ICIS Innovation Awards: here are the winners

ICIS, the trusted information provider for the global chemical and energy industries, reveals that AkzoNobel has been chosen as the overall winner in the ICIS Innovation Awards for 2017. Among the others, there are Dow Chemical, Genomatica, Adroit Pharmachem, Enerkem.

AkzoNobel's entry for its Interline 9001 advanced coating system for ship's cargo tanks also won the Best Product Innovation category, sponsored by management consultancy Accenture. The novel BiModal polymer formulation and curing technology that underlies Interline 9001 has enabled AkzoNobel to take a greater than half share of total global chemical tanker new-build volume in 2016.
The innovation is based on patented BiModal technology, whereby the coating is formulated at lower stoichiometry than conventional epoxy amine systems and undergoes initial conventional cure at room temperature before being subjected to a high temperature post-cure, which induces homopolymerisation of unreacted epoxy groups in the presence of a catalyst. This delivers very high conversion and results in a highly cross-linked network, which is the basis of the step change in chemical resistance, says AkzoNobel.
The innovation was judged the clear winner by the panel of seven leading industry innovation experts. The judges commented on its rapid success in the market and the scale of the benefits on offer to users.

Other winners in the ICIS innovation awards this year were: 
· Best Process Innovation - and overall special mention 
Dow Chemical - Fluidised catalytic dehydrogenation process (FCDh)
· Best Innovation by an SME, sponsored by ExxonMobil Chemical
Genomatica - GENO BG: a more natural, sustainable way to make butylene glycol
· Innovation with Best Benefit to Environment or Sustainability, sponsored by U.S. Chemicals
Enerkem - Driving the circular economy by converting waste to everyday goods
· Alpha innovator of the year - New Product Development/Process Optimisation 
Muralidhar Ingale, Adroit Pharmachem - A cost-effective process for converting waste ammonia and CO2 into phthalocyanine compounds via intermediates
· Alpha innovator of the year - Environment/Sustainability
Dr Mei Li, Dow AgroSciences - Design, implementation and commercialisation of three novel agrochemical products

John Baker, ICIS editor and organiser of the Awards, commented that: "This year's entries led to the creation of a very strong short-list of entries. The judging discussion as ever was very robust but in the end AkzoNobel was a clear winner overall. A
s in previous years, the innovations before the judges showcased a wide range of excellent products and processes, with the potential to make important impacts in their respective markets and reduce environmental impacts. All the winners demonstrate not only that innovation is well and truly alive in the chemical industry but that this innovation brings benefits not only to companies and their customers but the environment as well. And it helps the sustainability of the business of chemicals."

Akzo Nobel’s Interline 9001
Interline 9001 is based on patented BiModal technology. The coating is formulated at lower stoichiometry than conventional epoxy amine systems and undergoes initial conventional cure at room temperature before being subjected to a high temperature post-cure, which induces homopolymerisation of unreacted epoxy groups in the presence of a catalyst.
This delivers very high conversion and therefore results in a very highly cross-linked network. This is the basis of the step change in chemical resistance.
The judges were impressed by the scope of the benefits offered by the innovation and the scale of its commercial impact. Interline 9001 offers superior chemical resistance, easier and more efficient tank cleaning, performance longevity and lower environmental impact. A decrease in operational costs is achieved by reducing cleaning time and materials by up to 70%.
AkzoNobel is no stranger to success in the ICIS Innovation Awards. It was the overall winner in 2015, with its Intersleek 1100SR patented slime release technology for coating ship’s hulls. Again, this offered economic and environmental benefits on a large scale and impressed that year’s panel of judges.
For the first time, the judges also recommended one of the other category winners for a special overall mention. So step forward Dow Chemical and its fluidised catalytic dehydrogenation (FCDh) process, which has the potential to decrease capital cost and energy usage in converting propane into propylene.
With the shift to ethane cracking in the US driven by the shale gas revolution, propylene is in tight supply and current propane dehydrogenation processes are not tailored to efficiently manage catalyst activity, heat input, reaction equilibrium, and unselective thermal reactions, comments Dow.

