Chemicals Giant BASF Targets Footwear in Expansion Initiative

BASF will expand its footprint in the footwear space with two new product development centers in the U.S. and Thailand.

The chemicals company said on Monday it will also launch a footwear innovation center in Taiwan in 2020 and expand its development center in Italy.

These centers will be used to formulate and test new material innovations under the BASF Performance Materials division. The North American headquarters in Wyandotte, Michigan, already serves as a global R&D center for the company; the new 2,000-square-foot lab will add footwear capabilities for outsole, midsole and unit sole development. Through the four locations, the company said it hopes to achieve a comprehensive global reach.

“The footwear development center in Italy is considered a pioneer in the industry, as it was the first that brought material expertise and innovation under one roof in this fashion and footwear hub,” claimed Thomas Bartz, business manager of the European consumer group at BASF. “We can now connect designers and brand owners to material innovation and production, be it Europe, the U.S. or Asia.”

Each of the centers will be equipped with direct injection-molding technology to help designers bring projects to life in shorter timeframes. The Taiwan innovation center will also provide the Asia Pacific market with insights into BASF performance materials and their applications for footwear.

Despite BASF’s public advocacy for free trade and the removal of tariffs, the company asserted that the choices of Thailand and Taiwan were not in response to the ongoing tariff discussions. Instead, the company was drawn to Taiwan because of BASF’s previous work in the country and its existing production site in Chunghwa, Taiwan.

“We have many highly innovative partners in the country and there is a great ecosystem of designers and innovators,” said Andy Postlethwaite, SVP for performance materials in Asia Pacific at BASF. “The production site in Chunghwa will play a key role in helping us meet the rising demands from the industry.”

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