ICIS Innovation Awards 2013 - SME

Best Innovation by a Small or Medium-sized Enterprise

This category allows small and medium-sized enterprises (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.

After the first round of judging in mid-July, two companies and their innovations were successfully shortlisted and went forward to the final judging session on 6 September.

The 2013 winner is:


Mike Hamilton and Manuk Colakyan

Advances in sugar conversion technology: using supercritical hydrolysis to provide an economical bridge between upstream and biomass and downstream chemicals

Manufacturers are increasingly seeking affordable, sugar-based intermediates as an alternative to petroleum feedstocks. Renmatix takes a fundamentally different approach to producing the lowest-cost cellulosic sugars. Using supercritical water, Renmatix’s Plantrose process deconstructs a wide range of non-food plant material in seconds using no significant chemicals or consumables. In two distinct steps, hemi-hydrolysis and cellulose-hydrolysis, Plantrose produces separate C5 (xylose) and C6 (glucose) sugars and clean lignin, used to provide the majority of the process’s thermal energy needs. The process is biomass agnostic, capable of using hardwoods, agricultural residues and municipal wastes.

Shortlisted entries for 2013:


Vincent Chornet

Enerkem - Green chemistry: a sustainable and competitive waste diversion solution

Enerkem has developed a breakthrough technology to produce biofuels and renewable chemicals from non-recyclable waste. The proprietary technology is now being commercially deployed at the Enerkem Alberta Biofuels facility in Edmonton, Canada. Enerkem has mastered the ability to process heterogeneous materials, such as municipal solid waste (MSW), and convert them into syngas, which is then conditioned so it can be converted into advanced biofuels and renewable chemicals. As well as reducing landfill, the use of MSW as feedstock offers many advantages: it does not compete with food supply, does not impact land use and is already collected via existing logistics infrastructure.

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.

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