Issue Date: January 4, 2016
DuPont Shutting Central Research
DuPont Central Research & Development, one of the most prestigious and accomplished research organizations in the chemistry world, will soon cease to exist.
A Dec. 17, 2015, memo laid out the company’s plan to combine DuPont Science & Technologies and DuPont Engineering into a single organization called Science & Engineering, effective Jan. 1. “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 the fate of central research labs at its Chestnut Run facility and Experimental Station, both in Wilmington, Del.
It also isn’t clear what the jobs impact on R&D will be. A letter DuPont CEO Edward Breen sent to the firm’s Delaware-based employees on Dec. 29 disclosed that the state will see a total of 1,700 layoffs. The job eliminations and changes to R&D are part of a DuPont program to cut costs by $700 million and employment by 10% company-wide.
DuPont currently has 54,000 employees, some 6,100 of whom are located in Delaware.
The R&D restructuring comes only weeks after DuPont unveiled a $130 billion merger with Dow Chemical (see page 14). The two companies expect a further $300 million in cuts to R&D when they combine. The new firm, DowDuPont, will then break into three separate companies in about two years. One of these companies will be a specialty products firm with headquarters in Wilmington.
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.
Since it broke, the news about the fate of Central R&D has stoked the passions of chemists. “The closing of a major research facility and the pressure on large corporations to eliminate spending on basic science may benefit a few wealthy investors, but it is a loss for the U.S. and the world,” noted a commenter named Roy Williams on C&EN’s website.
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