Focus on sustainability: AkzoNobel joins major innovation programme to solve societal challenges

18 March 2024

Recently, AkzoNobel joined more than 80 other companies, businesses and organisation involved in a major Dutch research programme called Perspectief, which aims to develop new technologies that will help solve some of today’s societal challenges. AkzoNobel will play a leading role in the SusInkCoat project, which will explore how to make inks and coatings more sustainable. PPCJ spoke to Andre van Linden, R&D Director at AkzoNobel Paints & Coatings, to discuss the project 

Q. How did AkzoNobel become involved in the ‘Perspectief’ programme? 

A. We have a long-running relationship with several of the partners. We found that the ‘Perspectief’ programme offered a very good match with our ideas about collaborating with industrial and academic partners on this challenging topic.

Q. Which other companies are involved in the programme? How collaborative will the research projects be?

A. Canon Printing Production, Evonik, GF Biochemicals, RUG Ventures, Chemport Europe and GreenWise Campus are also part of the consortium.

The collaboration will be dependent on the nature of the partner. The work will be carried out through effective collaboration between researchers from different institutes and with the active involvement of the companies. Everything from educational and technical support to ‘theory of change’ discussions is done in teams that fit the challenges. Where some parties will really build the building blocks and materials, AkzoNobel will make coatings from this and test the properties, in line with customer expectations.

Q. Will the R&D on the SusInkCoat project be a continuation of current AkzoNobel R&D projects, or will it be completely new research?

A. The academic work will mainly be new research, but since we’re a big research organisation ourselves, some will be a continuation of (or a different slant on) work we’ve already started in our labs. More importantly, the work in SusInkCoat will eventually be continued in the companies, so that the findings can be applied and find their way into the products of the future.


AkzoNobel joins major innovation programme to solve societal challenges

Q. Three main areas of interest outlined by AkzoNobel are durability, functionality and recyclability. Can you tell us how AkzoNobel is tackling each of these issues and provide a summary of what research projects are being undertaken for each one? 

A. The whole programme is based on the pillars: durability, functionality and recyclability. By using bio-based or recycled materials and sustainable surfactants, we’ll create switchable and adaptive materials which can, for instance, be removed on demand, or improve the functional use of the coating and enhance its lifetime.

Q. Why were these three topics chosen as areas of interest?

A. Our targets in innovation are all around sustainability and these three topics are at the heart of sustainability in current innovative (academic) research. Durability offers the potential to do more with less: the longer the lifetime of a product, the less that’s needed. Functionality offers the possibility to incorporate unique properties. And we focus on recyclability to ensure the materials used can find their way back into new products.

Q. The programme will run for five years. How will this programme contribute to AkzoNobel’s overall sustainability goals in this time?

A. The programme will run over five years, with several university professors and PhD students working on it. During that period, knowledge will gradually be acquired that can be used to introduce novel bio-based materials and circular solutions. To industrialise innovations, time’s needed and it’s difficult to quantify the sustainability gains, but it’s clear that they’ll arrive. We, therefore, expect the biggest impact to be after this programme has ended, when the findings and results can be incorporated into the development of new and improved products.

Q. And finally, what are AkzoNobel’s ultimate sustainability ambitions?

A. AkzoNobel has four key sustainability ambitions for 2030

  • 50% less carbon emissions in our own operations and across the value chain on a 2018 baseline (an absolute target aligned with the Paris Agreement and approved by the Science Based Targets initiative)
  • 50% of revenue from sustainable solutions
  • 100% circular use of materials in our own operations, driven by reduce, reuse and recycle
  • Helping to empower more than 100,000 people in local communities with new skills through training and education.

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