AMSTERDAM — Surfactants derived from plants, eco-friendly membranes, and miniature sensors were among the eight winning ideas in the 2019 Imagine Chemistry collaborative innovation challenge, organized by Nouryon (formerly AkzoNobel Specialty Chemicals). More than 160 submissions from 30 countries were received, and the winners were chosen from 14 finalists at a three-day event at the company’s RD&I center in Deventer, the Netherlands. 

Two overall winners were awarded joint development agreements (JDA): Sironix Renewables (United States) received a JDA from Nouryon and Imagine Chemistry partner Unilever for its technology to make surfactants from plants; and Ionomr (Canada) received a JDA from Nouryon for its eco-friendly membrane technology.

  • Six other groups will receive the following awards:
  • Ingu Solutions (Canada) – supply agreement with Nouryon for its miniaturized pipeline sensors;
  • RISE (Sweden) – research agreement with Nouryon for its technology to modify the surface of nanoparticles;
  • Intelligent Fluids (Germany) – research agreement with Nouryon plus partner support by ICOS Capital for its physics-based cleaning fluids;
  • Cambridge Carbon Capture (U.K.) – partner support by Lux Research for its technology to capture and convert CO2 into a saleable mineral;
  • Arenal Process Control Solutions (the Netherlands) – chemical research support for its ultrasonic and thermal sensors for monitoring production processes; and
  • The University of Sheffield and Entomics (U.K.) – chemical research support by Nouryon for its insect-derived surfactants.

“Collaborative innovation is essential to create value and develop the solutions our customers need,” said Renier Vree, Nouryon’s CFO and Chairman of the Imagine Chemistry jury. “The conversations between finalists and experts from inside and outside the company were very open-minded and collaboration-focused. Developing value cases for joint development of products, research as well as supply will help us to better achieve our growth ambitions.”

Christoph Krumm, CEO and co-founder of Sironix Renewables, said, “The plant-based molecule we developed serves as both a surfactant and chelating agent, eliminating the need for co-formulated chemicals in detergents. Imagine Chemistry was an invaluable opportunity for us to learn from Nouryon and Unilever experts and business leaders, and to come up with a plan to further develop our technology.”

Bill Haberlin, CEO of Ionomr, said, “We aim to replace toxic chemicals in electrochemical applications and have the most stable alternative to enable significant cost reductions. This award really validates the work we are doing, and will accelerate the adoption and scale-up of our technology.”

Since 2017, Imagine Chemistry has generated more than 500 innovative ideas, and Nouryon will focus on a Go-to-Market program to make sure that as many as possible reach commercialization, said Marco Waas, Director RD&I Industrial Chemistry. “Examples include projects focused on circular chemistry and Industry 4.0 that can substantially enhance our sustainability profile and deliver more value to our customers.”