The Research Manager - Wacker Chemie AG


The Research Manager

Dr. Arndt Schlosser has a cold. After croaking out a greeting, he sits back down in his office swivel chair. The eyes behind the oval lenses of his glasses sparkle with curiosity, however – they are kind yet exacting. And the more Schlosser talks about his work and his team at WACKER, the more his voice returns to normal.

The colleagues (from left to right): Dr. Birgit Schwab, Dr. Armin Fehn, Dr. Christoph Müller-Rees and Wolfgang Ackermann (Dipl.-Ing.).

A Ph.D. chemist, Schlosser is responsible for research and development processes within the Group. His job is not to conduct his own research, but instead to ensure that clear processes exist for taking an innovation from the concept stage to a finished product. Ultimately, not all ideas can be turned into products – some are too expensive, others are not marketable, and still others do not fit the corporate strategy. In order to define clear benchmarks, Schlosser and his colleagues have devised an ingenious portfolio management system in which every research project has to measure up against others.

That can sometimes be unpleasant for project managers, as some projects ultimately either never get off the ground at all or are terminated after only a brief planning phase. “When people grouse about their pet projects being canceled, I have to live with it,” Schlosser says. “But we don’t just shoot projects down – we ask questions.” And project managers themselves will sometimes say: “Let’s rather leave it.”

“We’re not trying to create extra bureaucracy – we want to support project managers,” Schlosser says, describing his job. In addition to establishing research partnerships with high-caliber scientists throughout the world, his team members also work to provide grant management support. State, federal and EU incentives help researchers pursue certain projects, such as those within Germany’s Carbon Leading-Edge Cluster or in the field of biotechnology, which would be too expensive for WACKER to undertake on its own.

Schlosser and his team place particular importance on discussion and joint decision-making. This openness also stood him in good stead during the three years he spent with his family in the United States while on assignment with WACKER. He still enjoys looking at the photo of his American colleagues in Adrian, which hangs on the bulletin board next to his desk.

Sometimes 44-year-old Schlosser wishes his colleagues were more open and curious too. Yet he appreciates the close contact that employees have with each other – contact that cuts across all levels in the hierarchy. He left Hesse for Burghausen immediately after completing his studies in 1998, and he feels his ideal employer has remained true to the spirit of a family-owned business, despite being a publicly traded company.

As an avid track-and-field enthusiast, Schlosser is pleased with the wide variety of athletic opportunities that the area affords. In the past he even participated in medium-distance running events himself. “Ambition and training can get you pretty far,” he says, laughing. Today, this amateur runner still coaches youth programs twice each week for the Marktl Athletic Association.