How BASF Innovates Through Co-Creation

Cassie Hull
July 15, 2016
Last Year marked the 150th anniversary for BASF, a chemical company. To celebrate 150 years in business, BASF launched a corporate social responsibility program aimed at solving some of the world’s most challenging problems. The program was called Creator Space™ and ran throughout 2015. The three main challenges for Creator Space™ were:
  1. How can we improve urban living in the future?
  2. How can we ensure nutritious food for everyone?
  3. How can we ensure smart energy for sustainable future?5
The program tour for Creator Space™ included six program locations: Mumbai, Shanghai, New York City, São Paulo, Barcelona and BASF’s corporate headquarters’ city of Ludwigshafen, Germany. The results will include a white paper from each program location to support the future pipeline for BASF. For example, in March of 2016, the Creator Space™ program released a white paper reporting on improving the quality of life of coastal cities, in a case study from Red Hook, NJ. The Red Hook project included the topics listed below:
  • Flood Defense
    • Lessons from Hurricane Sandy
    • Red Hook Transition
    • Ideas for Reshaping Red Hook
BASF utilizes co-creation by bringing people and ideas together, to innovate solutions to some of the world’s biggest challenges.

How the BASF Creator Space™ Program Worked

“BASF organized a tour around the world, bringing scientists, customers, employees, and partners from all over the globe together at one table and launching an online platform to connect everyone…we call this co-creation”.4 Co-creation, also called open innovation, is an innovation strategy centered on value creation through collaboration. In particular, the strategy aims to bring “customers, suppliers, research organizations, universities, the general public or other relevant stakeholders”3 together and present the group with a challenge and charge the group to uncover innovative solutions. The collaboration effort took place on three platforms:
  • Creator Space™ online is an interactive online platform where people discussed their opinions and suggestions regarding the challenges. In 2015, Creator Space™ online saw 750 discussions, 12,700 participants and 1,700 contributions.4
  • Creator Space™ Tour is an innovation tour where BASF planned to get 200 people together in each location to solve the challenges led by local, interdisciplinary teams.3
  • Creator Space™ Symposium were three global science symposia where international experts and researchers met in science convention format and were charged with the following challenge in the listed city:
    • Smart Energy Challenge in Ludwigshafen
    • Food Challenge in Chicago
    • Urban Living Challenge in Shanghai4
Creator Space also held various activities, idea contests and jamming sessions where groups of customers, partners and employees would exchange ideas to solve the challenges.4

Successful Innovation Strategy Carries a Big Impact for Enterprises

In a release about the program, BASF stated, "Studies show that companies that include co-creation in their innovation strategy increase their product success rates, generate higher net present value from their outside-in innovations, reduce time to market and use their innovation resources more effectively."3 BASF used the following four steps to develop their co-creation program. First, decide which challenges to address, and how it affects the company. For example, BASF chose challenges regarding urban living, food, and energy. Moreover, BASF is a chemistry company, so the ideas tied back the company via social responsibility. BASF desired to create “chemistry for a sustainable future”.5 Second, identify who can add value to the collaboration project, and consider “customers, suppliers, research organizations, universities, the general public or other relevant stakeholders”3. Third, identify which platform is best for collaboration: online, in person, or in symposium. Fourth, consider what size groups will be most effective and identify moderators for each group.

Step-by-step Process for Enterprises to Design Successful Co-Creation Programs

Utilize the Co-Creation Design Framework to design robust enterprise co-creation programs. The co-creation design framework was developed from the research process outlined in Managing Co-Creation Design: A Strategic Approach to Innovation, published in the British Journal of Management. The researchers set out to identify a way for firms to purposefully identify opportunities and successfully design co-creation programs.6

To download the step-by-step process of the Co-creation Design Framework 

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  1. BASF SE. (2016, June 19). BASF Creator Space. Retrieved from BASF USA:
  2. BASF SE. (2016). Co-creating solutions for urban neighborhoods in coastal cities: A look at Red Hook, Brooklyn, NY. Florham Park, NJ: A Creator Space™ White Paper.
  3. BASF SE. (2014, December 4). Driving New Levels of Collaborative Innovation. Ludwigshafen, Germany: BASF News.
  4. BASF SE. (2016). BASF Report 2015. Ludwigshafen:
  5. BASF SE. (2016, March 2). BASF Creator Space – the co-creation program 2015 in review. Retrieved from
  6. Frow, P., Nenonen, S., Payne, A., & Storbacka, K. (2015). Managing Co‐creation design: A strategic approach to innovation. British Journal of Management, 26(3), 463-483. doi:10.1111/1467-8551.12087

About the Author

Cassie Hull

Co-founded a successful Biotechnology manufacturing company. I specialize in IT, commercialization, and Quality in Healthcare & Biotechnology Manufacturing. I received my MBA from the University of Florida and I'm proud to be a member of the Mission for Mercy group that received a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002.

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