We continue to develop an innovation portfolio which will deliver bigger and better innovations, faster. These projects are generally based on “solution promises” that address the global mega-trends of population growth, the need for improving the quality of life in the emerging economies, climate change and the increasing scarcity of natural resources.

Solution promises are conceptual responses to the challenges posed by these global mega-trends and they provide a framework which guides and energizes our innovation portfolio. We have defined five solution promises and each of these is described in more detail below.

1. Serving the needs of the mid-market.

As global population increases and new economies are beginning to drive economic development, the number of households forming the so-called mid-markets will increase dramatically. This is such an important trend that we have defined an entire strategic agenda item around it, which is described later in this section.

2. Developing products for well-being and identity.

We all strive to enhance the quality of our lives in terms of our happiness, health and well-being. At the same time, we are increasingly seeking to create our own identities and take a pro-active approach to personalizing our homes, cars and even our personal appearances. AkzoNobel addresses these aspirations in diverse ways, but good examples are:

  • Biostyle and Structure Cel polymers and rheology modifiers produced by our Surface Chemistry business. These products are formulated into hair styling products that allow people to express themselves. The ingredients not only perform well, they also have the added benefit of being based on bio-polymers, which are, of course, renewable
  • Development of intumescent coatings such as Marine and Protective Coatings’ Interchar 1120, which helps to preserve the structural integrity of constructional steel for up to four hours, allowing people to escape from buildings before they collapse in the event of catastrophic fires
  • Introduction of Functional Chemicals’ Suprasel Loso OneGrain to help reduce individual sodium consumption by 50 percent without compromising on taste (see case study A taste for innovation)

3. Achieving zero footprint.

We aspire to achieve zero environmental footprint across the value chain with our products. To ensure that we move towards this goal, we are working hard to adopt lower footprint raw materials, develop cleaner manufacturing processes, produce products that have a better environmental footprint both inherently and in-use and ensure that there is an appropriate end-of-life. Five good examples of how we are doing this are:

  • The European Ecolabel status granted to our Sikkens Ecosure range of low VOC and low embodied carbon paints recognizes the progress we’re making in achieving the goal of zero footprint in Decorative Paints
  • We also have products for reducing our customers’ energy use. For example, the reflective properties of our Dulux Weathershield SunReflect and KeepCool exterior wall paints and our Cool Chemistry coil coatings are helping to reduce energy consumption in the cooling of homes in hotter climates
  • In automotive refinishes, we have developed UV-based technologies that allow for rapid and ambient temperature curing. These products significantly reduce the energy consumption and costs of our automotive paint shop customers
  • The Hybrid Polymers technology platform developed by our Surface Chemistry business replaces a substantial proportion of oil barrel-derived polymers with polymers derived from renewable carbohydrates. The hybrid polymers are being used in laundry cleaning, dishwashing and personal care applications and have the added advantage of being fully biodegradable
  • We have comprehensive innovation programs around the reduction of a number of priority substances, such as lead, cobalt and chromates. For example, in 2011, we removed the last of the lead compounds from our global portfolio and are currently developing systems to ensure no lead-containing substances will be purchased within AkzoNobel. Furthermore, we have committed to extremely low impurity profiles for any substance containing lead as a by-product of a synthesis or impurity of a raw material

4. Saving you time and effort.

Many of us have too much to do, and too little time in which to do it. This trend is only going to increase in the future, and as a company we see great opportunities to respond to the demands for time and effort-saving products and technologies. For example, we see the need for new and faster ways of applying coatings, as well as the development of self-cleaning and self-maintaining surfaces. In addition, there is a need for full-solution services in the area of color-matching paints within decorative paints applications, where we have recently launched Dulux Colour Click, a simple way of using your digital camera to achieve the perfect match. In the automotive refinish market, we have also introduced stickerfix as a quick and convenient way of repairing minor scratches using a color-matched, film-based system which takes just minutes to achieve a near-perfect repair.

5. Creating new horizons in functionality.

Usually, products have one or two well-defined functions. For example, paints and coatings protect and/or beautify surfaces. But we also see great opportunities for products that do much more. For example, we have developed:

  • Dulux Sterishield, a decorative paint which not only beautifies and protects, but also keeps critical surfaces sterile, such as in hospital operating theaters
  • A family of clearcoat paints for car refinishing, based on proprietary resin technology. The latest product, Autoclear LV Exclusive, has excellent scratch resistance and remarkable self-healing properties

To maximize our innovation opportunities and fulfill our solution promises, we recognize that we need to work with others who complement our own capabilities and can enable us to deliver innovations to the market faster. We call this open innovation. Two recent examples of open innovation are highlighted below:

  • We recently entered into a strategic partnership with the Corrosion & Protection Centre at the University of Manchester in the UK. Its unrivalled position as the world’s leading academic group with a primary focus on corrosion, and its in-depth knowledge of inhibition, will underpin the expertise of AkzoNobel’s metal coatings businesses, as well as provide new business opportunities for our Functional Chemicals and Surface Chemistry businesses
  • In 2010, we initiated a strategic partnership with BASF with the objective of using more innovative materials to deliver enhanced functionality in our paints and coatings and thereby create benefits for both companies. A novel binder developed by BASF has been formulated into a new addition to the Sikkens Cetol range of high performance and durable exterior wood coatings. We are very positive about the opportunities for this product in this demanding segment
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