Ten startups will see their ideas for more sustainable chemistry move a step closer to reality after being named winners of AkzoNobel’s Imagine Chemistry Challenge.

The initiative was launched earlier this year to help solve chemistry-related challenges in categories ranging from revolutionizing plastics recycling, to developing waste water-free chemical sites.

Three overall winners (listed below) have been awarded joint development agreements with AkzoNobel’s Specialty Chemicals business to help bring their ideas to market.

Jeremy Minty and Andrew Hertig from US-based startup Ecovia Renewables were awarded for their fermentation technology to make polyglutamic acid, which can be used to make thickeners for personal care products and other uses.

Another US startup, Industrial Microbes – represented by Noah Helman – has developed a solution to use genetically modified microorganisms to turn CO2 and natural gas into key chemical building blocks, such as ethylene oxide.

Charles Sanderson and Jeremy Austin, from US-based Renmatix, were recognized for their technology to use pressurized water to break down plant biomass into cellulosic products with a range of end-use applications.

“With so many fantastic and promising entries, it was a difficult decision to choose the eventual winners,” said Peter Nieuwenhuizen, Global RD&I Director for AkzoNobel Specialty Chemicals. “But we believe these innovations have great potential to address customer needs and contribute to a safer, more sustainable world. We look forward to working with the winning startups to turn their ideas into a commercial reality with real global impact.”

In addition to the three overall winners, seven other startups (listed below) were awarded prizes, including expert advice and several months of support at AkzoNobel’s Deventer Open Innovation Center in the Netherlands. The company will open up the site’s RD&I facilities to startups, giving them access to research and testing capabilities normally reserved for large industrial use.

Commenting on the winners, Thierry Vanlancker, AkzoNobel’s Executive Committee member responsible for Specialty Chemicals, said: “Partnerships with startups and like-minded companies form a key part of our innovation approach and strategy to accelerate growth. These ideas prove that there is tremendous scope for innovations that can revolutionize what many view as a mature industry. Together, we can make the industry more sustainable and realize the solutions of tomorrow.”

More than 200 firms submitted ideas for the contest, with the winners being chosen from a group of 20 finalists at a three-day event held at AkzoNobel’s Deventer Open Innovation Center. During the event, more than 90 experts from AkzoNobel and partner organizations including KPMG and Lux Research worked with the startups to further develop their ideas and define a clear route to market.

Organized in partnership with KPMG, Imagine Chemistry is part of a series of activities by AkzoNobel to increase its focus on open innovation and form links with startups to identify new opportunities for growth. Following the success of the first edition, Imagine Chemistry will be launched again in 2018, when the finals will be held at the company’s research facilities near Gothenburg in Sweden.