Annual report 2009 - Creating value

21 June 2010

The crisis as a springboard
For DPI 2009 was a tough year – and at the same time also an exciting year. As a result of the economic crisis, many of our industrial partners were confronted with declining sales, profits and employment. To help companies maintain their R&D capacities, the Dutch government introduced the so-called Knowledge Workers Scheme (KWR), an initiative that we were able to take full advantage of thanks to our extensive network of universities and companies. The KWR initiative enabled us to set up a number of new projects involving 150 researchers from companies whom we linked to new international researchers at universities. 

The economic crisis made it difficult for DPI to attract new partner companies and to retain existing partners. Lack of financial resources meant that new projects could not easily be started. It was only by drawing on our financial reserves that we were able to create room for promising new projects. As always, these projects are based on the principle that researchers at universities carry out high-level scientific research in areas that are important to the participating companies. In 2010 the challenge for DPI is twofold: to neutralise the negative impact of the crisis and at the same time to increase our research volume. We will make every effort to get new parties on board and to convince those already on board to take part in DPI projects on a larger scale. We also intend to try and obtain additional funding via subsidies from other countries, including EU subsidies. 

Focus on cradle-to-cradle

The KWR projects lend an important new dimension to DPI’s portfolio. The emphasis in these projects is on research into technologies that will enable companies to explore new routes towards sustainability. A large number of these projects have been defined along the lines of the cradle-to-cradle principle. DPI has been looking seriously at adopting this principle for our projects since 2007, when the founder of this principle, the German chemist Michael Braungart, was a guest at our annual meeting. The KWR projects signify the first steps in this direction. One of the projects focuses on minimizing the ecological footprint of coatings. These projects form a welcome addition to our existing project portfolio. They bring us into contact with a different category of researchers who are often working further down the polymer applications value chain. This broadening of our network means that we will be able to give an extra boost to innovation in the field of polymers and their applications. 

DPI Annual Meeting

Our two-day annual meeting in November 2009 included a large-scale networking session. The more than 350 participants included researchers from DPI members (universities and industry) as well as clients of the DPI Value Centre (people from the SME sector). Several parallel sessions were organised in which small new companies were able to present themselves. All in all, it was a lively gathering with plenty of networking opportunities for young researchers, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and representatives from large companies. According to many of the attendees, the annual meeting was a most inspiring and valuable event.

During the annual meeting the Golden Thesis Award 2009 was presented to the DPI researcher with the best PhD study and thesis. An independent judging committee granted the award to Casper van Oosten of Eindhoven University of Technology for his thesis entitled “Responsive Liquid Crystal Networks”. Van Oosten carried out research into a kind of plastic cilia (hair-like microstructures similar to those in biological cells) that can be set in motion by light or a magnetic field. Casper van Oosten’s start-up company, Peer+, was among the young companies that presented themselves during the networking session. 

Introduction to valuable network

It is DPI tradition to organise a Young DPI Meeting on the day before the annual meeting. We see this meeting as an ideal opportunity to enable young academic researchers to get acquainted with the unique character and the scope of DPI’s international network – a network in which polymer chemists and technologists from universities and industry help each other to solve problems. The DPI network also makes it easier for a researcher to find a job at one of the affiliated universities or companies. This is a successful approach, as is evidenced by the fact that after completing their research majority of the researchers find jobs with DPI partner companies or universities. 

Scientific recognition

In the context of our annual science review, a committee of European scientists screened our entire portfolio and output, using Key Performance Indicators to evaluate the quality of our research projects. The committee’s report was highly positive and included several recommendations, such as new research areas worth exploring more, and certain fields where more focus is desirable. As the report shows, the committee positively assessed DPI’s achievements in several Areas. For example, through our pioneering academic research we succeeded in breaking new ground in coatings, a field long considered to lack innovation. We also have reason to be proud of the DPI project in which a group from Eindhoven University of Technology collaborated with Holst Centre and the University of Groningen on research into polymer electronics. The research resulted in a publication about self-assembled monolayer field-effect transistors (SAMFET) in the science journal Nature. 

This project and the projects carried out by the winner and the nominees of the Golden Thesis Award are only a small sample of the top-class research carried out at DPI. This is also apparent from the recently published report ‘Science and Technology Indicators 2010’, which presents the results of a bi-annual study by the Netherlands Observatory of Science and Technology (NOWT). The study, in which the research results of universities, institutes, university hospitals and companies in the Netherlands are compared, shows DPI to have a Citation Impact factor of 2.19 in 2009. This score puts DPI in second place amongst institutes in the Netherlands. Many of our research projects are highly innovative and their results are therefore patentable. DPI affiliated companies and knowledge institutes can stake a claim to such a patent. If there are no takers, DPI transfers these patents to the DPI Value Centre, from where they find their way to new or recently established companies and thus generate new business activity.  

New strategy offering new opportunities

A new feature of DPI’s participation model is that SMEs can participate in DPI research projects. To make this possible, the threshold for participation has been lowered. An SME can now buy a ‘basic participation’ for 25% of the regular participation fee, which gives the SME observer status. Another possibility is that two or three SMEs pool their resources to jointly buy a ‘group participation’ for a four-year period, which gives them the same rights and obligations as a single, fully participating company. 

Through its collaboration with the DPI Value Centre, DPI is building closer relationships with the SME sector. The polymer innovation scheme that has been initiated in collaboration with Agentschap NL (previously named SenterNovem) will lead to even more initiatives. This will increase our name recognition and our reach. The consortium projects in which one or two of our partner companies collaborate with SMEs from the sector will represent a particularly exciting challenge. Another element of the new strategy involves attracting companies that fit into value chains based on renewable resources, for example companies from the agricultural sector. 

Pooled strength

Our sector could not avoid being hit by the crisis. But we have been quick to respond adequately by investing even more in innovation in order to stay ahead of the competition. A key condition for fulfilling our ambitions is a multi-year commitment from our partners: companies, universities and the government. Based on the results achieved so far, the great interest shown by companies and universities eager to join DPI, and industry’s increasing interest in the activities of the DPI Value Centre, we are looking to the future with great confidence. 

Jacques Joosten          Martien Cohen Stuart

Managing Director        Scientific Director


To read the annual report, click here.



Coordination: DPI Communication
Design: Camiel Lintsen, Kade 05, Eindhoven
Photography: Bart van Overbeeke Fotografie, Eindhoven
Bram Saeys Fotografie, Eindhoven
Interviews: 1005 Tekstproducties, Geldrop
Orbitaal, Haarlem
Translation: CPLS text & copy, Goirle
Vikas Sonak
Printing: Lecturis, Eindhoven

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