Dupont Downsize Engineering Case Study

DuPont Central Research & Development, one of the most prestigious and accomplished research organizations in the chemistry world, will soon cease to exist.

According to a memorandum obtained by C&EN and authenticated by DuPont, the company will combine DuPont Science & Technology and DuPont Engineering into a single organization called Science & Engineering, effective Jan. 1, 2016. “As part of this integration, Central Research & Development will be substantially redesigned to become ‘Science & Innovation’,” states the memo, attributed to DuPont Chief Science & Technology Officer Doug Muzyka.

DuPont isn’t commenting on questions regarding the numbers of possible layoffs or the fate of central research labs at DuPont’s Chestnut Run facility and Experimental Station, both in Wilmington, Del.

The news of the research restructuring comes just days after the blockbuster Dec. 11 announcement that DuPont will merge with Dow Chemical. In discussing the merger, DuPont Chief Executive Officer Edward Breen downplayed the potential impact on R&D, saying that only about $300 million would be cut from the combined firm’s research budget. Last year, DuPont alone spent $2.1 billion on R&D.

The research restructuring is part of a plan DuPont announced on Dec. 11 to cut its own costs by $700 million, largely by eliminating 10% of the company’s workforce in 2016.

In recent years, DuPont has been under pressure from activist investor Nelson Peltz who, among other things, has criticized DuPont for high overhead and the ineffectiveness of its centralized R&D. “The company’s strategy to leverage ‘integrated science’ capabilities has, in our view, led to speculative corporate R&D investments and lackluster return on invested capital,” Peltz wrote in April.

DuPont Central R&D is one of the world’s oldest and most venerable corporate research organizations and has often been compared to the former Bell Labs. DuPont plunged into centralized, fundamental R&D in the 1920s under the guidance of Research Director Charles M. A. Stine. Stine hired Wallace H. Carothers away from Harvard University in 1928. Carothers’s work at DuPont would lead to neoprene and nylon.

DuPont’s labs even spawned a Nobel Laureate. DuPont chemist Charles J. Pedersen shared the 1987 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Donald J. Cram and Jean-Marie Lehn for work in synthesizing macrocyclic polyethers, also known as crown ethers.

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Science Center

DuPont’s Experimental Station in Wilmington, Del.

Credit: DuPont

 

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