Market outlook: ICIS Innovation Awards kick off

21 April 2014 00:00 Source:ICIS Chemical Business

Who will take the prize in this year’s ICIS Innovation Awards? We start this week on our annual search for the best in innovation in the chemical industry.

We are looking for innovation in products, processes and ways of doing business in general, and innovation that benefits society, the environment and sustainability.

This year we are adding an explicit category of Best Process Innovation, to recognise this vital aspect of innovation, that can drive efficiencies in energy and raw materials consumption, reduce environmental impact and create better routes to existing and new products.

Another change this year is that we have brought together the environment and sustainability categories, to create a single Innovation with Best Benefit for Environment and Sustainability, largely as a reflection of how close these two aspects of innovation are, and also to recognise the interplay between the two.

2013 Innovation awards winner

Last year’s overall winner was Cabot Aerogel – seen here picking up the awards from sponsor Neil Checker of Roland Berger (right) are Raj Chary (left) and Nick Cross (centre)

Two things that have not changed are the fact that we welcome back Roland Berger Strategy Consultants as the overall sponsor of the awards and the sponsor of the Best Product Innovation category, and that U.S. Chemicals is joining us for a sixth year as a category sponsor. Without their support the awards would not be as successful as they are and we thank them for their continuing support and contributions.

Neil Checker, a partner at Roland Berger and a member of the judging panel, comments that: “We are honoured and delighted to have the opportunity to continue with the role of overall sponsor of this prestigious award programme, following on from our support in previous years. Together with our fellow sponsors we look forward with excitement to reviewing the submissions this year and honouring the winners.”

The growth in the popularity of the Awards has paralleled the growing focus on innovation in the chemical sector, with companies not only taking an increasingly sophisticated approach to how they develop new processes and products, but also to where they spend their research and development (R&D) budgets. Direction today is often informed by the mega-trends affecting society, notably global population growth, transportation, urbanisation, energy efficiency, and food and water security. The chemical industry has a huge part to play in addressing the issues these trends create, and it will do so largely through targeted innovation.


Roland Berger is honoured to continue in its role of overall sponsor of this prestigious awards programme, as well as sponsor of the Best Product Innovation category. Our sponsorship supports our commitment to helping clients develop and improve their innovation capabilities from innovation strategy through to implementation of innovation processes and organisation structures.

Roland Berger has a competence centre focused on innovation management – Innovation and Product Engineering (IPE) – and this team leads projects and develops thought leadership on this critical area, leveraging the cross-industry and global experience of the firm.

The consultancy is one of the world’s leading strategy consultants, founded in 1967, with 2,700 employees working in over 50 offices in all major international markets. The strategy consultancy is an independent partnership ­exclusively owned by about 250 partners.

The firm advises leading corporations, non-profit organisations and public institutions on management issues ranging from strategy development to performance improvement. Roland Berger’s business is organised into global functional and industry competence centres. Its practice areas include corporate and business unit strategy, marketing and sales, innovation strategy and management, operations strategy, restructuring and corporate finance and M&A advisory.

Industry specialties include energy and chemicals, automotive, consumer goods, retail, engineered products and high-tech, financial services, information communications, pharmaceuticals and health care, public services and transportation.

Dr Neil Checker
Partner, Roland Berger Strategy Consultants

Recent winners of the Awards ( have developed ground-breaking solutions. Last year’s overall winner, Cabot Corporation’s Aerogel business unit, has devised a new highly effective insulation product for use in construction and glazing, to cut heat losses from buildings. The potential impact of the innovation is enormous, and the judges last year were unanimous in making Cabot the overall winner.

As usual ICIS has recruited a six-strong panel of experts to assess the entries and choose a winner in each of the five categories, and the overall winner. This is not an easy job, given the diversity of innovation in the chemical sector, but they bring with them a wide range of expertise, from polymer and chemical innovation to bio-based materials and business innovation in general. Further details are on the Awards website, which also includes more information on this year’s sponsor companies.


