WaterKnight, Green Lizard, Solugen, Fero Labs win at AkzoNobel’s Imagine Chemistry start-up event

June 11, 2018 |

In Sweden, AkzoNobel Specialty Chemicals named 10 start-ups and chemical researchers as winners of the 2018 edition of AkzoNobel Specialty Chemicals’ Imagine Chemistry challenge.

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. Imagine Chemistry was launched to help solve real-life chemistry-related challenges and uncover sustainable business opportunities. The 2018 edition generated 150 innovative ideas from startups, scale-ups, scientists and others.

The winners were chosen from a group of 20 finalists at a 3-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.

4 Joint Development Agreements announced

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

Water Knight— advanced oxidation reactor technology, which is used for intensifying wastewater treatment in industries with complex effluents.

Green Lizard Technologies, working in partnership with Dixie Chemical— bio-based route to glycidol, which can be used in the production of nonionic surfactants.

Solugen — green process to make hydrogen peroxide that has the potential to replace technology that has remained unchanged since the 1930s.

Fero Labs— machine learning software, which can be used to predict quality issues and production bottlenecks and improve key process parameters.

Other 2018 winners

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.

Reaction from AkzoNobel

“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.”

The winners in detail

Polyglyceryl ether nonionic surfactants from bioderived glycidol (Zero-footprint surfactant platforms)

Fergal Coleman, Green Lizard Technologies, UK

Green Lizard Technology, together with partners Felda Global Ventures and Dixie Chemicals, are currently piloting a process for the production of 2,3-epoxy-1-propanol (EP) (also known as glycidol) on a scale of 50 kg/day. They have also completed a full conceptual process design and techno-economic analysis for a 10 kt/year plant. The total production cost for glycidol is expected to be a fraction of the current market price, which has hindered its uptake in a range of high volume applications, such as coatings, thermosets and surfactants.

In addition, the byproduct polyglycerols find application in polyurethanes and polyesters production, as polymer and food additives, as demulsifiers, and in drilling fluid formulations. Reaction of glycidol with a fatty alcohol gives a fully bioderived, highly biodegradable polyglyceryl ether nonionic surfactant, in an analogous process to the production of glycol ether surfactants from ethylene oxide (EO).

A range of these surfactants have been synthesized from C10 – C18 fatty alcohols with varying equivalents of glycidol. Glycidol surfactants produced in this way have properties comparable to the corresponding EO-derived surfactants and require less glycidol by weight to produce. Target applications for these surfactants include detergents, foaming agents, wetting agents and emulsifiers.

To make this idea a success, GLT needs a partner with strong technical expertise in the surfactants area as well as industry guidance on which surfactants and applications to target for commercializing this process.

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