Developed countries are now channeling their efforts into advancing their polymer application technology as countries such as China and India continue to out-produce their richer counterparts. It is predicted that newer applications for polymers will drive growth in the developed regions of Europe and North America, even though the rate of growth will not be substantial at global level due to the smaller market size for these innovations. In contrast, the Asia-Pacific market is the largest for polymers for electrical and electronic applications, and this is expected to continue with impressive growth over the next few years. This area, with China in particular, has emerged as a manufacturing hub for petrochemical products due to relatively low production costs. This factor, combined with an improvement in living standards, led to the region accounting for 50.9% of the global electronic polymers demand in 2011, as per GBI Research. The Asia-Pacific region accounted for half of the global polymer demand for electrical and electronic applications and was the largest market for electronic polymers. Traditional polymers such as polypropylene, polyethylene, polyvinyl chloride and acrylonitrile butadiene styrene constituted more than half of the global electronic polymers demand in 2011. These polymers were largely used for insulation or encapsulation purposes.
Overall, the global demand for polymers for electrical and electronic applications is expected to increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.9% to 23,293,511 tons in 2017, from a total of 15,601,841 tons in 2011. Manufacturers in developed countries are typically unable to compete in the Asia-Pacific region because of low labor costs. Accordingly, these countries are relying more and more on the development of more advanced polymer applications. The UK government, for example, has invested hundreds of millions of pounds in the development of organic light emitting diodes (OLED) and printing electronics, with major manufacturers working on similar technologies. These innovations have huge potential, yet their success depends on their efficiency and acceptance in the market and, as these applications do not have a particularly impressive track record, they are not expected to out-perform more traditional encapsulation and insulation applications of polymers such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polypropylene (PP) and polyethylene (PE) in the coming years.