Innovation Awards - Best SME Innovation Category

ICIS Innovation Awards 2012


Lead Sponsor
Dow Corning Logo

Category Sponsors


Bayer Materials

US Chemicals Logo



Best Innovation by a Small or Medium-sized Enterprise

This category allows SMEs, that great source and reservoir of innovation, a chance to shine with a product or process innovation. SMEs are defined as having less than 250 employees and a turnover below $75m.

The winner in this category for 2012 was:
Jim Mahoney
Innovative catalyst platform for producing acrylic acid, BDO and polypropiolactone
US-based Novomer is commercializing a homogeneous catalyst system capable of combining
carbon monoxide with ethylene oxide (EO) to produce the versatile intermediate propiolactone. This can be used to produce chemicals such as acrylic acid (AA), acrylate esters, butanediol (BDO), tetrahydrofuran, succinic acid and polypropiolactone (PPL) – a new polymer type with good material properties and biodegradability. The innovative technology promises reduced cost and lower carbon and energy footprints. Novomer says its vision is for low molecular weight (MW) PPL to be shipped globally and converted to AA or acrylate esters, and for high MW PPL to be used as a packaging thermoplastic and for upgrading into glacial AA on recycling.

Shortlisted entries for 2012:
Dr Klaus Last
New formaldehyde-free stable core−shell microcapsules
for industrial applications Family-owned Follmann & Co of Germany has brought innovation to bear on the process of microencapsulation to eliminate the potential of formaldehyde release from the amino resin encapsulants (melamine-formaldehyde) widely used today. In its process, suitable protective colloids are reacted with aromatic polyhydroxy compounds and reactive dialdehydes to give microcapsules that “set new standards” through their performance and characteristics. It has been looking at materials such as glyoxal, succinaldehyde and glutaraldehyde, with phloroglucinol appearing to be an interesting alcohol. Follmann says toxicological evaluations show its products could be interesting for use in industrial areas such as
laundry products, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, medical engineering and automotive.

Mike Hamilton, Manuk Colakyan and Fred Moesler
Enabling large-scale conversion of non-food biomass to affordable cellulosic sugars, as an
alternative to petroleum feedstocks used in chemicals and fuel
Use of waste cellulosic materials to provide bio-feedstock is receiving plenty of attention, and US-based Renmatix believes it has developed a cost-effective way to reduce woody biomass to C5 and C6 sugars, leaving just the lignin component, which it uses as a fuel for the process. The key to the process, which it calls Plantrose, is to mix the cellulosic waste material with supercritical water to breakdown the plant matter in an economically efficient manner. This avoids use of enzymes or chemicals. The process has two distinct steps – hemi-hydrolysis to convert the hemicellulose to C5 sugars and cellulose hydrolysis to create a C6 sugar stream.

The winner in this category for 2011 was:

Sean Simpson and Jennifer Holmgren
An efficient route to carbon capture and re-use producing high-value chemicals and fuels
New Zealand-based biomaterials start-up LanzaTech has developed a gas fermentation process that produces both fuels and high-value chemicals from low-cost resources, such as industrial flue gases from steel mills and processing plants, syngas generated from any biomass resource, coal-derived syngas and steam-reformed methane. LanzaTech’s technology uses a modified Clostridium to convert gas (rich in carbon monoxide (CO) and hydrogen (H2)) into ethanol and 2,3-butandiol. The organism can be modified further to yield butanol, propanol, isoprene, succinic acid and other chemicals. LanzaTech’s process, proven at pilot scale using unconditioned steel mill waste gases, will be operating at commercial scale in 2013.

Read more details here

The winner in this category in 2010 was:

NiTech Solutions

Ian Laird and Xiong-wei Ni with Peter McDonnell (Genzyme)

Use of innovative NiTech reactor by Genzyme to manufacture one of its leading products
NiTech’s has commercialised its novel tubular baffled reactor (TBR) to make a pharmaceutical active ingredient (API) in the multi-hundred tonne/year range. The continuous reactor has advantages over batch reactors conventionally used. It creates uniform mixing throughout the reactor and works well with a three-phase solid/gas/liquid system. It has a smaller footprint than conventional stirred tank reactors and reduces the carbon footprint and the capital and operating costs of the installation. NiTech’s reactor in use at Genzyme has a 1m3 volume, giving the same output as two 150m3 pressurized stirred tank reactors.

Find more details here

The winner in this category in 2009 was: 

Oxford Catalysts/Velocys
Derek Atkinson
A microchannel reactor for the distributed production of third generation biofuels
Production of liquid biofuels from waste feedstocks, including municipal waste, sounds attractive but the need to transport large volumes to a central facility is not environmentally sound. Oxford Catalysts and Velocys have developed a small-scale Fischer-Tropsch reactor and highly active catalyst that enable production of biofuel in situ, when processing just 500-2,000 tonnes/day of waste. Productivity in the microchannel reactor is high and diesel and jet fuels should be economic to produce while oil is over $50/bbl. A pilot-scale unit has been built at Plain City, Ohio, US.

Find more details here