11 October 2010 00:00 [Source: ICB]
The results of the ICIS Innovation Awards 2010 can now be revealed. Of the 15 shortlisted entries in this year's competition, four have emerged triumphant, with India's Tata Chemicals taking the top spot overall
A strong emphasis on sustainability and the environment was evident in many of the better entries for this year's ICIS Innovation Awards, sponsored overall by global silicon specialist Dow Corning for the seventh year.
The judges were clearly very enthused by two of the winning entries, both of which demonstrated an understanding of how chemical innovation can be used to address societal problems around water purity and textile recycling.
In the end, India-based Tata Chemicals' Swach water purifier was unanimously voted as deserving the overall award, as well as winning the Best Product Innovation category, sponsored by consultancy CRA International for the second year.
But Japan's Teijin Fibers' ECO CIRCLE system for closed-loop recycling of polyester was a close second overall, after winning the category for Innovation with the Best Environmental Benefit, sponsored for the first time this year by chemical distributor U.S. Chemicals.
Both companies, the judges noted, have well established and deeply embedded philosophies of social and corporate responsibility, which characterizes how they approach business and innovation.
The Best Business Innovation category was won by Switzerland-based Huntsman Advanced Materials, for its step-out development of equipment and resins for use in rapid manufacturing using stereolithography. And the Best Innovation by an SME award went to Scotland's NiTech Solutions for its pioneering work on process and mixing intensification using baffled reactor technology.
Somewhat disappointed by the number of entries in the Best Innovation in Corporate Social Responsibility category, the judges decided not to make an award in this category this year. CSR has now become a core principle for most companies, therefore it was difficult for the judges to identify a truly stand-out entry from the limited number of submissions this year.
In previous years, innovative CSR projects from Dow Chemical and Tata Chemicals have won this category, showing it is possible for the chemical industry to develop significant initiatives in the area. The judges expressed their surprise as they discussed this category, as they felt sure there are good CSR projects out there - maybe next year we might see some more come forward.
COVERING ALL BASES
In the seven years that the ICIS Innovation Awards have been running, no entry has generated as much admiration and acclaim among the judges as Tata Chemicals' Swach nanotech water purifier.
The innovation was judged to cover all bases. It includes a novel use for a readily available natural waste stream - rice husk ash; it exploits hi-tech nanotechnology in the active biocidal ingredient - silver; and it addresses a huge social problem at an economic cost - the provision of safe drinking water in developing areas of the globe.
Alfred Oberholz commented that both the Tata Swach and the Teijin Fibers' recycling scheme addressed global problems with great social impact. Gregg Zank added that clearly the Tata Swach shows how chemicals and chemical innovation are helping people everywhere. The innovation, he said, "resonates" with the needs of today and "tells a compelling story."
The Tata Swach brings low-cost water purification within the range of millions of people, initially in India, where it is now being marketed. The Swach filter system, consisting of nanoparticle-sized silver particles bonded on to the fibrous rice husk ash support, is designed to destroy bacteria in drinking water with a high kill rate.
Tata has also developed a simple switch to shut down the purifier when efficacy falls below a satisfactory level and has packaged the filter bulb in an attractive container to create a stylish domestic appliance.
Neil Checker said this innovation by Tata challenges other companies to analyse how they are going to innovate and market their products. "Tata are thinking differently and getting ideas into the market.... [The Swach] really addresses a broad audience," he noted.
On Teijin Fibers and its ECO CIRCLE system, the judges were very impressed by the determination of the Japanese polyester producer over a considerable period of time to develop partnerships with textile manufacturers and the retail sector. This is necessary so that used textiles can be returned efficiently to Teijin Fibers for chemical reprocessing into raw materials for manufacture of new polyester fiber.
Graham Hillier commented that the initiative was a good example of getting businesses together in conversation and about establishing systems. "It's about how people behave and getting the whole chain involved," he said.
Checker and Zank both stressed how complicated it is to establish such recycling circles and how much effort and resources are required. And Oberholz commented that bringing the recycling technology to commercial use was also a key part of the innovation.
In the SME category, the decision was a close call between the winner, NiTech Solutions, and US-based Genomatica. But in the end, the fact that the small UK company had convinced a major drug company to shift from batch to continuous production on a key new product was deemed worthy of recognition.
NiTech's proprietary technology, based on baffled reactors and crystallizers, offers lower investment and operating costs, plus higher throughtputs in a smaller space. It is attracting growing interest from a number of leading pharma and chemical companies.
