Dick van Beelen
Director of Open Innovation, the Netherlands
My name is Dick van Beelen and I´m the Director of Open Innovation based in Sassenheim, the Netherlands. I joined AkzoNobel in 1981 after first studying chemistry and completing a PhD in Mathematics and Natural Sciences at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands. My thesis was on synthesis and properties of cyclic organolead (IV) compounds.
I have spent most of my working life in R&D management. First at Automotive OEM Coatings, then at Aerospace Coatings and Industrial Coatings before becoming BU R&D director at Aerospace Coating in 1993, a post I held until 2000. From there I moved on to become Director Technology & Innovation at Car Refinishes and then Technical Director Automotive Plastic Coatings, both in Sassenheim, before I took up my current position in 2009.
The first question people ask is what does open innovation mean? It’s quite simple really. It means harnessing all the knowledge we have available to us through a multitude of channels to push our technology forward. We really look to leverage three areas.
One, the untapped expertise available within AkzoNobel. In the past, there was very much a silo mentality here with diffuse pools of unconnected expertise. Often one group was totally unaware of what another group was doing. Secondly, we look to tap into our external relations knowledge base – suppliers, universities, research centers and suchlike. And thirdly, we look to tap into knowledge elsewhere in the world.
This is not meant to be a cost-cutting exercise; we just want to be smarter. After all, why reinvent the wheel when you can make use of another´s expertise? The number of people working in R&D in AkzoNobel is quite large, but is only a fraction of all the R&D people and capabilities around the globe. Our aim as a company is to become more efficient in the way we innovate.
It’s work I love because I’m connecting R&D colleagues from all over the company (and beyond!) to produce innovative results that help us reach our innovation ambitions faster and more effectively. For a scientist, what more could you ask?