In January of this year we launched the second edition of the Imagine Chemistry challenge, inviting innovators from around the world to help us solve real life chemistry challenges faced by our business. From over 150 submissions, we selected 20 teams to join us at the finals event which is currently taking place in Gothenburg, Sweden.

During the first day of the Challenge the finalists were immersed in a productive and thought provoking program designed to give them a feel for AkzoNobel’s approach to innovation, inspire them, and explore and discuss potential fits between the startups and AkzoNobel’s businesses as well as ways AkzoNobel could help them develop their business.

Peter Nieuwenhuizen, Global RD&I Director Specialty Chemicals, started the morning’s program with an explanation of how AkzoNobel is using collaborative innovation to transform the way we do business. According to Peter, “We are here because we believe that partnering is a tremendous enabler to address the challenges that we face as an industry and society.”

Ben Dolman addresses the audience
Ben Dolman adressing the crowd

Following Peter was Ben Dolman from the University of Manchester, a participant from last year’s challenge. In an inspiring talk, he described his supportive and overwhelmingly positive experience at Imagine Chemistry, saying “AkzoNobel want to work with YOU, not just your technology!” He went on to explain how it and other collaborations helped fuel what turned out to be an extremely productive year for his startup.

Wrapping up the morning program was Magnus Björsne of pharma company AstraZeneca’s BioVentureHub, a startup hub they've established in the middle of one of their R&D sites – similar to what we’ll do with our new S/Park initiative. He shared many insights from their experience of working with partners, including this wise advice: “Don’t be greedy. Be generous and go for the win-win. Otherwise the collaboration won’t work in the long-term.”

Having warmed up their thinking muscles, the finalist teams broke out 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 regulations and AkzoNobel’s approach to collaboration.  

The reception from participants seemed enthusiastic and positive. Many participants mentioned the intensity of the discussions and the openness of the AkzoNobel experts. One finalist summed it up thusly: "The event is going great so far. Everyone is so open and sharing so much.”

Thursday’s program features a keynote from Polymer Chemistry leader Johan Landfors, followed by a final burst of expert consultations as the startups hustle to finalize and submit their proposals by Thursday afternoon. 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!

James Robertson from Invert Robotics demonstrates their climbing robot
James Robertson from Invert Robotics demonstrates their climbing robot