DPI Annual Report 2011 ‘Past, Present, Future…

8 June 2012

In 2012 the Dutch Polymer Institute (DPI) is celebrating its fifteenth anniversary as a successful public-private partnership. The platform is built on a tight professional network, the DPI community.
The basic principle behind this success is that DPI provides a platform in which different, often competing, companies can work together on research themes of common interest. The companies share the knowledge that is created and then use it themselves to innovate and to improve their products and processes. The formula for success is a mix of vision, courage and resources. The vision is that public-private partnerships accelerate the innovation process. The courage lies in daring to draw up a plan, persuading companies and knowledge institutes to invest in it, and then submitting the plan to the government. A plan that the government found so convincing that it agreed to subsidise it, and continues to subsidise it fifteen years later. It is a form of collaboration that has now become the basis for the Netherlands' new industrial policy.

One of our most important ‘products' is a constant stream of highly qualified scientists. Our ability to ‘deliver' these researchers is one of the most important justifications for our existence. There is an enormous demand in the corporate sector for researchers who speak the same language as the industry and who understand what knowledge is required for joint innovation in the field of polymers. An adequate stream of highly qualified researchers is absolutely essential for the success of the Dutch government's industrial policy. DPI makes a substantial contribution to meeting that need in the chemical sector.

Scientific excellence
Naturally, this accomplishment is also due to the proper guidance and monitoring of the quality of the research we perform. That process starts with the screening of the quality of the researchers who apply to join DPI. The quality and output of the research is then constantly monitored, for example by the Scientific Chairmen of the various research areas and by our Scientific Reference Committee. The sustained quality of our research is reflected in the findings of the annual independent appraisal of our scientific output and the number of citations from DPI publications. The articles appear in leading scientific journals with a huge impact, including Chemical Society Review, Nature Materials, Nature Nanotechnology and Biomacromolecules. In 2011 we reached a citation impact factor of 2.04 and an average journal impact factor of 4.55. In that regard, DPI matches up to the best international research institutes. This scientific excellence enables us to attract better scientists, who produce better research and better publications, and that in turn attracts wider attention from international research institutes and companies.

An important lesson we have learned in recent years is that we generate very little income from patents derived from DPI research. The original idea was that patents would create a source of financing for research, but that proved over-optimistic. It is too expensive, in terms of time and money, to register and maintain patents in different countries. Accordingly, we decided to assign patents to participants in our network as soon as possible. If they are not interested, we assign the rights to our partner organisation, DPI Value Centre, whose principal task is to initiate and promote innovation in the field of polymers. We believe this approach is the most cost-effective way of maximising our contribution to the creation of new business activity. DPI Value Centre not only exploits the knowledge and patents generated by DPI's research, but also develops ideas originating in companies in the networks of DPI and DPI Value Centre. A number of new and successful companies have emerged from this model of open innovation in practice.

Centre of Excellence
DPI is rapidly becoming a recognised global leader, an International Centre of Excellence in Polymers. At the same time, we want to continue driving innovation in Western Europe. The presence of DPI and similar organisations, greatly enhances the Netherlands' appeal as a location for international R&D laboratories. Teijin Aramid, a manufacturer of fibres, chose to establish its worldwide R&D centre and production facilities in the Netherlands and plans to invest around one billion euros in the country. DPI's network and the quality of its work are important - and perhaps even decisive - factors in that type of investment decision.

New materials
The demand for new materials is growing faster than ever. One of the developments paving the way for the global transition to a sustainable society is the use of renewable raw materials, which calls for new methods and processes to produce those materials. At the same time, the market wants multifunctional materials that incorporate different properties, such as a combination of electrical conductivity and an anti-microbial effect. The switch from fossil feedstock to renewable raw materials is prompting a change in the methods of processing these raw materials: from chemical to biotechnological production, from the use of chemical catalysts to enzymes. To make this transition, a lot of new knowledge and expertise will be required and hence we will need new partners. DPI is already laying the groundwork for a sustainable polymer chain, which starts with renewable raw materials and effectively closes product life cycles.

We intend to further intensify our international collaboration in the coming years, particularly with partners in the emerging economies and with an emphasis on Brazil and China. Brazil is chosen because of its abundant supply of renewable raw materials and the associated technological developments. In that context, we can make use of existing contacts with companies in that country that have already been members of our network for a number of years. We recently signed a contract with National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq), which will provide the basis for intensifying and expanding the collaboration with Brazil. China is a crucial market because of its powerful economic growth and the corresponding growth in the demand for polymers, as well as its abundant supply of ambitious researchers. We constantly need new scientists and want to encourage more researchers to join us from China by actively recruiting there, especially because we will thereby increase the diversity in our teams and reduce the shortage of researchers in the Netherlands in the fields in which DPI and its industrial partners operate.

DPI's qualities and activities have not gone unnoticed in Brussels. The European Union has asked us to form a consortium dedicated to the subject of nanocomposites, which also includes Russian partners. The European programmes, such as the Seventh Framework Programme and, in the future, Horizon 2020, provide opportunities for DPI to expand its programme. We are now in a position to participate in these programmes when the subject and the conditions fit in with our strategy.

The Dutch government has rewarded our approach and again promised a subsidy for 2012 and 2013. DPI and its partners have the vision and the courage to make the long-term commitment required to remain a leading world player and regional driver of innovation. We hope that the government will display a similar vision and courage in its future industrial policy and will also make a commitment for the longer term. Only then can a public-private partnership have the necessary continuity and impact.


Jacques Joosten 

 Martien Cohen Stuart

Managing Director

 Scientific Director

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Coordination: DPI Communications
Design: Camiel Lintsen, Kade 05, Eindhoven
Photography: Bart van Overbeeke Fotografie, Eindhoven
Bram Saeys Fotografie, Eindhoven
Interviews: 1005 Tekstproducties, Geldrop
Translation: Henk Rhebergen
Effective English, Den Haag
Printing: Lecturis, Eindhoven

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