In the Best Business Innovation category, Huntsman Advanced Materials carried the day against the other shortlisted companies. By developing novel stereolithography equipment, as well as resins, it has moved into a new area that changes its position in the supply chain, as Hillier put it.
Oberholz added that the innovation allows the company not only to sell the resin now, but also the process, "which points to the future for the chemical industry, as it can sell additional value."
So, congratulations from ICIS to all the successful companies, and a big thank you to all those that took part.
The Awards will be presented to the winners by senior representatives of the sponsors at a celebratory lunch in London later this year.
AND THE WINNERS ARE
Best Product Innovation
Tata Swach nanotech water purifier
Best Innovation by an SME
Use of innovative NiTech reactor by Genzyme
Best Business Innovation
Huntsman Advanced Materials
New generation of rapid manufacturing equipment and resins
Innovation with Best Environmental Benefit
ECO CIRCLE innovative closed-loop recycling system for polyester
Best Innovation in Corporate Social Responsibility
No winner awarded this year
U.S. Chemicals is very excited to participate in the ICIS Innovation Awards and particularly pleased to sponsor the award for Innovation with the Best Environmental Benefit. At the completion of the first decade of the 21st century, there has never been a more critical need for new ideas, new products and services which will advance the growth of industries and create new jobs, while protecting and enhancing the quality of life on this planet we all share.
The chemical industry must meet the challenge of providing solutions that improve our businesses, personal lives and public services, while doing no harm to our shrinking global community. U.S. Chemicals is committed to this mission and believes that creative minds, sound business principles and commitment to excellence will always lead to success.
U.S. Chemicals is very proud to congratulate the company that has won the Innovation with the Best Environmental Benefit, Teijin Fibers. Teijin Fibers' corporate philosophy and mission statement incorporate enhancing the quality of life in harmony with society and their ECO CIRCLE closed-loop polyester recycling exemplifies this mission.
Carol Piccaro, president and CEO, U.S. Chemicals
CRA International is proud to participate as a sponsor and panel judge in the ICIS Innovation Awards 2010. The submissions in the Best Product Innovation category were very impressive this year, and we would like to thank all of the companies and individuals that entered the competition.
Congratulations to Tata Chemicals, the Best Product Innovation category winner. Tata Chemical's Swach nanotech water purifier uniquely demonstrates how one company is embracing innovation by bringing its know-how in physical chemistry through to final product design. This important product addresses the major issue of ensuring availability of clean, potable water in emerging economies.
Congratulations to all of the 2010 winners.
Dr. Neil Checker, vice president, CRA International
Amid today's volatile economic climate, one constant is the need for innovation to fuel growth.
But with the challenges chemical companies face of smaller staffs and decreasing budgets, it is easy for businesses to lose sight of the game-changing innovation that has helped shape our lives.
Take for example the US in the 1930s, an era widely known as the "Great Depression." Innovation continued to thrive in the 1930s despite the economy.
Jet engines, xerography, and Scotch tape were just a few of the product inventions that were born.
Business model innovation also thrived, with the introduction of supermarkets and drive-in movie theaters.
Dow Corning Corporation and ICIS Chemical Business know that the global economic challenges of the early 21st century will breed a new era of innovation.
We expect that much of that innovation will come from the chemical industry, helping to create a more environmentally sustainable world, while at the same time offering practical solutions to the challenges faced in developing regions and for underserved populations.
This is why Dow Corning continues to support the ICIS Innovation awards, because today more than ever, we need to recognize the great ideas from our industry that will help to shape the lives of the next generation.
Dow Corning would like to congratulate all the winners of this year's Innovation Awards and especially Tata Chemicals and its Swach innovation - one that looks well placed to meet the need for safe drinking water at an economical cost in the developing world.
Dr. Gregg Zank, senior vice president and chief technology officer, Dow Corning
THIS YEAR'S JUDGES
Dr. Neil Checker
Vice president and head of the Europe & Middle East region for chemicals at CRA International where he specializes in strategic planning, mergers and acquisitions
CEO of RockTron, a leader in technology for recycling waste. Smith has worked in engineering and business management, primarily with ICI, and in consulting
Dr. Graham Hillier
Director of strategy and futures at the Centre for Process Innovation in the UK. He is also visiting professor at Salford University
Dr. Alfred Oberholz
Until recently on the management board of Evonik Industries, responsible for research and technology. A past chairman of SusChem, he has board positions on several start-ups
Dr. Gregg Zank
Senior vice president and chief technology officer at Dow Corning
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