Dow FCDh process
The FCDh process won the Best Process Innovation category as the judges were particularly impressed by the selectivity of the catalyst and the high conversion rates achieved. The Dow process utilises a proprietary catalyst and design to achieve 45% propane conversion at 93mol% selectivity to propylene, with greater than 20% capital cost savings.
Dow says the FCDh process is a revolutionary platform reactor technology, with potentially numerous applications. It can be easily integrated into existing or new ethylene crackers enabling increased production or tailoring the facility for the desired amount of ethylene and propylene production.
Additionally, the reactors can be used to build new or retrofit existing ethylbenzene to styrene dehydrogenation facilities, butane to butene, or isobutane to isobutene plants. C4 dehydrogenation units can be integrated into refineries to upgrade butane or isobutane for use in the alkylation section to produce alkylate.
The other two company categories were won by Canada’s Enerkem (Innovation with Best Benefit for the Environment and Sustainability), which has developed and commercially implemented a large-scale municipal waste to chemicals technology; and California, US-based Genomatica (Best Innovation by a Small or Medium-sized Enterprise), for its novel process to produce 1,3-butylene glycol by fermentation of common sugars.
Alongside the company awards, this year ICIS and Elsevier’s R&D Solutions, the overall sponsor of the awards, have again recognised individual efforts and expertise in chemicals innovation. Our congratulations go to
Muralidhar Ingale of Adroit Pharmachem in Vadodara, India, for his development of a process to reduce waste in the production of copper phthalocyanine, and to Dr Mei Li of Dow AgroSciences in Indianapolis, Indiana, for her work in the design, implementation and commercialisation of a number of novel agricultural products.

There was a strong emphasis on the commercial impact of the innovations under consideration this year, with judges looking for indications amongst the short-listed entries of the innovation having been brought to market and with the potential to have a reasonable impact in the marketplace.
The judges also looked at the significance of the innovation in terms of difficulty to achieve and the magnitude of the change it creates in the market. In the Best Product
Innovation category, for instance, the AkzoNobel stood out as a clear winner given its rapid success in the market and the scale of the benefits on offer to users.
Mike McKenna, chief operating officer of US distributor Maroon Group, summed it up when he commented that Interline 9001 has been presented as a “finished, formulated solution with broad-based impact,” given the huge amount of chemical cargo activity. He also queried whether the coating would have wider use in rail transport as well as shipping, giving better discharge from rail containers.
The panel were intrigued by the Teijin entry of piezoelectric materials made from polylactic acid (PLA) for use in lightweight sensing and actuating applications. But as Pierre Barthelemy, executive director for research and innovation at Cefic, remarked, “It is interesting to see how specific functionalities can be developed from new, biobased polymers. However, it is not obvious from the entry where it is in terms of commercialisation.”
The Dow Chemical/Total entry detailing the use of oil-soluble polyalkylene glycols in engine oils also attracted support, but the judges questioned whether the innovation was rather more incremental than a real breakthrough.
In the Best Process Innovation category, the Dow FCDh entry was a clear winner, given the performance achieved by the process. As David Woods, opportunity identification manager, new product platforms, at ExxonMobil Chemical, commented, this is a “really nice process. The 40% yield/pass is phenomenal and the [catalyst] activity is high. It is also important that the technology can be retrofitted.”
Just Jansz added that “there is a large and growing global market opportunity for on-purpose production of propylene, as less propylene is being produced by steam crackers running on lighter feeds, for example ethane.”
Of the other two short-listed entries in this category, Clariant’s Veritrax digital chemical management system for use in the oil and gas industry was judged to be perhaps not that novel nor technically a process, while the Versalis technology for advanced styrenic polymers was thought interesting but to be part of the company’s ongoing improvement of long-held overall expertise in this area and thus not representing a step-change in the marketplace.
Veritrax, however, was thought to have the merit that it was widely applicable and timely in the oil services market, given the cost pressures in production from low oil prices.
As Peter Nieuwenhuizen, global RD&I director specialty chemicals at AkzoNobel, commented: “A lot of companies are trying to sell outcomes these days, rather than just products… and the Veritrax system help deal with the difficult problem of control of oil field chemicals.

