Stepping up our
collaborative innovation

Our innovation portfolio is powered by four main drivers: productivity, asset protection, surface enhancement and environmental protection. They consistently guide us on our journey to making a sustainable and long-lasting difference to our customers and the planet.

In early 2020, we made a commitment to reduce the of our own operations by 50% by 2030. This year, we extended that ambition to include our entire value chain (see SBTi approval for carbon reduction target). However, this will only be possible if we innovate and collaborate with our value chain partners. The good news is that several initiatives are already underway.

Collaborative innovation will play a major role in helping us to meet our own sustainability ambitions – and those of our customers.

Klaas KruithofChief Technology Officer
Klaas Kruithof, Chief Technology Officer (photo)

Maintaining the momentum

Building on the success of our industry-first Paint the Future startup challenge, we maintained the momentum by staging a fully virtual challenge event attended by 90 suppliers, which resulted in around 100 possible solutions being submitted.

Meanwhile, our regional startup challenge in China yielded 210 submissions and reached an audience of more than 178 million. Four winning teams entered the accelerator program. We also launched a second global startup challenge, which attracted 245 submissions. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, we had to postpone the bootcamp and finals event planned for November 2021 until early 2022.

Our ambition is to emulate the success of the first global challenge in 2019, which has since resulted in exciting go-to-market developments for two of the winning companies: we’ve partnered with Qlayers following a series of commercial successes for their robotic paint application, and we successfully reached the pilot phase for a new pre-deco filler based on Alucha’s circular raw material (see Circular vision becoming a reality case study).

Collaboration was also a prime objective for founding the ARC Chemical Building Block Consortium, which was set up in 2016 together with various partners, including a number of Dutch universities. We’re seeing some very interesting leads starting to emerge, such as a new photochemistry-based technology for producing novel (coatings) polymers. This research was published in Science magazine – the peer-reviewed academic journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science – with Nobel Prize laureate Ben Feringa (pictured below) as co-author.

Our partnership with the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, on Operation Night Watch also continued. One of our main projects has focused on unlocking the secrets behind Rembrandt’s famous impasto technique – the way he was able to apply paint to give an almost 3D effect. Using the most modern analytical and digital techniques, we’ve been able to design paint formulations that mimic those used by the 17th century master.

Ben Feringa with a Biomass breakthrough (photo)

Product and service innovation in 2021

Let’s take a quick look at some of the innovations we launched during the year. We pioneered a new “Tinder-style” digital tool for finding your ideal decorative paint color match. By swiping a range of interior colors and designs, the intelligent software provides customers with a perfect palette of their favorite shades.

We also brought several products to market with anti-viral properties; developed advanced technologies to protect the motors, battery systems and storage units used in electric vehicles; and introduced chrome-free primers to the coil market in China.

Another notable launch was the Intertrac HullCare sustainable hull management package from our Marine and Protective Coatings business, which you can read about in more detail in the Marine and Protective Coatings chapter.

Carbon footprint

The total amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions caused during a defined period of a product’s lifecycle. It is expressed in terms of the amount of carbon dioxide equivalents CO2(e) emitted. Greenhouse gases include CO2, CO, CH4, N2O and HFCs, which have a global warming impact. We also include the impact of VOCs in our targets.