3M Co. appointed Ashish Khandpur as its new head of research and development and chief technology officer on Monday. He will lead one of America’s biggest R&D operations with a $1.7 billion annual budget.
He succeeds Fred Palensky, who is retiring after 37 years with the company, including the last eight years as the firm’s R&D chief.
In that post, Palensky presided over the opening and growth of a highly visible 3M Innovation Center plus a new $150 million R&D laboratory that is now under construction at 3M’s headquarters in Maplewood.
The R&D lab is scheduled to open in 2015 and will replace two aging labs on campus. The Innovation Center opened in 2006 and has been a successful site for customer collaborations, new-product launches and problem solving.
Going forward, Khandpur will be expected to emphasize 3M’s grip on innovation, a tool that some Wall Street analysts worried had been forgotten as recently as a decade ago. Recent CEOs have tried to quell such concerns by pouring money into R&D and opening research or innovation centers around the world.
Khandpur, who has a chemical engineering doctorate from the University of Minnesota, was most recently vice president and general manager for 3M’s personal safety division. He joined 3M in 1995 in the company’s adhesive technology center in St. Paul. In 2006, he moved to 3M’s India unit and established its first lab there. He later worked in the company’s Asia-Pacific industrial and transportation unit and became worldwide research chief of the industrial and transportation business.
Khandpur’s “global experience is a huge asset and I am confident that he will lead our research and development teams to even greater success,” Inge Thulin, 3M’s chief executive, said in a statement.
Thulin in November 2012 announced that the company would boost its R&D spending from 5 percent of its overall revenue to 6 percent by 2017. In 2013, the company reported R&D spending of $1.71 billion, which was 5.5 percent of its revenue of $30.8 billion.
The company is the largest producer of patent-winning innovations in Minnesota.