Best innovation by an SME
The Best Innovation by an SME category saw a lengthy debate on the merits of the three shortlisted entries, before the Genomatica entry on a new biobased process to make 1,3-butylene glycol (BG) won the day. The technology, dubbed GENO BG, provides a high-quality, natural and sustainably-sourced glycol that has the potential for high appeal in cosmetics and as a high-quality product for industrial uses, says the company.
The GENO BG process contrasts with the conventional means of making BG starting with acetaldehyde, which is toxic, an irritant and a carcinogen. GENO BG also enables new markets in sports drinks and medical supplements. Genomatica harnesses the selectivity of biology to produce an especially pure BG. This has the potential to simplify the overall process while delivering a more desirable product.
Just Jansz, business and technology consultant and founder of Expertise Beyond Borders, commented that the Genomatica innovation “is a big step forward”. He explained that for him it has two key benefits: it is a biobased product that can address the personal care market because of its single enantiomer form, and that “the biobased process has considerably lower manufacturing costs” than the petrochemical-derived route.

Leading the field
Paul Bjacek, principal director and leader of Accenture’s chemicals and natural resources strategic research, added that Genomatica is a “good example of commercialisation” of biobased processes and has effectively led the field in recent years, with its bio-BDO and now bio-BG.
The short-listed Cellucomp and Avertana innovations both attracted plenty of support from the panelists, but lost out in the end due to their perceived more limited scale and scope of applicability.
The final company category, Innovation with Best Benefit for the Environment or Sustainability, also generated extensive discussion on the four diverse short-listed innovations. But again, the commercialisation of the innovation and likely future impact was a deciding factor in giving the category award to Enerkem.
After 15 years of development, the company is now running a full-scale facility in
Edmonton, Canada, transforming municipal solid waste to useful chemicals such as methanol and ethanol using waste gasification and a Fischer-Tropsch catalytic reaction.
The technology in fact won an ICIS Innovation Award back in 2015 in the Best Business Innovation category, but the judges felt this year’s entry, focusing on the environmental and sustainability merits of the innovation, merited an award this year in this category.
As Just Jansz commented, “Enerkem has now achieved full-scale commercialisation, which is a formidable achievement for any new process technology.”
Of the other challengers in this category, the Kemira process to recycle starch during packaging board making was deemed significant, but again the early stage of development played against it. As Christina Valimaki, senior director, chemicals segment marketing at Elsevier’s R&D Solutions, pointed out, “The packaging board market is seeing rapid growth and the innovation has the potential to have a sizable impact.”

The judges
· Christina Valimaki is senior director, chemicals segment marketing, for Elsevier, a leading provider of information solutions to science, health and technology professionals. She has an MBA from Harvard Business School.
· David Woods is opportunity identification manager, new product platforms, at ExxonMobil Chemical, based in Baytown, Texas, US. He manages the pursuit of new product opportunities.
· Just Jansz is an independent board member and advisor, and founder and MD of business and technology management consultancy Expertise Beyond Borders. He has 30 years of experience with LyondellBasell and its predecessors.
· Mike McKenna is chief operating officer for Maroon Group, a North American specialty chemical and ingredients distributor. He is responsible for operational excellence, global supply partnerships and marketing, and is a member of the company’s M&A team.
· Peter Nieuwenhuizen is global research, development and innovation director, specialty chemicals, at AkzoNobel, where he is focused on making chemistry both more profitable and sustainable. He joined the company in 2011 after five years at consultancy AD Little. He has a PhD from Leiden University.
· Pierre Barthelemy is executive director for research and innovation at Cefic, representing the priorities of the chemical industry towards the EU institutions for innovation-related aspects. He joined Solvay in 1988 and was seconded to Cefic in 2014. He has a PhD from the University of Liege, Belgium.
· Paul Bjacek is principal director and lead for Accenture’s chemicals and natural resources strategic research, with over 25 years’ experience in the process industries, including project activities in manufacturing, marketing and distribution. He has a master’s degree from LSE in London and a BSc in chemistry and business.



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