BASF Chemovater — Intrapreneurship -Corporate Innovation Assets Case

4 min readJun 28, 2022

BASF Chemovater's intrapreneurship flow is unique among other global companies' intrapreneurship programs. Program design and features can be a best practice model for corporations running entrepreneurship programs in different verticals.

The chemical industry players like BASF, Dow Dupont, and Sabic are protected with high expertise and capital barriers. As a result of these dynamics, chemical companies work with an introverted innovation and R&D strategy. Many innovative chemical compounds that we all use daily are successful outcomes of this introverted cycle.

For the past decade, the change is remarkable. Even though the introverted innovation has been successful for more than a century, the chemical industry is converting to prioritizing work with external innovation resources.

In the diagram above, we have listed BASF’s innovation assets, activities, and relationships that we could follow.

Every innovation asset of the company is interconnected. Corporate open innovation platform designed for Collaborative R&D, Intrapreneurship, patents, new inventions, and corporate venture capital. The design aims to use the efficiency of working with external talent/tech firms. Almost every step of the corporate innovation strategy is designed to identify and recognize its stakeholders and create solutions together.

Why would a company that has achieved so much success with closed innovation turn to external innovation partners?

For starters, discovering new compounds / new materials is getting harder and harder every day. As the planet’s resources are limited, new chemical compounds discovered are dwindling. Rather than discovering even fewer new compounds with billions of dollars in R&D spending, chemistry giants are turning to a “stakeholder strategy” where discovered compounds find smarter applications. (Stakeholder business Design)

This change also prepares the right ground for implementing the customer-oriented innovation and R&D strategy. Financial feasibility, regulatory changes, easier technology access, employee satisfaction, and exploring new business models are other main reasons for the change.

In this article, we’ll take a look at one of the BASF innovation assets, the corporate entrepreneurship accelerator, Chemovater.

  • Chemovater

Major difference of Chemovater from other corporate entrepreneurship accelerators is, the key role of startup founders and sometimes their teams as additional resources.

Entrepreneurship experience is not something that can only be compensated with conceptual entrepreneurship training. Business model canvas tutorials are a very good example. Getting to the level where you can actually use the canvas, takes around 1000 hours of experience. To acquire such entrepreneurial experience within a corporation would be costly time and moneywise.

By acknowledging the realities, BASF offers a less risky and more agile setup than other intrapreneurship designs. Chemovater, where only company employees can apply, engages experienced entrepreneurs with corporate projects by making them stakeholders.

Why do companies integrate their internal innovation efforts with startup engagements?

Venture building, achieved by the combination of the startup experience and the sectoral expertise of the corporate workforce, leads to two different goals. Work with other companies (spin-off) or address company-specific problems (spin-in).

We’ll dig deeper into the benefits of working with stakeholder companies, the Chemical leasing business model, spin-off, and embedded product/service strategy in our next posts. Spin-in, that is, building solutions that will address our own corporate needs provides a great competitive advantage to the institution in a sector such as the chemical sector that requires a lot of expertise. Examples are more self-explanatory.

A machine learning initiative that enables to turn the corporate R&D history into a digital data repository, the voice of customer solution, 3D printing of the spare parts, and instant detection of broken-deteriorated crates. Several successful projects from the Chemovater.

Chemovater’s unique value proposition is not limited to working with startups. Company employees always have the opportunity to apply to Chemovater. No need to wait for intrapreneurship training or cycles. Have a valuable project or idea? Time to apply to Chemovater.

If you’ve been accepted into Chemovater, your old corporate job will have to wait for you. It is unreasonable to expect intrapreneurs to both run their own business responsibilities and focus on building a venture.

Chemovater uses the time constraints of an accelerator program very wisely: “You have X weeks, during which time you need to bring your startup to an investible stage.” There could not be a better delegation of responsibility that increases employee satisfaction.

These are very valuable, but not entirely sufficient. BASF’s collaborative R&D asset, corporate open innovation platform, strategic corporate partnerships, and corporate venture capital create the scaling and support for Chemovater startups.

We have been designing and managing similar corporate-startup engagements at Workinlot for a long time. We know that corporate intrapreneurship efforts can create an impact when it includes entrepreneurs as well as intrapreneurs. (Intrapreneur in Residence as a Service — Business Culture Transformation)

We will continue to analyze other corporate innovation assets, in the following weeks.

Atilla Erel & Baran Korkut — June 2022




Workinlot corporate open innovation accelerator / Corporate ecosystem design