By David Reed, UT EditorLudwigshafen, Germany-Polyurethane-related innovations are among five projects recognised by BASF AG in its annual employee rewards. The awards are each worth €50 000 (over $61 000), to be shared among all team members.The firm awarded its Business Excellence Award 2005 to a team involved in developing Elastocool, a new global range of polyurethane insulation systems for freezer and refrigerators. This was a global team with members from BASF subsidiary Elastogran GmbH, BASF Korea, BASF Schwarzheide, and the BASF joint venture Polioles Mexico, the firm's statement said.By optimising the value-adding chain, the team involved succeeded in significantly reducing the number of formulations used, BASF explained. At the same time, they used the beneficial product characteristics of Elastocool to increase productivity and save material worldwide, both for customers and BASF. These efforts have paid off, the firm said, claiming that BASF has now become global market leader with Elastocool and has expanded production capacities at key sites.BASF's expanded e-business activities also received a Business Excellence Award 2005.The second PU-related award- Innovation Award 2005-went to a group involved in improving the quality of MDI (methylene diphenyl diisocyanate), a key raw material for making polyurethanes.A six-strong international team from a variety of disciplines in BASF's Polyurethanes division succeeded in significantly increasing the purity of MDI by means of several innovations in the production process. The key production innovations are now protected by numerous patents, BASF said.Because of the improvement, BASF's product now has unparalleled quality, and the company has expanded its share of the global MDI market to more than 20 percent, the BASF statement claimed. An Innovation Award was also made to a team involved in developing a new crop protection agent, Boscalid, the BASF statement concluded."