Paint the Future

AkzoNobel’s journey to making a sustainable impact through collaboration

We sat down with Mignon d’Arnaud, Program Manager of Paint the Future, for a unique insight into her mission to transform the paints and coatings industry. Read on to discover how her vision of “collaboration beyond boundaries” is shaping the future of sustainability and innovation. 

Let’s start off with an easy one: What is Paint the Future?

Paint the Future, led by AkzoNobel, is the largest collaborative innovation ecosystem in paints and coatings. It’s a bold initiative that runs a variety of programs to accelerate, test, launch and scale solutions for the paints and coatings industry. Initially open to startups, it was quickly expanded to embrace customers, suppliers and even the full value chain. As the ecosystem continues to grow and build on the success of each program, it’s become the largest in the industry.


How does it work?

At Paint the Future, we drive open innovation through a three step process. First, we define the challenge using AkzoNobel's expertise and input from our ecosystem. Then we call on innovators to contribute solutions. Next, we form cross-functional teams with internal and external stakeholders to accelerate bringing tangible solutions to market. By leveraging diverse perspectives and collaboration, we foster meaningful innovation in our industry.


What have you accomplished so far?

Paint the Future has positioned itself as a recognized innovation brand in the paints and coatings industry. With over 10,000 program participants, including global as well as regional challenges in Brazil, China and India, 3,000 partnering companies and the launch of 29 collaborations, our initiative has fostered a culture of innovation and collaboration. Building on this success, we now aim to scale our collaborations across the different value chains. We’re seeking to establish partnerships that accelerate achieving our ambitious sustainability goals and reduce our collective carbon footprint through a series of customer and value chain challenges that allow us to bring tangible results to market together.


What is the biggest challenge of running Paint the Future?

The key challenge in running Paint the Future is aligning participants and stakeholders from various levels and organizations to a common goal. As you can imagine, these differing perspectives result in some lively discussions. However, by ensuring transparency and providing a platform for opinions, these discussions add value and enhance participant ownership. As a result, with each iteration of the program, Paint the Future grows strong – which creates a bigger impact.


What sets Paint the Future apart from other initiatives?

Paint the Future sets itself apart by prioritizing tangible results, building brand recognition, and fostering a cultural shift. Through the creation of a secure space for exploration, it encourages collaboration, promotes understanding of global challenges, and positions itself as a trusted partner in advancing sustainability through coatings. It's not just about talking the talk; Paint the Future also walks the walk, taking concrete actions to make a lasting impact.

What is your ultimate goal?

We’ve already achieved a great deal in the past five years. At the same time, there are still more opportunities out there than we can possibly imagine and we want to be ready for them. Our ultimate goal for Paint the Future is to be able to deliver sustainable solutions on demand at scale through a self-sustaining ecosystem. To achieve this, we’ll continue to run innovation programs together with our partners and further develop our networked, cross-functional, inter-company way of working.


There’ll be some exciting news about our new Paint the Future programs in November. Stay tuned for the big reveal when we announce our value chain partners and the topic of our next challenge – follow us on social media for updates.

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