Research, Development and Innovation

Sustainability and the reduction of our ecological footprint are embedded in AkzoNobel’s strategy for RD&I and their consideration is inherent throughout the innovation process.

We use our eco-premium solutions metric – which considers the whole lifecycle – as the key performance indicator for our product sustainability performance. Two important focus areas have been VOC reduction and raw materials.

A cross-business group, including RD&I, marketing and product stewardship, has created a comprehensive model of VOC use across the Decorative Paints and Performance Coatings Business Areas. This has provided a thorough analysis of the 2009 VOC baseline and a robust forecast of the position in 2015. AkzoNobel is committed to taking a leadership role in the reduction of VOCs within the coatings industry and plans have been put in place to ensure that a 25 percent reduction in the volume weighted average VOC content of Decorative Paints and Performance Coatings products is achieved by 2015.

Renewable raw materials are already used extensively throughout the company. Our Surface Chemistry business has developed and introduced Alcoguard H5240, an anti-scalant used in automatic dishwashing and laundry detergent applications. Based on hybrid polymer technology in which a substantial proportion of the synthetic petrochemically-derived polymers are replaced by polysaccharides, Alcoguard H5240 has a significantly lower carbon footprint than competitive equivalent products, and its polysaccharide component is fully biodegradable. Hybrid polymers with similar compositions have been commercialized for use in oilfield applications and the technology has been nominated for P2 (pollution prevention) recognition by the US Environmental Protection Agency.

A number of our businesses are evaluating renewable raw materials as offering novel functionality or more sustainable alternatives to mainstream products. We are taking steps with supply chain partners and external bodies to ensure that, where used, renewables offer a genuine sustainability advantage taking social and environmental impacts fully into account.

Industrial Chemicals is developing innovative process technology for the use of carbon dioxide as a renewable basic feedstock. These processes are being developed in line with the principles of Green Chemistry and the targeted products will constitute valuable strategic additions to Industrial Chemicals’ current portfolio. In order to accelerate progress in this relatively young field, a variety of collaborations have been set up with knowledge institutes, universities and industrial partners. In recognition of the highly innovative character and broader significance of these projects, they have recently been granted support by various public funding schemes such as the EU 7th Framework Program and the Dutch Energy Research Subsidies.

Elsewhere, open innovation approaches, both along the value chain as well as through the AkzoNobel Networked Innovation (ANNI) program, have been strengthened as a way of helping us to achieve our innovation ambitions. Strategic partnerships have been set up with key suppliers aimed at establishing long-term relationships in strategically important and mutually beneficial areas of research and development. ANNI has been embedded in the organization as a structured approach to acquiring solutions to unmet technology and know-how needs from within and outside AkzoNobel (together with NineSigma, a global leader in open innovation).

Decorative Paints is making good progress in establishing a global product architecture and raw materials strategy to significantly reduce complexity in the business. The new raw materials strategy being implemented is both reducing the number of raw materials it uses and helping to drive the move towards raw materials with lower ecological footprints. A principal goal of the strategy has been reformulation to reduce the TiO2 content of paint, which is usually the main contributor to its carbon footprint. Further reductions of carbon footprint are being achieved through the choice of latex for water-based paints.

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