Basell in Ferrara: world-leading research from the days of Giulio Natta to the present


Mentioning the word “chemistry” in Emilia-Romagna, immediately brings to mind the city of Ferrara. Now owned by Basell, the world’s main producer of polypropylene, the historic factories built in 1942 for the production of synthetic rubber have been transformed step by step from the world’s first facility (in 1957) for the production of polypropylene according to the method developed by Nobel prize winner Giulio Natta, into what is now the largest research centre operated by Basell in the world.

“Over the years, ownership has changed hands many times”, observes Giuseppe Rossi, President of Basell Italia, “but the centrality of Ferrara to the chemicals industry, not just in Italy but in Europe and the rest of the world, is undisputed”. As a result, in addition to being a centre for the production of polypropylene and catalysers for polyolefins, the Ferrara site is also central to Basell’s research strategy.

Luca Scanavini, the research centre’s head of strategy and documentation, explains: “The company invests 2% of its annual turnover in the sector (twice as much as elsewhere in Italy), and up to 20% in research into catalysers”. But that’s not all: “The research centre in Ferrara”, adds Rossi, “employs two thirds of the researchers employed by Basell worldwide”.

There is also a very active partnership with the university. “For about ten years”, says Scanavini, “we have been running our ‘Masters’ post-graduate economics and management courses, thanks to which we take on at least fifteen new staff every year”. Lectures with staff from the university of Ferrara and elsewhere are complemented by work-placements with the company lasting several months and the possibility of remaining with Basell.

General relations with the surrounding area are excellent. This is partly due to the company’s commitment to the environment, which transforms a potential bone of contention with local institutions into an opportunity for collaboration, “in keeping with the spirit of co-operation that is a tradition in Emilia-Romagna”, explains Rossi. Basell has implemented a programme of land reclamation and, thanks to technological developments, has drastically reduced undesirable emissions

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