Imagine Chemistry, a collaborative innovation challenge, is primed to start it’s third year of competition that leads to unique innovations in chemistry and partnerships within the industry.
Nouryon hosts the program that brings together startups, scale-ups, university spin-outs and other potential partners to tackle chemistry-related challenges. This furthers the companies mission of “creating a more sustainable future through chemistry.” The innovation challenge helps discover new partnerships and ways to create value for customers down the line. Nouryon does this with support from industry leaders like Dixie Chemical, investment companies, associations and startups.
“Innovative solutions that help our customers improve their products, become more competitive and sustainable, and uncover new business opportunities are central to how we work.”
-Charlie Shaver, CEO, Nouryon
In 2019, the competition is focused on business opportunities. And it takes partnerships between several areas of the industry to bring the innovations to fruition. From the industry heavy hitters, the competition welcomes Unilever. Key collaborator the Green Chemistry & Commerce Council (GC3) will be lending its expertise to the competition, while seed investor High-Tech Gründerfonds and venture capital firm Icos Capital have also joined the mix to help with funding.
Research is key to innovation. Lux Research, a research and advisory firm, has signed on, along with S/park, an open innovation center located right at Nouryon’s RD&I site and focused chemical technology.
Narrowing the Focus
Within the broad focus of business opportunities, Imagine Chemistry 2019 looks for solutions in five key areas:
- Sensing in demanding chemical environments.
- Highlighting the partnership with Unilever, sustainable bio-based sufractants for everyone.
- Label-free chemistries.
- Performance-boosting nanoproperties.
- Pushing the frontiers of innovation in chemistry.
Then with those areas, there are four targets:
- Label-free chemistries
- Sensing in demanding chemical environments
- Performance-boosting nanoparticles
Number five – pushing the frontiers of innovation in chemistry – is intentionally left wide open. According to Peter Nieuwenhuizen, Chief Technology Officer at Nouryon, “Essentially we are active in 25 different technologies. If you have a solution, we are open to your ideas.”
IMAGINE Leads to Innovation in Chemistry
Solutions is what Nouryon prides itself on. Formally Akzo Nobel Specialty Chemicals, the company “has been the most visible and successful practitioner of open innovation in the chemicals business.” In an article in Biofuels Digest, this is largely because of the Imagine Chemistry program. The Imagine Chemistry website states that Nouryon believes that “collaboration will help us be the best company we can be and lead the way to a more sustainable chemical industry.”
Nouryon’s success essentially epitomizes the idea of open innovation – a community of researchers and leaders in an industry working together to achieve market-facing goals. This helps smaller companies that are effective in developing technologies and processes connect with big companies that have a focus for the innovations, but not necessarily the resources to come up with it themselves.
Dixie Chemical is a big proponent and participant in open innovation, and has seen the benefits first-hand. The company has partnered with NYU and Evonik to develop syntactic foam research, helping to further the fiber-based composites industry.
Moving Forward in Chemistry
Many success stories stem from this competition. In 2018, 150 ideas were put to the test. In the end, four winners were chosen to receive a joint development award to encourage the idea to market. Fergal Coleman and Alexander Grous, an engineer and technical development manager at Dixie Chemical, worked in partnership with Dixie on a bio-based route to glycidol. Their startup company Green Lizard Technologies was recognized and awarded a joint development agreement with Nouryon (formerly AkzoNobel).
Those interested in participating can submit their ideas to the online community by March 8 (when submission closes) and may receive feedback from experts. 20 finalists will be invited to a three-day chemistry event in May, held at Nouryon’s RD&I center in Deventer, the Netherlands. Thode finalists will then work with chemistry industry experts and business leaders to develop their ideas into a joint value case.
“Imagine Chemistry stands out in the industry due to its collaborative approach. It is a platform that helps bring great innovative solutions to the next level, contributing to our customer needs. I’m looking forward to seeing who we might be working with this year.”
-Peter Nieuwenhuizen, Chief Technology Officer, Nouryon