Innovation calls for new ideas and out-of-the-box thinking
Sometimes when I’m working on something, I spend months totally immersed in my project or task. I don’t feel I need any help, in my mind I have covered all of the angles and possibilities. Then suddenly, a new person comes in and takes a look at my project from another perspective and instantly asks me a question or has an idea that completely catches me off guard.
When this happens, it doesn’t mean that you’re stupid or not qualified for your job – it simply shows us that outside influences, new perspectives and out-of-the-box thinking is absolutely necessary in every project and something that we should really encourage in our workplaces.
The same goes for the Research & Development (R&D) departments at big chemical companies. Even though they might have the best of the best working in these departments, it’s still very easy for them to get stuck in their daily routines and well-trodden paths.
“New perspectives and out-of-the-box thinking is absolutely necessary in every project”
For this reason, I’m very glad to see that many of them are now opening up and asking for new ideas and out-of-the-box thinking through so-called innovation calls. These innovation calls are essentially public challenges organised by the companies where they invite start-ups and other innovators to present novel solutions to a variety of challenges within the chemical space.
One example is the Imagine Chemistry Challenge organised by Nouryon (formerly known as AkzoNobel). This year’s challenge covered topics such as biobased surfactants, performance-boosting nano particles and label-free chemistry and received over 160 ideas from start-ups and other innovators.
“Big chemical companies should really acknowledge this trend and engage fresh and energetic minds from the outside to stay ahead of the game”
Another example is the Green Chemistry & Commerce Council (GC3), which will hold its fourth annual GC3 Technology Showcase this spring.
The innovation call that ended earlier this year asked start-ups to present chemical innovations in fifteen different areas including flame retardants, adhesives, pigments and coating technologies.
Up to ten start-ups will then be selected to participate in a pitch competition in front of investors and major companies at an event in May.
Yet another call for innovation can be found on Marketplace. In the section called Requests, companies and organisations request solutions to specific chemical problems, offering insight into where innovation is needed.
The reason for posting requests on Marketplace is to find out which safer solutions are already out there on the market and – if there aren’t any – to spark the interest and motivate solution providers to innovate and help solve the issue.
It’s clear that tech start-ups and other innovators have an exciting time in front of them as the demand for safer solutions is on the rise. Big chemical companies should really acknowledge this trend and engage fresh and energetic minds from the outside to stay ahead of the game.
Senior Business and Investors Advisor