Feature story

The Imagine Chemistry finals begin in Deventer, the Netherlands

In January Nouryon opened the third edition of Imagine Chemistry, through which we invite startups, scale-ups, and researchers around the world to work with us as equal partners to solve real life technical challenges faced by our business.

May 2019

From over 160 submissions, we selected 14 teams to join us at the finals event happening now in Deventer, the Netherlands.

During the first day the finalists enjoyed an intensive program designed to introduce them to Nouryon’s approach to innovation, inspire them, and explore potential fits between the teams and our businesses as well as ways Nouryon could help them move their technologies closer to commercialization.

Staffan Asplund, Director RD&I Surface Chemistry, kicked off the morning program by telling a bit about Nouryon’s businesses, our company history and our recent transformation to become Nouryon, and our approach to innovation.

Marco Waas, Global Director RD&I and Technology at Nouryon, discussed the importance of collaborative innovation and shared many lessons Nouryon has learned from working with startups and researchers. He noted that it is important for our company to be open and understand that startups want to work at a faster pace: “Time for startups is real money. For us a few months’ delay is inconvenient – for a startup it could be life or death.” He also gave an abundance of useful advice regarding how the finalists could best approach a large company with whom they would like to partner.

Neil Parry, R&D program Director Biotechnology & Biosourcing from our partner Unilever, spoke about his company’s journey to move from fossil feedstocks to bio-based ingredients. He challenged the notion that the higher cost of bio-based ingredients would keep them from being competitive, stating: “Don’t start with the cost of ingredients. You need to meet the demand that’s coming from consumers and then price your product accordingly.”

Martijn van Loon, RD&I Operations Manager at Nouryon, wrapped up the morning by advising finalists on how to create a value case and things to keep in mind to facilitate working with partners. He explained that just as it takes time and understanding to best get along with another person, it also takes time and understanding to work best with a partner: “It’s very important to build a relationship in order to arrive at your end goal together.”

In the afternoon the finalists dove into one-on-one sessions with experts featuring discussions and targeted advice on topics like management, marketing, and intellectual property, as well as master classes focused on topics like commercializing green chemistry. 

Thursday’s program starts with a keynote from innovation expert and author Rob Adams, followed by meetings with experts to help the finalists put the finishing touches on their proposals and submit them for consideration by the jury. The winners will be announced on Friday morning – stay tuned to find out who will be working with us to help build a more sustainable future.

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