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TMC Chemical: challenge accepted!

‘We have three reasons for taking part in The AkzoNobel Chemicals Startup Challenge’, says Martijn Ploegmakers, Account Manager at TMC Chemical. ‘First, it’s a great opportunity for our Employeneurs to think outside of the box. Second, we’re always looking to strengthen our connections with exciting companies, AkzoNobel definitely being one of them.’ And for Martijn, the third reason for taking part in the Challenge might be the most important one: ‘It’s just a lot of fun.’

According to the company’s own website, the aim of The AkzoNobel Chemicals Startup Challenge is ‘to identify interesting startups and solutions that have a strategic fit with AkzoNobel’s businesses and develop partnerships with them. The challenge will give the winners the chance to see their ideas become a commercial reality.’

As soon as Martijn heard about the challenge, he alerted the Employeneurs of TMC’s Chemical Cell to it. After having received some very enthusiastic responses, he quickly planned an informal brainstorm session at TMC Utrecht. Several Employeneurs and three other TMC colleagues got together and gave their creativity free rein.

The session kicked off the way so many successful brainstorm sessions have: by getting to know each other over a pizza. Then, after a short presentation about the Challenge, the participants started exchanging ideas and discussing strategies. Soon, the group decided to look for a new, sustainable way to convert garbage into cellulose.

‘We wanted to turn low-value material into high-value feedstock,’ Martijn explains. ‘Our first idea was to use cow dung. As it turned out, that idea had already been posted, so we had to look for a new source of cellulose. Pretty soon, we came up with the idea to use household waste. After some discussion and a bit of quick research, we discovered that biodegradable household waste would offer us exactly what we were looking for, after some fairly straightforward chemical operations.’

There was another advantage, Martijn explains: ‘There is already a complete, well-functioning system in place for picking up and processing biodegradable waste. The infrastructure is there – you wouldn’t have to set it up from scratch. It would just be a matter of adding a new step to the process.’

The ideas for the Challenge had to be submitted before March 16. At the moment, all Martijn and his team-mates can do is wait to hear, but they are confident about their plan. And if they don’t win? No problem, Martijn says – just the effort alone made it worthwhile: ‘We had a lot of fun.’

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