Frequently Asked Questions

This page provides answers to frequently asked questions.

About the Challenge

Who can join the challenge?

The 2017 challenge is now closed for submissions, but we will be back with another Imagine Chemistry challenge in 2018!

Generally speaking, we are primarily looking for startups with a proof of concept who can actively work on making their idea or solution 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 apply as well. 

The Challenge is also open to AkzoNobel employees, subject to the same criteria: your concept needs to be mature and tested. Participants can sign up on the platform as an individual and submit an idea or solution as individual or with a team. 

How does the challenge work?

We have a dedicated online challenge platform, operated by KPMG, where participants can submit their solutions. (The platform is now closed for submissions for 2017.)

During the submission period, special challenge teams comprised of subject matter experts work with participants through the platform to enrich and validate their solutions and determine if they are a good fit for AkzoNobel’s business. A jury made up of AkzoNobel business and R&D leaders and prominent international experts then select the most promising ideas as finalists. This year’s finals will take place at AkzoNobel’s RD&I Center in Deventer, the Netherlands, from June 1-3, 2017.

During this event, finalists will work closely together with AkzoNobel experts and partners in R&D, finance, innovation and marketing, as well as senior management and potential investors, to further develop their solutions. Pitches will be presented to the jury, and at the end of the event at least one winning team will be selected. The winners will receive the customized support they need to scale up their solutions and bring them to market.

What's in it for startups?

During the online phase, startups will gather unique insights from experts that validate, co-develop and judge your ideas and solutions 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 decision makers. If your team is invited to participate in this phase, we will cover all your expenses, whether your startup is based in China, Europe or the US.

The winning team(s) will be awarded with support and cooperation in order to bring their ideas to life and to the market. We 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 as a launching customer; organizing partnerships across the value chain; or investment in the startup. This reward is hard to monetize up front, but the value will be substantial. Just imagine the value of having your ideas accelerated and spread across the world…

Why has AkzoNobel initiated this challenge and what’s in it for them?

This initiative is beyond acceleration: it is a co-development partnership. We believe that the world of chemistry moves so fast that collaboration is the only way to stay ahead. This program 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 access to the newest innovations to achieve our sustainability goals, create new business and valuable partnerships and improve our own processes. Everybody wins.

Can I change and update my entry after submitting it?

The 2017 challenge is now closed for submissions and ideas can no longer be changed.

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 concept/solution is the most important factor, not how it looks or how well you sell it. That said, the most eye-catching or compelling ones ideas will get the most attention, so it is important to get people to read your idea in the first place. 

We recommend that you use a clear and compelling title, and make sure there is a clear and brief abstract/management summary. It is 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 or molding your idea into a fit for AkzoNobel’s challenges.

Are there any terms and conditions I should know about?

 You can find our Terms and Conditions here.

How were the startups selected for the three-day event?

The challenge teams on the platform determined which ideas/solutions made the cut. These teams consist of people who are experts in their fields or are innovation enthusiasts. Some of the criteria they looked at:

  1. Relevance to sustainability
  2. Relevance to the specific challenge
  3. Fit to current AkzoNobel technologies and markets
  4. Impact of the idea/solution in the short term (revenue, quality, scalability, time to market, etc.)
  5. 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 mail.

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?

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 or solution 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, each startup will get personal feedback from the appropriate Business Unit management team, which will be deciding whether or not to develop a Joint Development Agreement or other type of collaboration with your startup. The team consists of senior level management, namely the business director, chief procurement officer, finance director, director operations, R&D director, etc. The composition of the team may vary depending on the phase and specifics of the startups we invite. With this feedback, along with the development areas you have identified yourselves, you will work in small teams with our internal and external experts over several rounds to further develop your concept. At the end of the event, the winner(s) will be announced. 

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 2 people per team for each of the selected teams.

Still have questions?

If your question isn’t answered here, don’t hesitate to email