Frederic Steinfeld

Managing chance discovery

The decision to develop research at the chemical company


Ferrum 89/2017

The development of industrial research laboratories in Germany is closely intertwined with the history of Germany’s dyestuffs industry in the second half of the 19th century. Between 1870 and 1890, the industry’s practical procedure, often based on chance discovery, gave way to a scientific approach to innovation. Though the conditions were very similar throughout the chemical industry, not all companies adopted the new ways at the same time – firms such as Hoechst or BASF, where chemists were part of management, recognized the importance of basic research far earlier than others. The chemical company Bayer, in contrast, was very late in identifying the strategic importance of research – a failure that almost drove the company into bankruptcy.


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