Dixie Chemical’s Alex Grous Wins Big in AkzoNobel’s Open Innovation Platform

Alexander Grous, Dixie Chemical’s own engineer and technical development manager, and his partner Fergal Coleman, Chemist at Green Lizard Technologies (GLT), recently won a joint development agreement with AkzoNobel. The agreement came out of an intense open innovation platform competition hosted by AkzoNobel Chemical, dubbed the Imagine Chemistry Start-Up Challenge.

Open Innovation Platform Brings Imagination to Market

Now in it’s second year, Imagine Chemistry focuses on six challenges that AkzoNobel wants to solve: wastewater-free chemical sites, zero-footprint surfactants, intelligent chemical plants, new sodium chlorate production methods, sustainable small-particle technologies and sustainable liquid-to-powder technologies.

Alexander Grous at AkzoNobel Open Innovation Platform Competition

Alexander Grous (left) and Fergal Coleman at Imagine Chemistry competition. From C&EN

Grous and Coleman entered the open innovation platform competition at the last minute and flew to Gothenburg, Sweden, where they presented and answered questions for two solid days about a route to glycidol. Glycidol is a small molecule containing alcohol and epoxide groups.

The Dixie-GLT partnership’s research fits perfectly within AkzoNobel’s quest for a zero-footprint surfactant. Now, the plan is to work with AkzoNobel to potentially use the molecule as a surfactant raw material and eventually take their technology to the specialty chemicals market.

Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN) covered the competition and highlighted other startup winners. About 150 qualifying applicants were whittled down to just 20 in the final. Four teams won a joint development agreement and six teams won smaller prizes, such as lab time with AkzoNobel chemists.

We have a disruptive innovation that could significantly change the market.
-Alexander Grous, Dixie Chemical

Biosufractants on the Horizon

Although the open innovation platform competition was just held in June, the joint development agreement is already underway, as covered in a recent article on Business Up North. The partnership actually started well before the competition. Green Lizard initially developed the glycidol process and Dixie assisted with process scale-up.

In 2017, the partnership won the Sustainability Award in the Institution of Chemical Engineers Malaysia Awards and at the start of 2018, it won the Rushlight Sustainable Manufacturing & Services Award.

Grous and Coleman had purchased a facility at the Wilton Centre in England earlier this year with the intent to start making glycidol an order of magnitude – 50kg per hour – that is more affordable than what current manufacturers charge.

Currently, most surfactants used in soaps and detergents are obtained from oil. The glycidol process will mean greener biosurfactants and can be used in industrial paints, coatings and specialty chemicals. Not only does this award-winning lend to greener practices and chemicals, but it’s also helping to build up the industry. The new facility is adding more than 30 jobs, mostly in research and development, at the renowned science and business park.

This is a massive stamp of approval in our technology from one of the world’s largest chemical companies. It will really speed up the market development and commercialization of one aspect of our technology.

-Fergal Coleman, Green Lizard Technologies