Valorisation, i.e. the successful application of research results outside the scientific domain, is an explicit goal of the RPA Sustainable Chemistry. Researchers are continuously exploring partnerships with industry to identify relevant research questions and to explore possibilities for the valorisation of innovative ideas. Researchers who would like to bring sustainable chemistry into practice can apply for a ‘valorisation postdoc position’ to explore the molecular and market opportunities of their idea.
The RPA SusChem does not aim to maintain a patent portfolio of itself, but patent applications are filed in case a good market proposition is in view. Up to now a dozen patent applications have been filed, which are part of the patent portfolio of the Van 't Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences.
As an example, Prof. Rothenberg and colleagues have filed a patent application on a new material that can catalyse the decomposition of cyanide ions in process waste streams. Several companies started collaborations with the UvA to test the new catalyst. An industrial pilot plant has been started at 1000 litre per hour. The pilot is the last step before large-scale industrial application in areas such as gold mining, processing of precious metals, and steel production. More can be read in the online news item.
The societal relevance of the SusChem RPA is also evident in the large number of PPP projects with companies and organisations. Having created a name and a reputation of an institute where companies and organisations are welcome for discussions and brainstorming (in collaboration also with the facilities in the state-of-the-art Matrix VI building at the Amsterdam Science Park), researchers from the RPA Suschem are working with many companies and organisations on solving of socially relevant problems. These type of collaborations, worth mutiple M€ of funding, show that the research at this RPA is very well acknowledged by companies, both national and international.
Prof. Rothenberg, who is the co-inventor of a biodegradable and biobased plastic from plants, has overseen the transfer of knowledge from the UvA to a viable company Plantics BV, that is now scaling up the production of this plastic to industrial scale with commercial partners. Prof Reek contributed to the growth of InCatT, a spin-off that was started in 2009 and now has grown to 3 FTE.
To further promote valorisation, a Sustainable Chemistry Bootcamp has been organized together with ACE Venture Lab. In 2016, three out of five selected initiatives were marked high potential by the evaluating committee (with both industrial and academic members). Two of these three have received RPA SusChem money to initiate their spin-off company. This has resulted in the start of the spin-off companies Spark904 BV (providing analytical and spectroscopic services on demand) and SusPhos BV (upcycling of phosphate-rich waste streams, producing high-quality alternatives to fossil-sourced products). After the corona restrictions, a new Bootcamp will be organised. Candidates that have spin-off ideas can contact Prof. J.N.H. Reek for further information. Their plans may be evaluated in an alternative manner to allow new initiatives.