Kemin Industries is seeking to better harness the brain power of the scientists behind its various business units with opening of its new Molecular Advancement Center at its corporate headquarters in Des Moines, IA.
The design came out of a focused process of wishful thinking, according to Michael Ceddia, Kemin’s vice president of research and development. What resulted was a $16.7 million, 46,300-square-foot facility that includes two general labs, six shared labs, three pilot labs, a sensory lab, a test kitchen and a personal care application research lab. It’s designed around an open concept the features 1,215 feet of linear research bench space.
Collaboration as design goal
“There were a number of us on a design committee trying to decide what did we want to have. If you could plan anything for the future, what would that be?” Ceddia, vice president for R&D told NutraIngredients-USA .
“We have wonderful facilities already at Kemin but those facilities are compartmentalized. It makes it a lot harder to have those unique interactions. (With our new facility) you can have a bunch of scientists sit down and have discussions even if you aren’t in that business unit. We wanted to have those business unites together and you would bump each other on a more regular basis,” Ceddia said.
“It’s similar to what’s happened in the pharmaceutical industry in the last several years,” he said.
Already up and running
The MAC is already occupied by approximately 60 scientists, researching and developing products for the feed and food industries as well as the health, nutrition and beauty markets. The company’s existing Innovation Center continues to operate at full capacity with scientists focused on discovery research and pet food.
“This new facility is more than a building. It represents our confidence in employees, commitment to Des Moines, and vision to improve the quality of life of half the world’s population,” said Kemin president and CEO Dr. Chris Nelson. “By 2050, an estimated 9 billion people will occupy the planet. They will require 70 percent more food than we have today. Kemin is dedicated to making food available for the 9 billion people that will inhabit the planet and it is our mission and passion to do that with safe, nutritious food on a worldwide basis.”
The idea for the MAC was first announced in October 2010 as part of Kemin's worldwide expansion plan. At that time, the company committed to adding 98 new positions and has already exceeded that number, to date hiring 137 new, full-time jobs. When the expansion is complete, Kemin will have added six new manufacturing facilities, three new research facilities and a new corporate headquarters building – altogether a more than $40 million investment.
The new research facility significantly increases Kemin’s capabilities, Ceddia said.
“Part of what was built into this facility were things where Kemin had small facilities or no facilities at all,” Ceddia said. “We now have a state of the art cell culture laboratory. So we can do a lot of high throughput screening to look at different molecules that have been extracted from plants and look at the mechanisms by which they have an effect on the body, whether be in a person, or a dog or a cat, or poultry or swine or cattle.
“We have a plant tissue propagation laboratory. The majority of molecules that Kemin works with are plant based and we have a very large library of plants that we look at. That allows us to look at different species of plants and look for ones that have the highest content of molecules that we’re interested in,” he said.
Attracting the right talent
Ceddia said the new center will accelerate Kemin’s growth, and that happens not just because of the new technical capabilities, but because of how the new facility, which has been operating since July and already employs 60 scientists, will help those scientists work together.
“It is going to be a huge talent attractor for us,” Ceddia said. “The most important issue is having the people with the intellectual power. It demonstrates to the marketplace how serious Kemin is about science, innovation and technology.”