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Design competition winners reflect on their week as guests of Covestro

“It made me feel my opinions and ideas counted.” - Annabel Burton

“K Fair opened my eyes to huge and seemingly limitless scope of applications possible in design.” - Alex Bordino

The winners of the 2015 and 2016 Design Innovation in Plastics* competition, Alex Bordino and Annabel Burton, both from Nottingham Trent University, UK, spent a week in Germany as Covestro’s guest, as part of their prize. Their week coincided with K 2016, the biggest plastics and rubber fair in the world which runs every three years, to which they were given tickets and the chance to become part of Covestro’s world for the duration of their visit there. Here they reflect on their memorable week.

Annabel and Alex are pictured during a tour of the Covestro stand, with Philipp Moeller, Commercial Operations, Polycarbonates.
Annabel and Alex are pictured during a tour of the Covestro stand, with Philipp Moeller, Commercial Operations, Polycarbonates.

*The Design Innovation in Plastics Competition, headline sponsored by Covestro, is a UK/Ireland event, organised by the Institute of Materials, Minerals & Mining (IOM3) and the Worshipful Company of Horners, which challenges university and college students to design a new product using plastics meeting the criteria for the design brief relevant to the annual award.

Annabel Burton
I still feel unbelievably grateful that a company as large as Covestro would devote so much time and effort into me and enable me to experience such an incredible week!

Covestro invited me to K Fair, with Alex, but it was much more than just an invite: they walked us around their stand and allowed us to be involved with the 'makeathon team' to develop design thinking, and we were both interviewed. It made me feel that my opinions and ideas counted, and were credible. As a young designer your ideas and opinions are constantly being challenged and for someone to make you feel that you have something to offer is a real boost. I now feel more justified as a designer, and have stronger belief in my talents. 

Covestro is a massively successful company, and it was daunting meeting some of the big names, but they took time out of their busy schedules to talk to us, and they were genuinely interested in us and our products. This made Covestro seem less like a large and slightly intimidating corporation, and more like an enthusiastic group of people who are all working together to reach goals. Also the fact that members of the Covestro team approached me with a friendly handshake, and already knew my name when I arrived, was a really nice touch, and quickly made me feel welcome.

To me, it is clear that Covestro is changing the industry, and is true to its strap line of ‘Pushing Boundaries’.

Plastics can be perceived as slightly negative and sometimes controversial, with designers often believing that they are unsustainable. From school age, people are taught to feel guilty about their use of plastics and to remember the three ‘R’s.
However, designers, especially those who study material science, are aware of the incredible benefits and desirable properties of polymers.

At K Fair you could see both sides.  On the one hand there were many interesting designs and materials, and there were also machines pumping out plastic goods, which were given away to stand visitors to take home with them as freebies.  For me, this was slightly negative, as almost inevitably, some of these items will end up in the bin - which you could argue is adding to the reputation of some plastics items being wasteful and unnecessary. 

None of this was apparent at the Covestro stand which was designed to draw you in and generate excitement about all the opportunities and possibilities of polymers.

Covestro didn’t just show what products it had already helped to create and take to market, but it was displaying future possibilities and inspiring innovation. Even the simplicity of having a sample bar where materials could be seen and touched makes polymers once again more exciting.  They felt real, accessible and usable and weren’t just represented as a name and a reference number, which doesn’t mean much to a lot of us.  As a result of visiting K Fair, my knowledge of the industry and of polymers is now much richer and so it was invaluable experience for me as a designer!

After K Fair we were shown around the ‘Chem Park’ where Bayer and Covestro are located. The site was vast and very impressive, but there was still a friendly atmosphere and it was evident many people knew each other, This just shows that everything can still be personal, even in such a large company, with its rich history. 

We even got to fit in two city tours – in nearby Cologne and Dusseldorf!  We really appreciated that chance to learn about their history and culture. I can’t believe how much we crammed into our short trip! 

It’s hard to comprehend how Covestro devoted so much time and effort to us, but having explained that young designers are helping to shape their future it explains their way of thinking, and why they are able to push boundaries.

I feel so lucky and very grateful to have been given this experience! 

Alex Bordino
It’s hard to summarise the incredibly thought provoking, informative and insightful experience that I experienced with Covestro. The visit to K Fair has to be the ultimate highlight of the week. Never had I been to a trade show on that scale, and just specialising in polymers and design! It has truly opened my eyes to huge and seemingly limitless scope of applications possible in design, when presented with such a vast array of materials that we identify as polymers.

I was most impressed by the Covestro stand, and the array and breadth of applications and technologies they exhibited, particularly within the automotive sector, which I strongly suspect will adopt more polymer technologies and materials in the future. This I believe is due to the unique properties, cost savings, and the seamless integration of electronics that can be achieved.

During K it was also interesting to examine more of the process and manufacturing side of the polymer industry. I can barely comprehend the size and wealth of the number of companies and exhibits present. I can truly appreciate why it is the most important trade show in the plastics industry internationally!

All these innovations and applications displayed really have inspired me with new ideas and concepts, particularly with my final year project. I am also very grateful to Covestro experts for offering material selection advice on my project which will be absolutely invaluable as I progress.

I alsact the companies have had not just on the local area but internationally as a global leaders in their fie

For DIP Admin Enquiries:
Sylvia Katz, DIP Award Coordinator
E: dip.skatz@yahoo.com   
www.designinnovationplastics.org