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Earle B. Barnes Award For Leadership In Chemical Research Management

by Ann M. Thayer
January 13, 2014 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 92, Issue 2

Credit: Courtesy of William Banholzer
Photo of William F. Banholzer, Chemical & Biological Engineering Department and the Wisconsin Energy Institute at the University of Wisconsin, Madison
Credit: Courtesy of William Banholzer

Sponsored by the Dow Chemical Co. Foundation

Driving a $1.7 billion R&D effort to new levels of performance is no small feat. But William F. BanholzerDow Chemical’s chief technology officer from July 2005 to August 2013—did just that, according to former colleagues at the company. In September 2013, Banholzer retired from Dow and joined the chemical and biological engineering department and the Wisconsin Energy Institute at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

According to Dow Chief Executive Officer Andrew N. Liveris, Banholzer “revitalized our research and development leadership and talent pool, ensuring we will continue to have strong generational capabilities, and he has cultivated key external relationships that will further enable our business success.”

At Dow, Banholzer oversaw the activities of about 7,000 scientists and engineers. Along with being CTO, he served as an executive vice president, leading Dow’s venture capital, new business development, and licensing activities. He also chaired the firm’s Innovation & New Business Development Committee, which oversees investments in new technologies and business initiatives.

Banholzer, 57, reshaped Dow’s R&D in three particular ways—through portfolio management, productivity improvements, and external collaborations. To create a successful industrial R&D effort, he developed a metrics-driven portfolio management system that tied lab work to a business target. This focus ensured that appropriate funding and employee attention went to activities with the highest potential value.

R&D productivity accelerated under Banholzer’s leadership through the support of research tools. For example, Dow attributes the development of new olefin block copolymers in record time to the use of high-throughput experimentation methods.

Banholzer also changed the way Dow collaborates externally and extended its reach, former colleagues say. In 2011, he led Dow’s support of a $250 million, 10-year program to reinvigorate engineering and materials research at 11 major universities. And he initiated a pilot program to bring industry safety programs to academia.

Several programs created during Banholzer’s tenure targeted the advancement of minorities in industrial research. For example, Dow’s BEST program looks to introduce African American, Hispanic, and Native American U.S. doctoral and postdoctoral scientists to job opportunities in industry. He also has supported the Dow-Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyACCESS program, which aims to increase the diversity of qualified applicants to chemistry, chemical engineering, and materials science Ph.D. programs.

Banholzer’s leadership has been widely recognized. In 2002, he was elected to the National Academy of Engineering, and he serves on NAE, government, and university boards and committees. He received the Industrial Research Institute’s Maurice Holland Award for R&D management in 2011 and the Council for Chemical Research’s Pruitt Award in 2012.

His industrial career spanned more than 30 years. Before joining Dow, he spent 22 years with General Electric, where he last served as vice president of global technology for GE Advanced Materials. Banholzer joined GE in 1983 as a staff chemical engineer in the company’s corporate R&D lab.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Marquette University and master’s and doctoral degrees in chemical engineering from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Banholzer will present his award address before the Division of Industrial & Engineering Chemistry.


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