Covestro AG, the German manufacturer of high-tech polymers, will expand production capacity and establish new research facilities to further compete with other established rivals.
It will bank on China's fast-growing industries, including electronics, construction, automotive and transportation, for future growth.
As China has entered a new phase of economic development, with focus on quality rather than quantity, Covestro's products and solutions fit in, said Michael Friede, global head of the company's coatings, adhesives and specialties segment.
"Durable and environmentally friendly chemical products are a key enabler for the development of many downstream industries," he said.
He stressed that consumers in China, no matter where they are from and how old they are, are always seeking a better life and are forward-looking. This is the fundamental driving force for the country's strong domestic consumption for various industrial goods.
In addition to supplying various coating raw materials to domestic automobile makers such as Chongqing-based Chang'an Automobile Co Ltd, Covestro wishes to provide more water-based coating products to China's high-speed trains, as they can work under both low and high temperature conditions, and offer better scratch and big chip impact resistance.
The Leverkusen-headquartered group expanded its open innovation with various partners. In October, it started its new concept of "Open Innovation Hub" at its Asia-Pacific Innovation Center in Shanghai.
The move came as the multi-industry ecosystems in China had evolved via open innovation principles that push both the boundaries of the traditional industries and the upgrades in manufacturing and consumption.
As China is setting the pace for technologies and solutions in many areas that address future trends, Friede said new trends are emerging in electronics.
"5G is going to be a big player in both China and the world, it will create more growth points for global companies such as Covestro to engage with different innovation partners across the country," he noted.
Covestro showcased the world's first soft-touch cheongsam made using 3D printing. It marked the latest attempt to push the boundaries of 3D printing in commercialization and mass production. Covestro contributed its expertise in materials and technology.
The dress can be customized in multiple aspects like pattern and texture, as well as material properties, shape and the size.
Friede believes that 3D printing technology opens up freedom in creative design and allows complex structures with a seamless appearance.
For instance, manufacturers can create fully functioning shoes in the size that perfectly fits each individual consumer. It also presents the opportunity to individuals, designers and artists to customize their shoes within only the limits of their imagination, according to Friede.
Under such circumstances, Covestro's 3D printing laboratory in Shanghai aims to serve customers and partners in Asia-Pacific with a comprehensive range of filaments, powders and liquid resins for all common 3D printing methods. The company has accelerated commercialization and serial production development for the application of 3D printing technology.
With sales of 14.6 billion euros ($16.31 billion) in 2018, Covestro's business covers areas such as automotive, construction, wood processing and furniture, and electrical and electronics industries.
Other sectors include sports and leisure, cosmetics, health and the chemical industry itself. It has 30 manufacturing sites globally and employed 16,800 people by the end of 2018.
Supported by more than 3,000 employees in China, Covestro's sales totaled 3.1 billion euros in China last year, accounting for around 21 percent of Covestro's global total and making it the largest single market to the company.
Its cumulative investment in China exceeded 3.3 billion euros by the end of 2018. It currently runs seven production sites, one regional innovation hub and six offices throughout the nation.
Zhao Ying, a researcher at the Beijing-based Institute of Industrial Economics, which is part of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said China's automotive market is still the largest in the world, with an annual production of some 20 million cars, which is a key market for major chemical product manufacturers such as Covestro, BASF and AkzoNobel.
He said many home and global automakers are already in the process of pushing major technological breakthroughs. Newcomers to the business are also willing to adopt the latest technology and new solutions to survive and develop in the market.
"If you look at the automotive mega trends of connected, autonomous, shared and electric, all these trends are driven by leading technologies and strong innovation power," he said. "That is why, multinationals are expanding their local research and development setup to develop and launch solutions together with their local customers."