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ICIS Innovation Awards

Posted on June 8th, 2016 by in Chemical R&D

Fides KR098

Novel anti-slime coatings for ships’ hulls; new dyes that reduce water consumption significantly in textile production; and advanced silica particles that boost thermal insulation in buildings might seem to have little in common. But over the past four years these innovations from the chemical industry have all taken top slot in the annual ICIS Innovation Awards. What they also have in common is the fact that they all address today’s pressing issues of environmental performance and sustainability. Each of them in its own way saves energy and/or valuable resources.

Over their 13 years the ICIS Innovation Awards, run by RELX Group company ICIS and this year sponsored by fellow RELX company Elsevier R&D Solutions, have recognised and rewarded the very best in chemical industry innovation.

As founder and manager I have seen the environment and sustainability move up the industry’s innovation agenda over this period, especially with the growing development of biobased materials and use of renewable feedstocks. By 2012, around a third of entries to the awards had a biobased element, compared with 10% in 2005. And no less than half of the shortlisted entries that year featured a bio-element in their innovation.

Almost all entries in recent years have had an environmental benefit, be it from lower energy or raw materials usage or reduced carbon footprint in their manufacture, or from the savings their use can bring in terms of reduced carbon emissions, lower energy and water usage, or improved recyclability.

Over the past decade, I have also seen the industry embrace a more strategic approach to innovation – focusing innovation dollars and efforts on solving major societal problems, rather than just developing new products and processes.

The industry has identified urbanisation, transport, global warming, water and food security and energy conservation as major 21st century concerns – and ones where it can deliver solutions and bring about improvements.

What has not changed over the decade and more of the awards has been the quality of the winning innovations and the breadth of innovation and industry sectors they represent. And, as the panels of judges over the years have consistently pointed out, there is scope to innovate in mature areas of the chemical industry just as much as in the ground breaking ones.

Thus, one of the early winners was a novel concept for packaging and delivery of industrial gases – a mature segment if ever there was one. Other examples that stand out were an improvement to the formulation of asphalt road surfacing – which reduced energy consumption in road laying – and novel processes for production of polycarbonate and methyl methacrylate (MMA) – both in well established, high volume markets.

The ICIS Innovation Awards have themselves innovated over the years. In 2009 we began to award on overall winner from the four or five category winners – and from that year we began to attract multiple sponsors, adding category sponsors to support the overall sponsor.

This year, we are pleased to welcome Elsevier R&D Solutions as overall sponsor, and thank ExxonMobil Chemical and U.S. Chemicals for their continued support as category sponsors.

This year sees our latest innovation: the creation, with sponsor Elsevier, of two categories to reward individual innovation efforts. These complement the well-established company awards but allow us to recognise innovation excellence on a personal level.

Full details can be found at, where you can see an introductory video as well as a detailed Call for Entry brochure. Previous winners and details of all the sponsors and judges are also on the awards web site.

The deadline for entries is the end of June – so you have just a month to make sure your innovations are in the running for this year’s awards. Good luck!


All opinions shared in this post are the author’s own.

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John Baker

Global editor custom publishing at ICIS

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