35 Years of Innovation

A History of Innovation

In the 1970s, a group of chemical engineers from industry and academia, led by MIT Professor of Chemical Engineering Larry Evans, had a vision. Computer automation was being applied to other engineering disciplines – civil, mechanical, electrical – why not chemical?

They knew that the potential application of that vision was in the world of process manufacturing – energy, chemicals and other industries that manufacture and produce products from a chemical process. Their premise was that computer simulation and models could help manufacturers find ways to make products like fuel, gasoline and complex chemical components less expensively and more efficiently.

Coincidentally, in the late 1970s energy shortages and the resulting “oil shock” was causing major economic and political disruption in America and abroad. As the U.S. faced an energy crisis, MIT created an Energy Laboratory to facilitate collaboration between university and industry.

Evans saw an opportunity to apply the burgeoning computer-aided chemical engineering technology to market requirements that were being driven by the energy crisis. Supported by funding from the newly formed Department of Energy (DOE), the ASPEN (Advanced System for Process Engineering) Project was started in 1977.
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The ASPEN project set about to develop a general-purpose process simulation system that could be used by chemical engineers across the process industries, reducing and eventually eliminating the need to rely on the proprietary, home-grown systems that were in use at the time.

The end result of the project was the next-generation process simulator, also named ASPEN. It could simulate large, complex processes involving highly non-ideal chemical components, coals and synthetic fuels, as well as electrolyte and multi-phase systems.

AspenTech was founded on August 12, 1981 to commercialize the technology. In 1982, the company released its first product, Aspen Plus, commercial process simulation software that was the first of dozens of innovations and industry firsts delivered by the company.

Over time, that original goal of a general-purpose process simulation system evolved to a focus on process optimization, and eventually a broader vision - Asset Optimization. Today, an integrated set of industry-leading AspenTech products optimize assets across the design, operations and maintenance lifecycle.  And 35 years after our founding, we remain committed to building on our legacy of innovation, every day.