Annual Report 2012: New Horizons

31 May 2013

Reaching out

2012 marked the fifteenth anniversary of DPI (Dutch Polymer Institute). Did we have reason to celebrate? We believe we did. Over the past decade and a half, DPI has come to represent the best practice in collaborative research and innovation through public-private partnerships. DPI today is a widely acknowledged Centre of Excellence in polymer science and technology, firmly established in Europe and gradually reaching out to other parts of the world.

Scientific quality and industrial relevance: these are the mainstays of DPI's success. We specialise in bringing together stakeholders from academia and industry to enable world-class research that has clear industrial relevance. This is what we have been doing for the past fifteen years - and this is what we will continue to do in the future. It is our raison d'etre - and our unique selling point.

The high reputation we enjoy is also the result of a consistent strategy. In growing our academic and industrial partner base and our project portfolio, we have all along been led by the two guiding principles of coherence and focus. We look for partners who can strengthen our existing capabilities, or enable us to explore new combinations of scientific knowledge and industrial needs. Our aim is always to reinforce our core business, which is to carry out a world-class pre-competitive R&D programme that generates value for our stakeholders in the polymer value chain. This is also the rationale behind our taking up the coordination role for EU consortia and EU projects. In the years ahead, we will continue to pursue this strategy of coherence and focus, while at the same time exploring new areas of research and extending our partner base to exciting new regions.

Recognised quality
With its research in the field of polymer science, DPI makes a significant contribution to the high ranking of the Netherlands globally in terms of national research output. The quality of our scientific work continues to improve as we continue to raise the bar. One indicator of our success is the consistently high Citation-Impact Factor we achieve for our scientific publications. In 2011, this was 2.04 - once again more than twice as high as the global average. The average Journal Impact Factor - a measure of the authority of the journals in which our researchers publish - reached an impressive 4.99 in 2012.

In addition to the recognition that DPI as an institute gets for its achievements, individual DPI scientists are regularly honoured with international awards. For example, in 2012 Dr. Anurag Pandey won the Paul Schlack Man-made Fibres Prize 2012 for his thesis work in a DPI project, while Dr. Wilma Dierkes was granted the ACS Sparks Thomas Award for outstanding contributions and innovations in the field of elastomers by younger scientists, technologists and engineers.

Scientists who have completed their PhD research at DPI have valuable experience in fields that are relevant to industry. And having proved their mettle vis-à-vis highly demanding industrial partners at DPI, they have little difficulty finding jobs. Most of them end up being employed by DPI partners.


Where science and business meet
In its role as a bridge between academia and industry, DPI regularly organizes meetings to promote cross-fertilisation of ideas that will lead to new directions in research and innovation.

For example, each year in January we organise a one-day international workshop around a specific theme. Attracting industrial and academic participants from many different countries, the workshop provides a platform for forward-looking, cross-disciplinary discussions that provide insight into the latest developments in science, identify new challenges and point the way to future areas of research. In 2012, the workshop centred on polymer chemistry and synthesis.

New horizons
In today's rapidly globalising world, international collaboration is not only an economic necessity; increasingly, it is also proving to be a scientific advantage. We are making good progress in extending our international reach, both at the European level and in some high-growth economies such as China and Brazil.

The European Commission clearly sees DPI as a Centre of Excellence that has the all-round capabilities and the requisite scientific and industrial network to be able to take the lead in exploring and initiating European-level collaboration in polymers, for example under the EU's Seventh Framework Programme.

The Hybrid Materials Workshop organized in Luxembourg in 2010 jointly by DPI and SusChem (the European Technology Platform for Sustainable Chemistry) and sponsored by the European Commission paved the way for collaboration projects within the EU's Seventh Framework Programme, with scope for the participation of players from other non-EU countries, such as Russia. DPI will be coordinating several such projects.

So far, our EU funding proposals have enjoyed an exceptionally high rate of success. Of the two proposals we submitted to the EU, two - the COMPNANOCOMP initiative and the SHINE project - were approved and granted funding. A noteworthy element of the COMPNANOCOMP initiative is that it is a 50/50 partnership between an EU consortium and a Russian consortium.

In 2012, DPI and DPI Value Centre launched a new initiative: the Polymer Value Chain Projects. The set-up chosen will involve more and different players from the value chain, including SMEs, and will allow international participation under certain conditions.


Beyond Europe
In order to achieve our ambition of becoming an International Centre of Excellence, it is crucial that we step up our efforts in teaming up with academic and industrial partners in other countries, especially the high-growth economies of the world. In 2012, we further strengthened our networks in China and Brazil, the two countries that are currently the main focus of our internationalisation efforts, and also gained a stronger foothold in Russia.

In both China and Brazil, there is a growing interest in the DPI approach of promoting cooperation between companies and knowledge institutes. More and more, it is seen as a best practice that academic and industrial stakeholders in these countries could benefit from. And both countries are willing to make substantial financial contributions to joint projects.

In China, DPI has set up a collaboration with the Changchun Institute of Applied Chemistry (CIAC) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. This is DPI's first academic partner in China. And in Brazil, we have started a collaboration with the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq), in which the Eindhoven University of Technology is also participating.

International talent pool
As a premier league player, it is vital for DPI to be able to attract top-notch scientists who can deliver on the DPI promise of world-class scientific quality in fields that are of relevance to our industrial partners.

International cooperation provides us with an opportunity to tap into the talent pools of other countries in research areas in which they are particularly strong or in which there is a shortage of suitable people in the Netherlands. DPI is increasingly attracting scientists from outside Europe, in particular China.

This not only benefits us but also the scientific communities in these countries. Working in a top-class research organization like DPI offers these talented and ambitious young scientists an excellent opportunity to familiarise themselves with international scientific practices and conventions and become part of the international science community. DPI sees hosting and guiding foreign scientists as an important part of being an International Centre of Excellence.

Social responsibility
While much of DPI's work is driven by industrial relevance, we see it as our corporate social responsibility to help address major global challenges that, at least initially, are more of a societal nature. DPI and DPI Value Centre set up a research programme to address Plastic Marine Litter, a complex and challenging problem that can only be solved through collaboration between scientists, industry, environmental organisations and governments.

The way ahead
DPI intends to play an active role in initiating and setting up projects under the new Top Consortia for Knowledge and Innovation (TKI) structure introduced by the Dutch government to stimulate research and innovation in the ten top sectors designated for the Netherlands. In 2012, DPI and DPI Value Centre signed the first series of innovation contracts under this new structure and, in partnership with Food & Biobased Research (FBR) in Wageningen (Netherlands), set up the ‘TKI Smart Polymeric Materials' (TKI SPM).

The Dutch government's current subsidy commitment to DPI extends until 2016. Although there is still a degree of uncertainty with regard to funding for the years after 2016, we firmly believe that with its past record and its current initiatives, both in the Netherlands and internationally, DPI has a very strong proposition as a key enabler of innovation. We are therefore hopeful that the government - which has always been a key stakeholder in DPI - will take a long-term view and show the same commitment to public-private collaboration and enterprise that DPI and its partners have shown during the past fifteen years.

Jacques Joosten, Managing Director
Martien Cohen Stuart, Scientific Director

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