The Long-Distance Runner - Wacker Chemie AG


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The Long-Distance Runner

Dr. Jürgen Küpfer is not a researcher or a sales representative, nor is his team part of any business division. And while concrete market demands do exist for the new projects he starts up, there are no customers and no products. Sounds pretty hard.

Dr. Jürgen Küpfer’s team develops specialty products for the business of tomorrow. Also pictured: Christina Spatzl and Helmut Oswaldbauer, laboratory assistants.

The 47-year-old’s team at WACKER is responsible for developing new business around specialty products. Right now, for instance, his product developers are working on additives used for adhesives in the rotors of large wind turbines. Bonding the two halves of rotor blades together requires hundreds of kilograms of adhesive, and as the size of wind turbines continues to grow, the adhesives used have to withstand more and more. Because the adhesive itself is brittle, the additives produced in Küpfer’s lab are intended to improve its ability to weather shocks and impacts.

Küpfer’s job is to work with potential new customers to develop new, marketable products, and that involves more than just chemical formulas – business acumen also plays a major role. After all, customers always expect a new solution to deliver an economic benefit as well. “Having an outstanding product doesn’t really help much if the customer can’t pay for it – or doesn’t want to,” Küpfer explains.

as a marathon runner, Dr. Jürgen Kupfer displays stamina and staying power both at work and in his leisure time!

For Küpfer, who worked on liquid crystal pigments in Central Research in the nineties, switching back and forth between the lab and his laptop makes for a perfect job: “I’d always wanted to think outside the box a little,” he says. The job requires considerable endurance, but for a marathon runner like Küpfer, that’s no problem. A tall, trim man who is not one to become bogged down in the details, Küpfer is methodical and focused as he describes how his team implements WACKER innovation strategy.

Still, he says, innovation is a difficult taskmaster on a day-to-day basis. WACKER products are often very good, he notes, but that takes a backseat when customers are under pressure or when the market is undergoing rapid change. “That’s why our team here is lean and our decision-making processes are fast,” Küpfer explains. Ideally, his team works like an internal startup. “After all, we can’t just keep researching for three or four weeks if the situation changes,” he observes. “You have to be robust and can’t let yourself get frustrated.”

In the coming years, Jürgen Küpfer and his team will be providing continued support for lightweight construction and the composites industry. “There are going to be a lot of applications that we aren’t able to foresee yet,” he says. He also sees considerable opportunities for thermoplastic silicones. His dream is to facilitate a breakthrough for a truly major innovation – one that will prove lucrative for WACKER over the long term. And he has the endurance it takes to make that happen: