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

The initiative was launched earlier this year to help solve chemistry-related challenges in categories ranging from revolutionizing plastics recycling, to developing wastewater-free chemical sites.

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

Jeremy Minty and Andrew Hertig from U.S.-based startup Ecovia Renewables were selected for their fermentation technology to make polyglutamic acid, which can be used to make thickeners for personal care products and other uses.

Another U.S. startup, 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 U.S.-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 AkzoNobel 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 startups to turn their ideas into a commercial reality with real global impact.”

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