To recognise the breadth of innovation in the chemical sector, and the importance of the ­environment and the shift to sustainability, the ICIS Innovation Awards offer five categories. Companies may enter as many innovations as they wish, but can enter each innovation into one category only. The categories and previous winners are as follows:


The Best Product Innovation category gives entrants a chance to show how innovative they are in the traditional but still vital area of product innovation. It is this, after all, that brings in new business and/or makes existing products more attractive and competitive. The judges will be looking for quality of science involved, the scale of challenges overcome, potential market impacts and degree of wider applicability, among other things.


  • Go to
  • Select your category
  • Complete the online application form
  • Upload any supporting documents
  • Click submit
  • If you have any questions, contact John Baker or +44 20 8652 3153. Confirmation of receipt of your entry will be sent to you by email
  • Closing date for entries: 1 July 2014
  • A shortlist will be published on 18 August and the winners revealed on 20 October
Previous winners:

  • 2013 – Solvay Aroma Performance – Govanil, pioneering the new reference of vanilla flavours
  • 2012 – Dow Chemical – INFUSE olefin block copolymers


The Best Process Innovation category gives entrants a chance to show how innovative they are in the fundamental areas of new process development and process improvement – vital areas of innovation underlying better use of energy and raw materials, improved economics, safer performance and lower environmental impact.

Previous winners:

This is a new category for 2014


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 (€54m).

Previous winners:

  • 2013 – Renmatix – Advances in sugar ­conversion technology using supercritical hydrolysis
  • 2012 – Novomer – Innovative catalyst platform for producing acrylic acid, BDO and PPL


The Best Business Innovation category is intended to highlight wider-based innovation in how chemical companies do business, beyond traditional product and process development. New business solutions can be as important as technological or product development. Business innovation can add value and drive the right solutions to customers, and the chemical industry. This may be with new service offerings to customers or partnerships with suppliers and downstream collaborators; new approaches to the route to market; or even novel supply chain or business process operations.

Previous winners:

  • 2013 – Archroma – “One Way” sustainability service in textile chemicals
  • 2011 – BioAmber – Innovation in succinic acid


For the past five years, U.S. Chemicals has been honoured to sponsor the Best Environmental Benefit category in the ICIS Chemical Business Innovation Awards.

We are pleased this year to see the category widened to include innovations that support and drive sustainability innovation as well, in line with our own company philosophy.

Serving the needs of the chemical industry for over 50 years, U.S. Chemicals LLC combines quality, innovation and service like none other. U.S. Chemicals has built a team of industry experts that thoroughly understands the complexities of the chemical industry and includes experts at material sourcing and acquisition. U.S. Chemicals serves as a single source for the chemical acquisition needs of many industry sectors, including paint, ink and coatings; chemicals and textiles; cosmetic and personal care products; flame retardants; food and pharmaceutical; plastic; and rubber. It offers prompt delivery from multiple warehouse locations throughout the US.

Its world-wide network of resources assures customers of highly competitive pricing, optimum quality and consistency, and rapid worry-free sourcing and delivery.

Carol Piccaro
President and CEO, U.S. Chemicals


The chemical industry and innovation can play an important role in addressing many of today’s environmental concerns, including global warming, pollution, recycling, water supply security and nutrition. The category is designed to recognise those companies that have incorporated the ideas of environmental performance and sustainability into their innovation in the areas of product and process developments and approach to business overall.

Entries might include improved manufacturing processes or products, with reduced environmental impact, or new products that tackle the issues above. They should show a distinct benefit to the environment and to the sustainability of the company and its customers.

Previous winners:

This is an amalgamation of the environment and sustainability categories that ran separately last year.

Sustainability category

  • 2013 – Virent – Converting plant sugars to paraxylene for renewable, recyclable packaging and fibres.
  • 2013 – Rhodia – The new rare earths “urban” mine

Environment category

  • 2013 – Cabot Corporation, Aerogel – Cabot Aerogel for eco-friendly building and construction.
  • 2013 – Clariant – Advanced denim technology.

Past winners have included the largest multinationals and the smallest of SMEs. But in all cases it has been the quality of the innovation that has counted in the end. With such a wide range of innovations to be recognised, all I can do is urge you to enter – simply go to

Entering is the only way you can get your company name on the honour roll, and garner the publicity and accolades that ICIS can generate.

Good luck!

2014 innovation awards judges

By John Baker