DPI Annual Report 2010 - ‘Today's science, tomorrow's business'

10 June 2011

DPI is at a crucial juncture in its development. The changing environment calls for a change in our strategy. Our ambition is to evolve into a global Centre of Excellence in polymers and broaden our financial base. To achieve this, we will expand our partnership base by looking for partners across the entire polymer value chain and internationalising our activities, and we will continue our commitment to excellence.

Top sectors

Last year a new government was installed in the Netherlands and the contours of a new national industry and innovation policy are emerging. The present government wants to strengthen Dutch industry sectors that are already strong, among other things by concentrating scientific research on specific areas. Three of these ‘top sectors' are very relevant for DPI: Chemicals, Agro Food and High Tech Systems & Materials.

At the same time, the government has decided that, unlike in previous years, no additional funds from the national gas revenues will be made available for investments in research. This means that the financing of a research project will increasingly depend on the project's added value for industry and industry's willingness to co-fund it. This is very much in line with the model with which DPI has enjoyed so much success since 1996. The Dutch government has high hopes for public-private R&D partnerships, in which knowledge institutes (universities and research institutes) and companies jointly carry out research on topics that are relevant for industry.

It is clear, however, that there are far fewer resources available than in previous years. It is therefore crucial for DPI to be involved in the ‘knowledge agendas' that are being formulated for each of the top sectors in the spring of 2011. We should be able to do so, based on our excellent track record in creating and organising consortia and conducting research that is of strategic importance for industry and for which companies are willing to pay (demand driven research).

In our new strategy, we have decided to broaden our horizons in order to generate more income from partnerships with the international polymer industry and become less dependent on government funding.

Opportunities for growth

DPI owes its growth in the last few years to its cooperation with mainly West European companies, but we need to expand our partnership base in the coming years. The BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) offer particularly good prospects, because in these countries there is a huge demand for polymer knowledge and expertise and for training facilities for research scientists working for companies and research institutes. There is also a clear need for closer cooperation between universities and companies in these countries. This represents an excellent opportunity for us to transfer our expertise and knowledge and, in doing so, bring our partner companies into contact with potential suppliers of raw materials and potential customers for their products.

At the same time, DPI's existing corporate partners feel an increasing need to innovate, but the global financial crisis of recent years has made them more cost-conscious, and this cost-consciousness extends to their budgets for R&D. For DPI this means that we must focus even more sharply on subjects that will help these partners to innovate and enable them to remain internationally competitive. We will continue to pursue our proven strength: public-private cooperation in pre-competitive research. In our new strategic plan we describe this as Track A (see box on page 23 of the report).

Another way in which DPI is going to broaden its partnership base is by looking for partners in the entire polymer value chain, from raw material to end product. This will enable us to unlock a great deal of innovation potential. It also fits in with our desire to include more SMEs in our programme, since the polymer value chain includes many innovative SMEs.


Forming consortia

The experience that DPI has gained with consortia is increasingly proving itself in Europe. We are frequently asked to act as coordinator in forming European consortia. We are a recognised

partner of the EU and are able to bring together all relevant parties, including partners in non-EU countries such as Russia. We have for example formed consortia on subjects such as nanocomposites and modelling under the seventh EU Framework Programme.

But outside the EU context, too, we are capable of bringing together relevant business and research partners to form consortia. We are engaged in various new topics, including electrospinning of fine fibres, in which there is interest from companies in the plastics sector and the agro food sector

DPI's international profile has become much more prominent recently. As a result, we are often the first choice as an initiator of new public-private partnerships. We are going to build on this strength in the coming years with Track B in our strategic plan. This track focuses on collaborations along existing value chains. In these collaborations we will benefit from the experience that we have gained over the last year from our close involvement in the Knowledge Workers Scheme established by the Dutch government. The idea behind the scheme was to prevent the economic crisis leading to a reduction in the number of researchers in industry. The scheme enabled companies to retain their researchers by seconding them to a research institute, helped by a subsidy from the Dutch government. DPI helped 200 industrial researchers to keep their knowledge and expertise up to date. In this way, we helped prevent a ‘lost generation'.

We have also chosen to employ a third track, Track C, in which we will address certain societal issues in our research agenda. We are aware that academia, industry and the government are not DPI's only stakeholders. Some societal issues lend themselves to a solution based on polymer science and technology. To give an example: we have for several years been involved in projects in the context of the Bottom of the Pyramid, in which we try to find solutions for the challenges facing developing countries, such as housing, health and nutrition. Another example concerns a major new international problem that has emerged in recent years, one that also affects our partner companies: the ‘plastic soup' consisting of huge quantities of plastic waste that accumulate in oceans and seas and that constitute a threat to marine flora and fauna. We have decided to mobilise our knowledge to see whether we can help find a solution. We are putting together a consortium that will concentrate on the plastic waste in the North Sea and Wadden Sea.

In 2010 DPI intensified its cooperation with the DPI Value Centre. The DPI Value Centre plays a key role in identifying innovation opportunities because of its close ties with SMEs and its intimate knowledge of these companies' specific needs. At the DPI Annual Meeting in 2010 we took stock of a large number of these needs, for example in the construction sector, the packaging industry and the transport industry. By focusing on these concrete needs, DPI and DPI Value Centre ensure that their research remains immediately relevant for the market and that their polymer expertise leads to innovative products and solutions in the shortest possible time. All this is in line with the new Dutch government's objective of making SMEs benefit more from scientific research. DPI and DPI Value Centre already have a lot of experience in that regard.


Scientific excellence

DPI's ambition is to grow into an International Centre of Excellence for polymer science and technology. This means that we devote a lot of attention to the quality of our research output. The growing journal impact factor (4.43 in 2010) and high citation impact factor (2.19 in 2009) of our publications prove that we are moving in the right direction. To increase both the quality and the impact of our work even further, we have tightened up our protocols in consultation with our Scientific Reference Committee.

We are also taking steps to further improve the quality and use of our patents. We will start using the patents that are not assigned to our DPI partners to generate new business and expand existing business. It was for this purpose that we created an ‘option scheme' with the DPI Value Centre. We will actively promote this scheme in the market to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of our patents.

All in all, 2010 was an exciting and eventful year. This annual report provides a good overview of the results we achieved. However, 2011 will be a crucial year for DPI. A lot will depend on the outcome of the discussions on the ‘top sectors' in the Netherlands and the position DPI is able to secure in them.

Apart from that, we will also focus on new strategic targets for innovation. The aim of the strategy is to generate €33 million in revenues by 2014. We also want to become an international ‘hub' for public-private partnerships in excellent polymer research in 2014. We believe that we can accomplish this, because time and time again we have shown ourselves to be capable of attracting leading international researchers, PhDs and post-docs who, like us, are committed to excellence. In this way we will continue to live up to our adage that today's science is tomorrow's business.


Jacques Joosten           Martien Cohen Stuart

Managing Director         Scientific Director

To read the annual report, click here.


Coordination: DPI Communications
Design: Camiel Lintsen, Kade 05, Eindhoven
Photography: Bart van Overbeeke Fotografie, Eindhoven
Foto Verreijt, Nijmegen
University of Jena
Interviews: 1005 Tekstproducties, Geldrop
Translation: Effective English, Den Haag
Vikas Sonak
Henk Rhebergen
Printing: Lecturis, Eindhoven

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