The rise of open research and development (R&D) and collaborative research projects in the industrial gases business is ‘a positive step forward’ according to Bertrand Saraux, Vice-President of Industrial Gas Merchant at Air Liquide.

Saraux was responding to the question, ‘are we spending enough on R&D?’ following his presentation at gasworld’s Europe Industrial Gas Conference 2015 in Budapest, Hungary.

He explained that open R&D is ‘a positive step forward’ for the industry and appeared to suggest that, during times when the industry’s revenues and margins are increasingly under scrutiny, enough investment was indeed being made in the areas of R&D and innovation.

Saraux and Spiritus Group’s Nigel Lewis had earlier discussed the importance of innovation in the industry, and Europe in particular, during their respective keynote presentations at the event.

Delegates heard how Air Liquide is comfortably among the highest investors in R&D, spending upwards of 60% more than its fellow major players in the field of R&D. The company’s internal investment in R&D is around 1% of its sales every year, we understand.

The company is also engaged in various research projects and collaborative innovation initiatives as part of this spend, something that Lewis explained is a broader trend within the industry. Approaches to R&D have shifted over the years, Lewis noted, from a much more in-house based manner to a broader mix of collaboration or ‘open R&D’.

There is also currently a broader spread of activities on R&D than there used to be, with the present focus including healthcare, hydrogen energy, and other new energy technologies.