AkzoNobel Specialty Chemicals has signed an agreement which will see its Deventer site in the Netherlands transformed into a chemistry and technology innovation hub.

Set to be positioned as a key European center for the most demanding chemistry and technology (chemtech), the Deventer Open Innovation Center is backed by a seven-year agreement with the municipality of Deventer and is being supported by the Restructuring Company Overijssel and the Province of Overijssel, who together are investing more than €25 million.

Companies, knowledge institutes, entrepreneurs, investors and students will be able to gain access to a working environment which includes special research facilities, such as a unique safety laboratory, analytical lab, pilot facilities for scaling up production, and education and training facilities

The 2018 opening will also bring new companies to Deventer and will contribute to diversity in employment, from plant operators and laboratory analysts to technologists and chemists. By the end of 2025, the center should accommodate around 300 knowledge-intensive employees and 50 users in the field of training and education, in addition to the existing 315 AkzoNobel employees. Together with indirect employment, the total could amount to more than 1,000 jobs in 2025.

“We are strengthening our ties with Deventer and together we are creating an innovative center of companies and knowledge institutes,” said Peter Nieuwenhuizen, Global RD&I Director of AkzoNobel Specialty Chemicals. “Open innovation is an essential part of our business in terms of meeting our growth and sustainability targets. By exchanging knowledge with our partners, we will be able to develop groundbreaking chemtech innovations much quicker and speed up the introduction of new applications in highly demanding chemistry.”

The center is widely supported by the local and regional business community, educational and knowledge institutions, the Association of the Dutch Chemical Industry (VNCI) and the Top Sector Chemistry public-private alliance. Currently known as the Deventer Open Innovation Centre (DOIC), the final name is expected to be announced in early 2018.

Commenting on the signing of the agreement, Liesbeth Grijsen, responsible alderman of the municipality of Deventer, said: “DOIC offers space for starting, innovative companies in the chemical sector. It will strengthen the existing chemical expertise in Deventer and ensure the preservation of the existing R&D of AkzoNobel. We see opportunities for employment and the economy.”

Added Eddy van Hijum, member of the Provincial Executive for the province of Overijssel: “This international hot-spot offers easy access to knowledge and facilities that are normally inaccessible for many companies, start-ups and students. This gives them the incentive to innovate and bring new products and processes to the market. The center thus contributes to creating, attracting and retaining knowledge-intensive activities and employment at all levels of education.”

Han Wiendels, Director of the Restructuring Company Overijssel HMO, said: “Supporting the development of the DOIC through an investment in real estate as part of a revitalization process fits well with the mission of HMO. The location has a specific and unique character and the center will strengthen the business climate in Overijssel for companies and start-ups in the chemical industry.”

Meanwhile, the first start-ups are already settling in at the center. Exxfire focuses on fire prevention and control in ICT servers and the aviation sector. The company started in 2011 and immediately won the Nyenrode Innovation Contest that year, followed in 2012 by an innovation credit from the government. Its first products have already been successfully launched on the market.

Ahrma Holding BV develops and produces sustainable pallets with a lifespan of between five and ten years. These are equipped with smart sensors (transponders) that register location, temperature and shocks, after which the data is visible in real-time via the internet, on a smartphone, or computer.

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