Wolfgang Industrial Park

Wolfgang Industrial Park
Wolfgang Industrial Park

Research for the future

The Wolfgang Industrial Park, which is located in a part of Hanau in the Rhine-Main area of Germany, is a key center for research and development of Evonik Industries. It is here in this high-tech park where important decisions determine the way to future markets. Research and development in Wolfgang concentrates on three main areas: biotechnology, specialty chemistry and materials science.

Powder for Prussia - the origins of a site

The origins of the Industrial Park in Wolfgang go back to the year 1872 when the Prussian government founded the Royal Prussian Powder Factory, Hanau, which went into operation in 1876/77. As a consequence of Germany’s defeat in the First World War, the factory needed to be trimmed in 1918/19. Eventually, an imitation leather factory arose from the sparse plant remains - the Deutsche Kunstleder-Werke GmbH. Degussa AG (predecessor of the Chemicals Business Area of Evonik), which had been supplying it with solvents and which itself produced imitation leather, toe caps and glue for the shoe industry in a factory in Mölkau near Leipzig took over the company in Wolfgang in 1933.

During the Second World War, the manufacturing plant, unlike the laboratories, was not bombed, allowing production to continue uninterrupted. Despite this, imitation leather production came under pressure following the currency reform in 1948, as the plant was old and out-of-date and the conversion to more modern PVC-based imitation leather very slow. After a transitory consolidation phase, Degussa stopped producing imitation leather in Wolfgang in 1975.

The Research Center in Wolfgang

In year 1957 saw a real turning point when the Degussa Board decided to bring together research and development operations from the whole group in Hanau-Wolfgang. Two years later, building work on the site was underway. That was the point at which the Wolfgang Research Center was born that, after many different transformations, still brings together important research projects of the Chemicals Business Area of Evonik. Following very quickly one after the other, a whole series of laboratories and workshops were built for different divisions.

Despite a realignment in 1992 that decentralized research in the Degussa Group, key services in this area remain in Wolfgang to this day. Research is now conducted on an interdisciplinary and interdivisional basis. An example of this is the Biotechnology Project House and the Advanced Nanomaterials Business Unit founded in 2003 in which the company has invested EUR 25 million by 2007. These projects are run by Creavis GmbH, a 100 percent Evonik subsidiary.

The Nuclear Group in Wolfgang

The history of the site has also been determined by external developments. This is demonstrated by a political decision taken in 1955, which permitted the Federal Republic of Germany to become active in the nuclear energy field for peaceful means. As a result, Degussa founded a nuclear group in Wolfgang with the task of developing and manufacturing fuel and fuel rods for nuclear reactors. In year 1960 saw the founding of the Nuklear-Chemie und Metallurgie GmbH, (Nukem) in which Degussa held 45 percent of the shares. In 1977 Degussa’s share had fallen to 35 percent. After the atomic waste scandal in 1987, the Federal Ministry for the Environment authorized the company to reorganize and realign Nukem. As part of this reorganization, Degussa sold its 35 percent share to the Rheinisch-Westfälische Elektrizitätswerk (RWE) [Rhine-Westfalia Electricity Works] and withdrew completely from the atomic power business in 1990.

Traditional businesses with a new home

In 1970 the Research and Manufacturing Technology Metal unit was moved to Wolfgang, followed in 1975 by the Precious Metals Separation operations from the Degussa Headquarters in Frankfurt. This relocation finally led to all the domestic plants for separating precious metals being grouped on the industrial estate in Wolfgang. These included all the precious metal extraction from recycled materials, precious metal refining and the manufacture of precious metal products. This created the largest factory of its kind in Europe at the site in Wolfgang.

When Degussa was realigned as a specialty chemicals business, the group sold the old precious metal division in its entirety to the OM Group, Cleveland, USA in 2001. The gold and silver business and some other units had already been sold by dmc2, a 100 percent subsidiary of Degussa, to Norddeutsche Affinerie [North German Refinery]. In 2001, Degussa’s shares in this company also went to the Umicore AG.

In 1994, Dental, a Degussa business unit rich in tradition, moved from Frankfurt to a newly erected building in Wolfgang. Since then dentistry products have been developed and manufactured there. As part of the Degussa and Hüls merger in 2000, the Group hived the Dental activities off into the 100 percent subsidiary Degussa Dental GmbH & Co. KG. The headquarters of this international company remains in Hanau-Wolfgang. As part of the focus on specialty chemicals, Degussa has meanwhile sold the Dental subsidiary to the US group Dentsply International Inc. that has been operating out of Hanau as DeguDent GmbH since the spring of 2003.

The development of the site is not only reflected in the changes to the research and production portfolios but also in the changes in its structural organization. Since 2002, an independent service company has also been working, the “Wolfgang Industrial Park GmbH” for the businesses located there. This is a 100 percent subsidiary of Evonik Industries, which takes on the planning, installation and maintenance of technical plants, organizes supplies and waste disposal and works for the Analysis, Environmental Protection and Health and Safety business units.

Today, around 5,100 people work at Wolfgang Industrial Park, of whom approximately 300 are apprentices. Approximately 3,300 employees work for Evonik Industries with 1,300 in research and development.