Innovations & products

Innovations and products

In 2016, we invested a total of EUR 121 m in research and development (2015: EUR 131 m). At 31 December 2016, we employed 345 staff in this field (2015: 348), 228 of whom were working in the Gases Division and 117 in the Engineering Division. To protect our innovations from the competition, we filed 360 new patents across the Group during the reporting year. On 31 December 2016, various Linde technologies were protected by 3,607 patents. Many of them feature sustainability aspects, with over 500 patents relating to the chemical and environmental sectors, clean energy and hydrogen technologies. More than half our research and development projects in 2016 also aimed to achieve benefits for environmental protection.

Innovations

50%

of research projects with benefits for environmental protection

>500

patents in the chemical and environmental sectors, clean energy and hydrogen technologies

>90

research partnerships
in more than 20 countries

EUR 121 m

invested in research and development

3,607

patents for Linde
technologies

By drawing on the findings of our research, we are continuously tapping into new ways of using our gases and improving our existing processes, plant technologies and applications. Development is almost always set in the context of commissions and involves close liaison with our customers, taking their requirements into account. We take part in specific collaborative projects so that we can cooperate with leading external institutions and companies, and we rely as a result on a network of more than 90 partners in over 20 countries.

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Research and development1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2016

 

2015

 

2014

 

2013

1

In line with the information in the Financial Report 2016, the figures provided for the years 2015 and 2016 exclude the business of the logistics service provider Gist, as it has been reported as a discontinued operation.

Expenditure for research and development

€ million

 

121

 

131

 

106

 

92

Employees in the research and development field

 

 

345

 

348

 

390

 

367

New patents filed

 

 

360

 

287

 

260

 

263

During the reporting year, we devised a new innovation strategy which concentrates on five key topics: advanced materials, efficiency, environment & resources, quality of life, and the overarching topic of digitalisation.

Advanced materials

In the field of advanced materials, we are concentrating on the impact which industrial gases have on the characteristics of materials and on production processes. We are assuming a leading role in researching the part played by industrial gases in additive manufacturing – also known as 3D printing. We have set up a Global Development Centre for this purpose at our Unterschleissheim site near Munich, Germany. This is where we developed ADDvance™ O2 precision, the first technology which enables exact analysis and control of oxygen and humidity levels within the printer chamber when metal powder is used in 3D printing.

In Taichung in Taiwan, we opened a research and development centre for electronics in autumn 2016. We invested around EUR 5m in the state-of-the-art laboratory for analysis and product development. We promote the ongoing technical progress of our customers in the electronics industry by supplying high-purity tailor-made products and helping them to develop high-tech materials.

Efficiency

In a market environment characterised by ever tougher competition, boosting efficiency – even of established processes – is key. Welding and cutting processes have traditionally been one of the main areas of application for Linde gases. This area also still offers many opportunities for efficiency improvements. In 2016, we unveiled AVANTO™, an innovative process management system which significantly improves the efficiency and quality of welding operations.

Environment & resources

In engineering processes, there is often an interrelationship between energy efficiency, cost-effectiveness and environmental compatibility. Most of our research and development activities are therefore aimed at continuing to optimise this interplay. We seek out partners to help us achieve our objectives. We are, for example, a member of a partnership comprising 17 companies and industrial and scientific institutions, which came together in 2016 under the umbrella of the Carbon2Chem climate protection research project. The project, which is set to run for ten years, is to investigate ways of using smelting gases from steelworks to extract chemical raw materials. The coke oven gas produced by steelworks contains more than 60 percent hydrogen by volume and has until now been a virtually untapped resource.

Coal-fired power plants are still being used across the globe to generate energy. They emit carbon dioxide (CO2) which is harmful to the climate. In 2016, we successfully completed a pilot project in collaboration with BASF which resulted in the development of an even more energy-efficient and cost-effective CO2 capture process. The process was tested at the National Carbon Capture Center in Wilsonville, Alabama. Together with BASF, we are now aiming to test the improved technology on a larger scale and to forge ahead with its commercialisation.

We are also committed to the integration of renewable energy. We are, for example, involved in two Kopernikus projects subsidised by the German federal government: "Power-to-X" on the use of renewable electricity to produce synthetic fuels and basic chemicals, and "SynErgie" to make industrial facilities requiring electricity (such as air separation plants) more flexible.

In addition, for several years now we have also been supporting the ongoing development of hydrogen mobility. Since February 2015, we have been part of the joint venture H2 Mobility which is based in Berlin. The aim of the partnership between various industrial groups is the gradual expansion of a nationwide fuelling station network in Germany. By 2023, around 400 fuelling stations should be in operation – at the end of 2016 there were 22. For demonstration purposes and to acquire practical experience, Linde set up car-sharing company BeeZero with a fleet of 50 hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles in Munich during the reporting year.

Quality of life

In 2016, we developed the data platform Hospital IQ which builds on the benefits offered by the new generation of medical oxygen cylinders (LIV® IQ). The LIV® IQ cylinders can be centrally monitored by a hospital employee using a PC or another device with access to the Internet. This significantly reduces the need for time-consuming checks on each individual cylinder, giving staff more time to spend with their patients. Instead of a simple pressure indicator, a digital display indicates the time remaining for the oxygen supply. LIV® IQ calculates this automatically, based on the amount of oxygen left in the cylinder and the flow rate that has been set.

Digitalisation

Digitalisation will result in long-term changes to business and methods of working in the gases industry and in plant construction. The networking of new and existing data sources opens up a number of additional opportunities for us and our customers. Against this backdrop, we have set up a centre of competence for digitalisation in Pullach in Germany, where digitalisation experts working on an interdisciplinary basis are using data derived from interactions with customers, engineering, operations and logistics to develop prototypes and services. In this context, we are looking for example at process automation using artificial intelligence.

Products with benefits for people and the environment

We are constantly looking at ways in which our products can support customers so that they can develop more sustainable processes: for example, through greater energy efficiency or reduced emissions. One of the ways in which we do this is by continuing to expand our product range in the area of energy and environmental technologies. This range comprises processes and technologies required along the entire length of the value chain of renewable and fossil fuels: from production via conversion, transport and storage to their most efficient use.

Products

Manufacturing industry

 

850 million

cubic metres of water per annum is brought up to drinking water quality by customers in just six countries using our Solvocarb® process

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Healthcare

About

1.8 million

patients with respiratory diseases worldwide are treated at home with our oxygen therapy and additional Homecare therapies

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Healthcare is an important growth market. In 2016, our Healthcare business generated revenue of EUR 3.740 bn. Our therapies for the treatment of respiratory disease and the services which we are able to provide in the care continuum from hospital to home contribute towards improving the lives of around 1.8 million patients and relieving the burden on healthcare systems. In the United States, for example, a stay in the emergency room to treat acute exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) costs around USD 2,000. If the patient then has to be admitted to hospital, the average cost of treatment may be as much as USD 4,000 per day. According to a calculation by Medicare, the US federal health insurance programme, the average cost for providing stationary oxygen in the home, depending on a patient’s location, is a relatively modest USD 2.35 per day.