Akzo- Imagine Chemistry

In early June, the Imagine Chemistry 2017 Challenge, Powered by KPMG, finals drew to a close with an awards ceremony at the AkzoNobel Specialty Chemicals R&D site in the Netherlands, during which ten winning start-ups were invited to collaborate with AkzoNobel further. It marked the end of one journey and the beginning of another, both for the start-ups who participated, AkzoNobel as well as KPMG.

KPMG and AkzoNobel

To run this global open innovation challenge in the chemicals industry, AkzoNobel and KPMG joined forces to find startups with solutions to create a better world. This unique partnership is the reason the challenge carries the subtitle ‘Powered by KPMG’. When searching for a partner for the Challenge AkzoNobel turned to the consultancy side of KPMG after years of being an audit client.

“KPMG wasn’t at the top of our list” says Rinske van Heiningen, Global Policy Manager Regulatory Affairs and Innovation at AkzoNobel. “However when we met with Ank van Wylick, Partner at KPMG Innovation Consulting, and it turned out she was supported by an ambitious and determined team. You have a great track record in Innovation and Chemistry but with an initiative where everything is different than before, commitment, drive and energy are also deciding factors.”

Over 200 startups joined for the challenge

The Imagine Chemistry Challenge was launched earlier this year, inviting start-ups and researchers to help solve real life challenges faced by AkzoNobel’s Specialty Chemicals business. Over 200 submissions were received from around in the world aimed at helping the business become more sustainable through areas like plastics recycling and eliminating wastewater from chemical sites; ultimately 20 start-ups were invited to join the finals in Deventer.

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Innovating with startups

“Innovation through partnerships with start-ups is central to our growth strategy, and will be critical to our ability to keep meeting customers’ needs and reach our goal of being carbon neutral by 2050,” says Thierry Vanlancker, Executive Committee Member Specialty Chemicals. “The winners’ ideas have the potential for global impact, and we are eager to work together to make industry more sustainable and help make people’s lives more liveable and inspiring.”

True collaboration in a partnership

“We started Imagine Chemistry because we wanted to get infected by the passion of start-ups,” explained Peter Nieuwenhuizen, Global R&D Director for Specialty Chemicals. “We wanted to show our colleagues – and ourselves – that it's good to look outside for new ideas. Now that Imagine Chemistry is over I can say wholeheartedly that we achieved this. We look forward to working with these start-ups and to incorporating this new way of working into the way we approach innovation at AkzoNobel.”

So, what is next?

Imagine Chemistry is planned as a series of events designed to embed open innovation in AkzoNobel’s way of working and forge partnerships with start-ups whose ideas present new opportunities for growth. Following the success of this year’s edition, Imagine Chemistry will take place again in 2018, when the finals will be held in Sweden.

Learn more about how Innovation Factory can help your company, or have a look at some of our infographics, white papers and case studies.

If you would like to know more about Innovation and AkzoNobel or the Imagine Chemistry Challenge, please contact Renata Renema

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