What technology/solution areas do you have a primary interest in?
As part of the Corporate Venturing effort of a global and diversified chemical group I am focused on areas with the potential of delivering innovation and growth to Solvay: Sustainable Energy Solutions, Renewable Chemistry, Nanotechnology & Advanced Materials, Eco-Efficient Processes, Organic Electronics and Consumer Chemicals. These areas hold promising technologies and solutions to drive our growth based on more sustainable and resource efficient approaches. We are interested in biobased chemistry from non-food feedstock with the potential to be industrialized at a cost and performance advantage over petroleum based chemicals. A few targets are long-chain alcohols and acids and new or drop-in renewable building blocks for our polymers and chemicals. Nanotechnologies offer a broad range of opportunities across applications in energy, display, composites, functional coatings, etc. Energy is at the center of our activities as an industrial group, therefore we are actively working on solutions where we can leverage our materials expertise such as low CO2 energy solutions, energy storage and green mobility.
Could you provide an example of a successful partnership between Solvay and a start up company? What made the partnership a success?
Solvay’s focus on materials development for Organic PV and Organic Thin Film Transistor devices led to a strategic minority investment in Polyera, Inc. (Skokie IL), which is also targeting these organic electronics applications with its technology. A spinout of Northwestern University, Polyera sells its materials under the ActivInk(R) range, which includes semiconductors, dielectrics and interfacial layers, designed to work together to create high-performance plastic electronic devices. Together with leading microelectronics R&D organization IMEC, Polyera and Solvay have achieved a world record efficiency for polymer-based single junction organic solar cells in an inverted device stack. These excellent results were the fruit of an intense collaboration between the three R&D teams. The partnership is pursuing its development to enable windows that act as solar cells.
How does Solvay encourage innovation?
Solvay has a diverse approach to open innovation, leveraging partnerships with academia, institutional research, industrial consortia, venture funds and start-ups. More specifically in my corporate venturing function, we manage a worldwide portfolio of funds and direct investments, with both a financial and a strategic objective. In addition to providing capital to start-up companies, we leverage Solvay’s capabilities and networks to generate business and technology synergies between start-ups and the Solvay’s Business Units and Innovation Platforms.
As a Corporate Accelerator Partner at TechConnect, what will you be looking for in Washington, D.C. next year? Who will you be looking to meet with onsite?
I am looking forward to meeting promising start-ups with a technology beyond the proof of concept stage. A point close to the pilot phase or immediately after tends to be our preferred time to build relationships with start-ups for a win-win outcome. From our position as industrial partner and strategic investor in specific cases we can offer the go-to-market, logistics and engineering capabilities that a small company needs to accelerate its growth. In addition to this collaboration framework, we have facilitated technology development agreements with less mature start-ups in areas where there is a strong need from our businesses and research teams, as well as in applications that can be enhanced by our set of current and next generation materials. Solvay has challenging growth ambitions, therefore I am hoping to meet at TechConnect with entrepreneurs that are ready to be part of this journey.