Frequently asked questions
Who can join the challenge?
We are primarily looking for startups with a proof of concept who can actively work on making their idea a success. If you are not a startup, but for example a professor or PhD student who has already developed and tested a concept, you can join as well.
Participants can sign up on the platform as an individual and submit an idea as an individual or as part of a team.
How does the challenge work?
We have a dedicated online challenge platform where participants can submit their ideas. During the submission period from January to mid-March, special challenge teams comprised of subject matter experts work with participants through the platform to enrich and validate their ideas and determine if they are a good fit for AkzoNobel's Specialty Chemicals business. In early April, a jury made up of AkzoNobel Specialty Chemicals business and R&D leaders and prominent international experts then select the most promising ideas as finalists. These finalists will be invited to join the three-day final event from May 29th until June 1st.
During the three-day event, finalists will work closely together with AkzoNobel Specialty Chemicals experts and partners in R&D, finance, innovation and marketing, as well as senior management and potential investors, to further develop their ideas. An expert jury will select the winners on the last day of the event. The winners will receive the customized support they need to scale up their ideas and bring them to market.
What's in it for startups?
During the online phase, participants will gather unique insights from experts that validate, co-develop and judge their ideas within a growing specialty chemicals community, based on true collaboration and shared IP.
During the three-day event, each finalist will get personal feedback from AkzoNobel Specialty Chemicals decision makers. If your team is invited to participate in this phase, we will cover all your travel expenses.
The winning team(s) will be awarded with support and cooperation aimed at bringing their ideas to market. Imagine Chemistry and its partners will provide them with access to customers, investors, subject matter and industry experts, mentorship, an accelerator program, and other support.
Our ultimate goal is to innovate together. This collaboration could take on many forms: a joint development agreement; having AkzoNobel Specialty Chemicals as a launching customer; organizing partnerships across the value chain; or investment in the startup. The awards are hard to monetize up front, but the value will be substantial, especially since we are focused on forming long-term partnerships.
Why has AkzoNobel initiated this challenge and what's in it for them?
We believe that the world of chemistry moves so fast that collaboration is the only way to stay ahead. Imagine Chemistry is about more than acceleration: it is a co-development partnership. It will give you the right access, acceleration and means to develop your concepts and spread them across the world. In turn, it will give AkzoNobel Specialty Chemicals access to the newest innovations to help us achieve our sustainability goals, create new business and valuable partnerships, and improve our own processes. Everybody wins.
What about IP and confidentiality?
We respect ownership of intellectual property rights (IP): your IP remains yours; ours remains ours. What we create together during the event will be our joint IP (yours and ours) and we will provide clear guidance in advance in terms of what we expect from you and what you can expect from us. As organizer of this challenge we will in principle have a first right to use, further develop or exploit this IP together with you. If we decide we are not or no longer interested in such IP, you will have the right to use it with others. Read more about our terms & conditions.
What does a good application look like?
There is no single best approach to submitting an idea. The quality of the idea is the most important factor, not how it looks or how well you sell it. That said, it is important to get people to read your idea in the first place, and the most eye-catching or compelling ideas are the most likely to get read. As such, we recommend that you use a clear and compelling title and make sure there is a clear and brief abstract or management summary. It is also highly recommended to use images and attachments.
Don't worry if your idea isn't perfect yet; the Challenge is all about growing and further developing your idea, and in some cases molding your original idea into a fit for AkzoNobel Specialty Chemicals' business.
Are there any terms and conditions I should know about?
You can find our Terms & conditions here.
How were the startups selected for the three-day event?
The challenge teams on the platform determine which ideas make the cut. These teams consist of people who are experts in their fields or are innovation enthusiasts. Some of the criteria they look at include:
- Relevance to sustainability
- Relevance to the specific challenge area
- Fit to current AkzoNobel Specialty Chemicals technologies and markets
- Impact of the idea in the short term (revenue, quality, scalability, time to market, etc.)
- Quality and maturity of the team
How will I know if I'm selected for the three-day event?
You will be personally contacted and receive a notification by email.
What happens next if I am selected?
One of our challenge team members will be in touch to start planning for the three-day event. The final winning teams will be unveiled at the end of the three-day event in June 2017.
What happens if I am not selected?
Those who did not make it to the finals will receive a message after the finalist are selected. This will happen during the course of March and April. Whether you are selected or not, you have joined a large community of experts and innovation enthusiasts, and we hope that they have helped you in further developing your idea by providing insights, asking the right questions, and validating your assumptions. We will keep all participants informed about what's going on during the remainder of the Challenge.
What will happen during the three-day event?
During the three-day event, finalists will work closely together with AkzoNobel Specialty Chemicals experts and partners in R&D, finance, innovation and marketing, as well as senior management and potential investors, to further develop their solutions through two days of intensive meetings and workshops.
Each finalist team will get personal feedback from the appropriate Business Unit management team. The management team consists of senior level management, such as the business director, chief procurement officer, finance director, director operations, and R&D director, depending on the specific needs and development phase of the finalist team. With this feedback, along with the development areas you have identified yourselves, you will work in small groups with our internal and external experts over several rounds to further develop your concept.
A jury of experts from inside and outside AkzoNobel Specialty Chemicals will then evaluate the finalists based on the proposals they have submitted, as well as feedback resulting from the two days of collaboration. Winners will be selected based on the fit of their idea with AkzoNobel Specialty Chemicals' business objectives and will be announced at the end of the event.
Will my travel costs for the three-day event be reimbursed?
The costs of travel and all other costs related to your stay will be covered for two people per team for each of the selected teams.
What has happened with the winners from the previous Challenge?
AkzoNobel and its partners handed out several types of awards, all focused on enabling the winners to further develop their business. All of last year's winners have a dedicated contact person within AkzoNobel who is responsible for their project. Depending on the project, in-depth discussions and in some cases experiments or other research are ongoing and next steps are being put into place. Everyone involved is very excited to be making progress on co-developing these promising new business opportunities and taking the winners to the next level