'It's not just about throwing money at science'

'It's not just about throwing money at science'
Bayer has been responsible for an average of two innovations a day since 1863.

holger detje bayer nz cropscience​Bayer has been responsible for an average of two innovations a day since 1863.

So much has changed since Friedrich Bayer and Johann Friedrich Weskott founded Bayer in 1863, but the company’s philosophy of continuously developing new and innovative products remains an integral part of its formula for success.

Now in its 150th year of existence, Bayer has grown from a small dye manufacturer and distributor to a multi-billion dollar global corporation focusing primarily on health care, agriculture and high-tech materials. Since its humble beginnings, Bayer has been responsible for more than 100,000 inventions, which equates to roughly two a day since 1863. Among its most notable achievements is the development of aspirin which was first launched in 1899, and the production of polyurethane and synthetic insecticides in the early 20th century.

Dr Holger Detje, managing director of Bayer New Zealand and head of its CropScience division, says innovation is at the forefront
of everything the company does.

“It’s all about science, research, inventing things, and bringing new products to the market for the benefit of people, plants
and animals.”

Dr Detje, who has been part of the Bayer family for over 20 years and has worked for the company in countries across Europe, Asia and the Pacific, says there is a culture among staff throughout Bayer’s global operations that encourages and facilitates innovation.

“It’s not just about throwing money at science, the culture is a very important part of innovation. You must be open to suggestions that come from anyone in the team, or even outside the team such as customers and business partners.”

Dr Detje says this culture is created from having both the processes where ideas can be taken up and evolved, and employing team members who do not take no for an answer when pursuing something they are passionate about.

This culture, and being able to adapt quickly to things, has been the catalyst for Bayer’s evolution into a global powerhouse.

Bayer’s faith in innovation is exemplified through its 3 billion euros a year investment (roughly 10 percent of its annual profits) in research and development.

Dr Detje says this is essential for the company to continue its growth and make a positive impact on a changing world.

Bayer’s biggest focus in New Zealand, a country with a strong agricultural industry, is crop science and animal health.

The company works closely with growers and the wider agricultural industry to find ways to produce higher yielding crops and protect livestock and domestic animals.

Population growth, rapid urbanisation and the subsequent shrinking of farmland has forced Bayer to increase its focus on finding sustainable ways to feed current and future generations both here and abroad.

“We need new crop protection products that help farmers grow healthy crops and new crop varieties with higher yield potential,” says Dr Detje. “The challenge is achieving this in a sustainable way.”

Outside of the laboratory, Bayer is strongly involved in fostering innovation communities within New Zealand.

It founded the national innovation awards scheme in 2007, and is now the primary sponsor of its successor, the New Zealand Innovators Awards.

Competitions, workshops, and building relationships with universities and other organisations is not only part of growing innovation in New Zealand, but also a way for Bayer to give back to the local community.

As part of its 150th celebrations, Bayer entered into a $25,000 sponsorship agreement with the Motutapu Restoration Trust, which involved planting native trees, product donations and the release of rare kiwi on Motutapu Island in April.

This, according to corporate communications manager William Malpass, was a fitting way for Bayer to celebrate its milestone with New Zealand and continue its commitment to finding sustainable solutions to our environmental issues.