Stirring things up with Paint the Future, AkzoNobel’s startup innovation challenge

I’m excited to share that AkzoNobel has just announced Paint the Future – our open innovation challenge. We’re looking for the world’s newest and most revolutionary ideas to help us develop solutions to surprise and satisfy our customers, and change the world too.

We need each other

It’s time. We need to reach out to find those new technologies and innovations we haven’t thought of yet, or that we have so far considered too complicated to realize by ourselves.

We know startups and scale-ups are working on all kinds of ingenious ideas that will accelerate innovation in paints and coatings – either dramatically improving our current products and services, or enabling us to offer entirely new ones. At the same time, they could really use the added boost of our knowledge, know-how, vast resources and global scope. That’s why our Paint the Future challenge takes a synergistic approach.

Ultimately, we look to team up with the winners in a win-win for both. But even without winning, there is much to benefit from the challenge journey – access to valuable advice, experience, feedback and connections to help startups grow their companies, build their business cases, transition faster to market and even accelerate their solutions globally.

Painting the future together

The challenge is really the icing on a cake we’ve already been baking for a long time as a technology-driven paints and coatings company. We’ve already developed paint that can clean the air, withstand extreme heat, reduce drag and fuel consumption, for example.

But we find ourselves continually asking what else can we do, or can we do it better? Now we ask: who can help us do it?

Paint the Future gives us a chance to experiment, explore the unknown and grow together with a vibrant community of innovators and industry experts.

Leading with innovation

As the Chief Technology Officer at AkzoNobel, I appreciate the need and opportunity in product innovation. The next step change is often just around the corner, and we’d better get to it first before our competitors do. That means a shift in how we work is already well underway, with innovation underpinning our strategy.

With that in mind, we are also very well aware that the next technology challenge is coming from outside the house, not from within. A classic example, overhead projector sheets – remember those? The world was quick to jump on new technology, rendering those sheets all but obsolete, leaving the business of the sheet supplier behind.

If we want to be successful in the future, we have to be adaptable and work with others. The changes are coming so fast, it’s difficult to fully understand them and grasp their potential in time.

So we know we need to be ready to innovate, and even ready for disruption – and we must make new connections. It is the way we must work to lead.

Collaborating on five challenges

Essentially, we’re looking for solutions that help us offer better paints and coatings, while improving the experience of our customers. Can we drastically improve the performance of our products or can we offer new, innovative ones? Can we use innovation to make our operations run more effectively? Can we make our operations, products and entire value chain more sustainable?

Our five challenge themes are:

  • Predictable performance – how can we collect and augment data more innovatively so that our predictions for real world surface performance become more accurate and efficient?
  • Smart application – how could your solution change or improve the way customers apply our products?
  • Circular solutions – how would your solution enable circular use of materials at any point in our value chain?
  • Enhanced functionality – what exciting new functionality can your technology offer to make coatings cleaner, more responsive or adaptive?
  • Life science infusion – how can your solution, containing bio-active technology, help bring better performance or innovative features to our coatings?

You’ll see we’re looking for a wide variety of solutions that can be applied across the whole world of paints and coatings.

When do we get started?

The challenge officially begins January 8, 2019 with the platform going live. That’s where you can learn more about each challenge, see submissions and engage with the community – other startups, innovators and the experts from AkzoNobel.

So, are you ready to stir things up with us? Visit letspaintthefuture.com to learn more and sign up for the latest updates. I’m really looking forward to seeing what game changers we can come up with together.