Interview with David Hatrick, VP of Innovation, Huntsman Advanced Materials
Monday, 16 August 2021
What’s your role and responsibility within your current organization, and how does it fit into the wider industry?
I’m Vice President of Innovation at Huntsman Advanced Materials, with responsibility for the R&D activities of Huntsman Advanced Materials globally. I oversee a network of 12 labs with our biggest centers in Switzerland, Texas, and Shanghai. I also look after our manufacturing technology group, who develop new production processes and introduce new products in our plants. As well as ensuring we deliver new products to market, my role includes a lot of customer engagement, making sure our projects meet their needs today, and in the future.
Talk us through your career to date, what have been the standout moments for you?
The most pleasing moments in my career have involved seeing new chemicals and materials being launched and first sales being made. There is a lot of hard work from many highly talented individuals that goes into making this happen – from the group that have the initial idea, through to the team who make it a reality at the production site. One of my proudest moments was seeing a high-performance sports car fitted with newly developed lightweight epoxy carbon fiber wheels. This was the result of several years’ work that led to delivering a product with great performance and which had even better aesthetics!
What new advanced material technologies are you most excited about?
Some of the biggest challenges we face today as an industry involve developing low carbon solutions and addressing the need for increasing levels of circularity. At Huntsman Advanced Materials we have a significant number of R&D programs addressing these issues. In the materials space, we are scaling a technology for the conversion of flare gas, from oil and gas fields, into clean hydrogen and a structural form of carbon known as MIRALON®. From a waste gas, with significant global warming potential, we can create a sustainable fuel and a new material that can be used in a wide variety of applications from aerospace to construction. In parallel, we are working on bio feedstocks to create high-performance resins used in the aerospace market. Overall, sustainability is a major driver of innovation across our business, and for the industry in general.
What have been the greatest challenges the materials industry has experienced in recent years and how has the sector overcome them?
I think the biggest challenge the materials industry faces today is sustainability – both in the production of advanced materials and in enabling downstream use of those materials to reduce emissions, enable recycling and become more circular in the way we operate. No one sector can address all these challenges alone. We need collaboration at every stage of the value chain to be successful – from working closely with the science base to identify new technologies, through to partnerships with technology developers and end users of these materials to create recycling loops. Huntsman has always welcomed collaboration in its quest to enrich lives through innovation, and we need to continue to build on this culture to ensure we all play a part in developing successful solutions that advance sustainability.
Why are you involved in our show, and what are you most looking forward to at the event?
Part of my role is communicating the great work we’re doing to create innovative new chemistry and materials, and the Advanced Materials Show is a great place to do this. I always take advantage of this kind of event to find out more about what’s going on in the sector. I’m interested in the wide variety of emerging new technologies, the key players behind them and finding the opportunity to collaborate.
If you could give any advice to someone trying to break into the industry, what would it be?
Be flexible and take opportunities when they arise. I started my career in the nuclear sector in materials R&D, then moved into a product development business that supported a wide variety of customers in consumer products, engineering, medical devices, and chemicals. I have the role that I am in today by taking advantage of the opportunities to move into new fields, learning new disciplines and using a broad knowledge of materials and chemicals to help teams innovate successfully.