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The Netherlands: Start-Up Initiative Akzo Nobel Announces Winners of Imagine Chemistry Challenge

Editor: MA Alexander Stark

Ten start-up groups will see their ideas for more sustainable chemistry move a step closer to reality after being named winners of Akzo Nobel's Imagine Chemistry challenge.

The winners (l to r): Hertig, Minty, Austin, Helman and Sanderson
The winners (l to r): Hertig, Minty, Austin, Helman and Sanderson
(Source: Akzo Nobel)

Deventer/The Netherlands — The initiative was launched earlier this year to help solve chemistry-related challenges in categories ranging from revolutionizing plastics recycling, to developing waste water-free chemical sites.

Three overall winners have been awarded joint development agreements with Akzo Nobel's Specialty Chemicals business to help bring their ideas to market.

Jeremy Minty and Andrew Hertig from US-based start-up Ecovia Renewables were awarded for their fermentation technology to make polyglutamic acid, which can be used to make thickeners for personal care products and other uses.

Another US start-up, Industrial Microbes — represented by Noah Helman — has developed a solution to use genetically modified microorganisms to turn CO2 and natural gas into key chemical building blocks, such as ethylene oxide.

Charles Sanderson and Jeremy Austin, from US-based Renmatix, were recognized for their technology to use pressurized water to break down plant biomass into cellulosic products with a range of end-use applications.

"With so many fantastic and promising entries, it was a difficult decision to choose the eventual winners," said Peter Nieuwenhuizen, Global R&D Director for Akzo Nobel Specialty Chemicals. "But we believe these innovations have great potential to address customer needs and contribute to a safer, more sustainable world. We look forward to working with the winning start-ups to turn their ideas into a commercial reality with real global impact."


In addition to the three overall winners, seven other start-ups were awarded prizes, including expert advice and several months of support at Akzo Nobel's Deventer Open Innovation Center in the Netherlands. The company will open up the site's RD&I facilities to start-ups, giving them access to research and testing capabilities normally reserved for large industrial use.

Research agreement with Akzo Nobel

Ufraction8 (UK) — Brian Miller and Monika Tomecka: Scalable, low cost post-bio reactor dewatering.

Rent voucher for the Deventer Open Innovation Center

Inopsys (Belgium) — Steven de Laet and Gertjan de Jong, Belgium: On-site treatment of waste water.

Partner support by Icos Capital and KPMG

Filligrade (the Netherlands) — Wim Nijhof and Johan Kerver: Interactive watermarks for plastics.

Partner support by Lux Research

Logos Technologies — Dan Derr (US): Natural biosurfactants from fermentation.

Chemical research support from Akzo Nobel

Cadel Deinking (Spain) — Adriana Pineda: Waste-based recycling technology for plastics.

MISQ (the Netherlands) — Gertjan de Jong: Miscanthus grass as sustainable source of cellulose.

University of California (US) — Mark Mascal: Green alternative to wood pulping.

Commenting on the winners, Thierry Vanlancker, Akzo Nobel's Executive Committee member responsible for Specialty Chemicals, said: "Partnerships with start-ups and like-minded companies form a key part of our innovation approach and strategy to accelerate growth. These ideas prove that there is tremendous scope for innovations that can revolutionize what many view as a mature industry. Together, we can make the industry more sustainable and realize the solutions of tomorrow."

More than 200 firms submitted ideas for the contest, with the winners being chosen from a group of 20 finalists at a three-day event held at the company's Deventer Open Innovation Center. During the event, more than 90 experts from Akzo Nobel and partner organizations including KPMG and Lux Research worked with the startups to further develop their ideas and define a clear route to market.

Organized in partnership with KPMG, Imagine Chemistry is part of a series of activities by the company to increase its focus on open innovation and form links with start-up companies to identify new opportunities for growth. Following the success of the first edition, Imagine Chemistry will be launched again in 2018, when the finals will be held at the company's research facilities near Gothenburg in Sweden.

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