The 2019 Imagine Chemistry collaborative innovation challenge is now open

Posted on: 08/01/2019

Nouryon has partnered with Unilever, investment companies and startup networks to accelerate innovation in chemistry.

Nouryon have announced that the submission deadline has been extended by 1 week to Friday 15th March 2019.

Nouryon (formerly AkzoNobel Specialty Chemicals) has officially launched the third edition of its Imagine Chemistry collaborative innovation challenge. Through this program, the company invites startups, scale-ups, university spin-outs, and other potential partners to tackle chemistry-related challenges and uncover new ways to create value for customers.

To increase the focus on developing business opportunities from this year’s edition, Nouryon has expanded the number of Imagine Chemistry partners to include Unilever; seed investor High-Tech Gründerfonds; and the Green Chemistry & Commerce Council (GC3), a collaboration that drives the commercial adoption of green chemistry.

Charlie Shaver, CEO of Nouryon, said:

“Innovative solutions that help our customers improve their products, become more competitive and sustainable, and uncover new business opportunities are central to how we work. As partnership is the key to success, we are very pleased to add more organizations to our Imagine Chemistry network, including Unilever, one of our key customers.”

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For the 2019 edition of Imagine Chemistry, Nouryon is looking for solutions in the following five areas:

Sustainable bio-based surfactants for everyone (in partnership with Unilever): Novel bio-based, non-hazardous surfactants, as well as building blocks for new surfactants

Performance-boosting nanoparticles: Small-particle solutions that can make customers’ products more sustainable, durable, and/or functional

Sensing in demanding chemical environments: Innovative sensing solutions to help Nouryon’s chemical processes approach 100% resource efficiency

Label-free chemistries: Products with ingredients that require no chemical warning labeling that can safely and simultaneously control interface and fluid properties

Pushing the frontiers of chemical innovation: An open challenge for innovative ideas on developing more sustainable chemistry


Participants can submit their ideas from today (8th January 2019) via a dedicated online community and receive expert feedback until 15th March, when submission closes. In May 2019, 20 finalists will be invited to an intensive three-day event at the company’s RD&I center at Deventer, the Netherlands, where they will work with experts and business leaders to further develop their ideas into a joint value case.

Peter Nieuwenhuizen, Chief Technology Officer at Nouryon said:

“Imagine Chemistry stands out in the industry due to its collaborative approach. It is a platform that helps bring great innovative solutions to the next level, contributing to our customer needs. I’m looking forward to seeing who we might be working with this year.”

In addition to Unilever, High-Tech Gründerfonds and GC3, Imagine Chemistry is also supported by venture capital firm Icos Capital; research and advisory firm Lux Research; UK innovation agency Knowledge Transfer Network; Dutch accelerator StartupDelta; the European Commission’s Enterprise Europe Network, and S/park, the chemical technology-focused open innovation centre located at Nouryon’s RD&I site in Deventer.

For more information on Imagine Chemistry visit and follow the challenge on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.

Drop-in Webinar, 4 February 2019 (11:00-12:00)

KTN is very pleased to host a free webinar on Monday 4th February 2019, 11:00-12:00, where you can ask questions and find out more about the Imagine Chemistry program. Join us for this free webinar where Nouryon will provide a brief introduction to the Imagine Chemistry program and answer any questions you have regarding the programme mechanics or eligibility of your ideas. Find out more and register here.

KTN also hosted a webinar in partnership with Nouryon in December 2018 to explain how the Imagine Chemistry program works and outline the challenge areas for 2019. If you are interested in this program, but missed the webinar, you can view the recording here.

Note: The challenge “From plastic waste to valuable feedstock” mentioned in the webinar has been removed from the 2019 programme, and a new challenge on “Label-free chemistries” has been added to the programme.

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