Media release

AkzoNobel Specialty Chemicals announces 2018 Imagine Chemistry winners

1 Jun 2018 - News

Another group of 10 start-ups and chemical researchers will see their ideas move a step closer to commercialization after being named winners of the 2018 edition of AkzoNobel Specialty Chemicals’ Imagine Chemistry-challenge.

Imagine Chemistry was launched to help solve real-life chemistry-related challenges and uncover sustainable business opportunities. The 2018 edition generated no less than 150 innovative ideas from startups, scale-ups, scientists and others.

Four overall winners (listed below) received joint development awards with AkzoNobel Specialty Chemicals to help bring their ideas to market.

Rahul Dahule and Ranjeet Utikar from Dutch start-up Water Knight were awarded for their advanced oxidation reactor technology, which is used for intensifying wastewater treatment in industries with complex effluents.

Fergal Coleman and Alexander Grous from UK startup Green Lizard Technologies, working in partnership with Dixie Chemical, were recognized for their bio-based route to glycidol, which can be used in the production of nonionic surfactants.

Gaurab Chakrabarti and Sean Hunt from US firm Solugen were recognized for their green process to make hydrogen peroxide that has the potential to replace technology that has remained unchanged since the 1930s.

Another US firm, Fero Labs – represented by Berk Birand and, Alp Kucukelbir, were awarded for their machine learning software, which can be used to predict quality issues and production bottlenecks and improve key process parameters.

“This was truly a crop of fantastic and promising entries, and I think each of these can bring something to the solutions that we have been seeking,” said Peter Nieuwenhuizen, Chief Technology Officer at AkzoNobel Specialty Chemicals. “This made it truly a challenge to decide on the winners. This final selection holds great potential to address customer needs and contribute to a sustainable future.”

In addition, the following groups were awarded prizes including expert advice and support at AkzoNobel’s S/park open innovation center at Deventer, the Netherlands.

Research agreement with AkzoNobel Specialty Chemicals: 
University of Nottingham (UK) – Ifty Ahmed and Belinda Good; porous microspheres from glass and glass ceramic materials.

Chemical research support from AkzoNobel Specialty Chemicals:
Edinburgh Napier University (UK) – Mark Dorris and Dominic O’Rourke; Cellulose nanofibrils derived from seaweed

Partner support by KPMG:
Invert Robotics (the Netherlands) – Hans Prein, James Robertson and Robert Mandjes; robotic inspection for tanks and other equipment.

Partner support by ICOS:
Semiotic Labs (the Netherlands) – Gerben Gooijers and Simon Jagers; smart asset monitoring service for motors and rotating equipment.

Partner support by LuxResearch:
Fraunhofer UMSICHT  (Germany) – Axel Kraft and Martin Peters; catalytic process for making alcohols from more sustainable raw materials.

Partner support by Chalmers Ventures:  
FineCell (Sweden) –  Kloce Dongfang Li, Monica Ek and Jonatan Henschen; process for the production of nanocellulose.

The winners were chosen from a group of 20 finalists at a three-day event held at Chalmers University in Gothenburg, Sweden. During the event, more than 90 company experts and partner organizations worked with the startups to further develop their ideas and define a clear route to market.

To meet its sustainability and growth ambitions, AkzoNobel Specialty Chemicals continues to forge an innovation ecosystem around a model of collaborative innovation. This is built on its global network of RD&I centers including its S/park open innovation center in the Netherlands, partnerships with leading universities and institutes, participation in venture capital funding, collaborations across the value chain and the Imagine Chemistry challenge, powered by KPMG.

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