Akzo Skirts Biotechnology Expense With Solvay-Style Partnerships

Akzo Nobel NV is working on a number of partnership accords to incorporate biotechnology and more environmentally sustainable raw materials into its paints and coatings.

Europe’s biggest paintmaker signed a three-year agreement with Solvay SA to increase use of that company’s bio-based epichlorohydrin, which has a lower carbon footprint and is used as a binder in coatings, Peter Nieuwenhuizen, Akzo Nobel’s director of future-proof supply chains, said in a phone interview today.

Akzo Nobel isn’t developing its own biotechnology for greener feedstocks and is pursuing alliances with other companies instead. It’s part of Chief Executive Officer Ton Buechner’s drive to update the Amsterdam-based company’s approach to sourcing feedstock for plants and reducing reliance on petrochemicals.

“You can spend your R&D euro only once,” said Nieuwenhuizen, who took on his present role in January 2011. “We’ve chosen very deliberately a strategy where we won’t develop in-house. We will leverage our formulation know-how to leverage the innovation of other people.”

Earlier this year, Akzo Nobel announced a tie-up with Solazyme Inc. for tailored oils based on algae that can enhance or replace oil-derived chemicals.

“These are very attractive partnerships for both sides,” the executive said. For smaller companies with enzyme technology, a partnership with Akzo provides a platform for their products, he said.

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