"Innovation does not always meet with immediate acceptance"

12 Oct 2022
Sebastian Czaja is a technical group leader at TPA and the brains behind the ClAir® asphalt research project. In the blog post, he reports on the creation of the air-purifying and at the same time noise-reducing road surface, his career path, and what makes working in this field so exciting for him.

Our task is to identify problems in traffic route construction and develop ideas, projects and solutions for them. With the Clean Air - or ClAir® for short - asphalt we have developed, we have launched a product that will ensure cleaner air and less noise on our roads in the future. This makes me proud as part of this exciting research project and is the best example of the fact that we are working very extensively on progress.

The idea for the Clean Air Asphalt project came about in 2015. The hook was the diesel debate that was emerging at the time. Our goal: to develop a sustainable road surface that has additional functions to conventional asphalt, namely nitrogen and noise reduction. The research project NaHiTAs (Sustainable HighTech Asphalt), which was developed together with nine partners from science and industry and funded by the German federal government, then gave rise to the product ClAir® Asphalt.

  • "Being part of the progress makes me immensely proud"

After more than three years of research and development, it was a special highlight for me when we implemented the first pilot measure in Stuttgart at Neckartor in 2019. An exciting research project emerged from an idea, which led to a positive result. We were then able to successfully transfer the resulting product into practice. By the middle of the year, we had installed ClAir® Asphalt 15 times in Germany, and demand is high.

What I find so exciting about my work is the many innovations and new products that come out of the projects. I have noticed that innovations do not always meet with immediate acceptance in practice, but that it is worthwhile to keep at it. In the beginning, it was difficult to convince external partners of the new developments. However, this made the successes and projects that we were able to implement together all the more enjoyable and exciting. The same applies to our colleagues on the job sites, who have the most experience in asphalt paving. When they are suddenly handed something new after 30 years with the same machine, they often react skeptically. After the first use, however, we received only positive feedback. For me, that's the best part of my job: convincing people of innovations that are also helpful to them and make their work easier.

The entire project was a valuable experience for me personally. Since I was involved in the project from the very beginning right after I joined the Group in 2015, I was given the opportunity to take over group management for the area a short time later. During these years, I have received a lot of support and backing from both STRABAG and my supervisor at TPA.

We are currently receiving a lot of inquiries from various divisions within STRABAG that want to implement ClAir® Asphalt together with us in their projects. Through the project and the assumption of the management function, I have been given the opportunity to represent the entire Group and am on the road almost monthly in Europe to present the project.

I am looking forward to driving ClAir® Asphalt forward in cooperation with the operating units and external partners in the future, in order to be able to make a contribution to improving our quality of life.