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July 1, 2002
Volume 80, Number 26
CENEAR 80 26 p. 9
ISSN 0009-2347


Science will remain the firm's engine of growth in the 21st century

Dupont owes much of its growth in the past 200 years to science. And at a press briefing in Wilmington, Del., last week to commemorate its founding in 1802, CEO Charles O. Holliday Jr. promised that chemistry, physics, and biology would help sustain and expand the company in the 21st century.

"We believe that our commitment to science and our core values will help create the blueprint for an exciting and profitable future," Holliday said.

Sticking to science and innovation has brought DuPont far. Capitalized at $36,000 in 1802, the company has a market capitalization of $40 billion today. An original $2,000 share in DuPont would be worth $2.4 billion today.

With knowledge gleaned from the father of modern chemistry, Antoine Lavoisier, founder Eleuthère Irénée du Pont built a company based on gunpowder. Over the years, the company diversified into paints, textile fibers, dyes, packaging films, electronics materials, pharmaceuticals, and biotechnology products (C&EN, April 15, page 22).

SCIENCE IS KEY Holliday (left) and Connelly agree that a strong commitment to research will result in a profitable future.
The last of the gunpowder and explosives businesses were sold about a decade ago; the pharmaceuticals business was sold last year. "The willingness to undertake profound change to remake the company is in the 'DNA' of DuPont," Holliday said.

The future is in the five growth platforms DuPont established earlier this year: electronics and communication, performance materials, coatings and colors, safety and protection, and agriculture and nutrition. Holliday confirmed that the company's textile fibers business, a mainstay for more than half a century, would be sold or spun off to shareholders by the end of 2003.

At a time of colossal failures in business ethics--the collapse of energy trader Enron and the financial scandal surrounding telecommunications giant WorldCom are the most egregious examples--Holliday pointed out that DuPont is and has been "a trusted name for 200 years. If you remember nothing else, remember that."

He said the company's accounts remain open and reliable indicators of its health. DuPont can be "trusted to do the right thing by customers, trusted to do the right thing by the community, trusted to do the right thing by employees, and trusted to do the right thing by our owners."

Just prior to and during the recent economic slowdown, Holliday took steps to conserve cash--capital spending declined by $400 million between 1999 and 2001. And DuPont came through the recession with a strong balance sheet.

But throughout the downturn, Holliday said, DuPont has been careful to maintain R&D spending: "We must reinvigorate R&D focused on customer needs." That job belongs to Chief Technology Officer Thomas M. Connelly Jr., who said the company will increase the percentage of sales from products less than five years old from 24% to 33%.


Chemical & Engineering News
Copyright © 2002 American Chemical Society

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In June, 250 years ago, Benjamin Franklin and his son William supposedly performed their famous experiment. Flying a kite with a key attached into storm clouds hovering over Philadelphia, Franklin discovered that lightning is a form of electricity.

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