-grade raw material supply chain, suitable for effective growth and differentiation into specific cell types, and free of any animal-derived material such as fetal bovine serum. Our flagship project, MeatDia, aims to build a food-grade raw material supply chain via performance testing in research labs and qualification in our production facilities to manufacture optimized media formulations. We supply dry powdered cell culture media to customers who are bringing the first cultured meat products to market.

Another technological challenge is the need for suitable bioreactor designs to efficiently produce structured cuts of meat rather than lesser-value ground meat. CraftRidge is our flagship bioreactor project focused on delivering an edible hollow fiber bioreactor system that can produce entire cuts of meat cost effectively. At the same time, we are collaborating with three leading academic labs. Together with a team at Tufts University in Massachusetts, USA, we aim to enable the production of whole-muscle cultured meat through textile bioengineering. At the same time, we will apply industrial rapid printing technology to create complex meat structures in collaboration with a team at the Technical University of Darmstadt (TU Darmstadt) in Germany. In a third project with the University of Illinois, we are developing an electrochemical technology to recycle the cell culture media, enabling more sustainable cultured meat production.

Our M Ventures portfolio includes Mosa Meat, a pioneer in cultured meat, and Formo, a company focused on making cultured cheeses using recombinant protein synthesis.

Empowering sustainability through collaboration

We contribute and engage in numerous consortia to leverage the development of standards and measures for sustainability across companies and industries, including the American Chemical Society Green Chemistry Institute Pharmaceutical Roundtable.

Many key players have set the goal to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2040. To achieve this goal, it is essential to track and control upstream and downstream indirect emissions, which make up a significant part of each company’s carbon footprint. A lack of data transparency across the supply chain poses a challenge yet presents an opportunity for innovation and industry collaboration, as is the case in the semiconductor industry.

We are collaborating with Palantir to address the lack of emissions data transparency in the semiconductor value chain. The 50/50 partnership Athinia™ is an independent platform that provides a secure and semiconductor-specific data analytics tool for the industry. With the cloud solution for the ecosystem, data from various isolated sources can be integrated, enabling seamless collaboration in the industry. As a founding member of the Semiconductor Climate Consortium (SCC), Athinia™ is pioneering sustainability standards on a digital platform, enabling companies to benchmark their emissions performance against industry peers, identify areas for improvement and collaborate on initiatives for reducing emissions.

Fruitful strategic partnership

Our long-term commitment to academic research partnerships reflects our strong ambition to find sustainable solutions to pressing problems. In the framework of the Sustainability Hub we continued our strategic collaboration with the TU Darmstadt in multidisciplinary fundamental research projects. The projects cover basic challenges of life cycle modelling, 3D liver tissue model, biodegradation of plastics, and the simulation of neuromorphic computing architectures. The research continues to increase our understanding of product sustainability assessment, toxicological testing of drugs, circular material flows, and energy efficient computing, respectively. In 2023 we evaluated additional proposals to further expand our research project portfolio.

Promoting visionary research

The 2023 Future Insight Prize recognized achievements that are helping to build a global pandemic early warning system. The € 500,000 prize was awarded to Professor Khalid Salaita, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Chemistry and Director for Graduate Studies in the Chemistry Department at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. His research focuses on solutions that enable the development of a novel platform technology for automated, real-time surveillance and tracing of airborne pathogens.

In 2023, we again offered a sustainability research grant in the field of green hydrogen to the scientific community. We received over 250 research proposals from around the world and will select one project to receive funding in 2024. Our Collaboration with Esy-Labs GmbH, the winner of one of our research grants in 2021, is being continued and is now part of the Electrifying Technical Organic Syntheses (ETOS) Cluster, a cluster initiative founded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

Neuromorphic computing
Neuromorphic computing aims at processing information similar to the human brain. Like in the human brain neuromorphic computing systems use an architecture where the memory and the processing units are co-located within the same hardware element and interlinked in a network. These elements are called memristors and can both store and process information.


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