Improving Air Quality and Tackling Climate Change with Open Innovation

Published Aug-17-19

A process that uses water enriched with hydrogen to reduce the use of pesticides and fertilizers in agriculture as well as other winners in a global open innovation contest organized by this French multinational company.

Air Liquide, France

The Story:

Improving Air Quality and Tackling Climate Change with Open Innovation To advance scientific research and to support its own growth French multinational company Air Liquide leverages both internal communities and external innovation ecosystems - “collective intelligence based on very strong individual talents,” says François Darchis, Senior Vice President, Innovation and Development, Air Liquide Group.

One way Air Liquide engages with innovators outside its four walls is through an open innovation competition called the Air Liquide Scientific Challenge.

In 2018, this world leader in industrial gases launched the second edition of the challenge which invited the scientific community (researchers, start-ups, private and public institutions) to develop new applications to improve air quality and prevent climate change using essential small molecules such as oxygen, nitrogen and hydrogen.

They were:

1) Lower-CO2 H2 - produce cost-competitive hydrogen while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

2) H2 is Coming - use hydrogen to avoid carbon dioxide emissions in industrial processes that traditionally use fossil fuels.

3) Sustainable Farm to Fork - ideas on how essential small molecules can be used to meet the dietary needs of nine billion people in an affordable, sustainable and eco-friendly way.

Winning Proposals

This open innovation challenge attracted 132 proposals from 34 countries and three winners were chosen by a jury of seven members, that included a Nobel prize-winning chemist. The three winners (called laureates in Air Liquide's jargon) were:

Lower-CO2 H2 - Jose Manuel Serra Alfaro from the Instituto de Tecnologia Quimica, Spain for the development of a new process using a reactor membrane to produce purified hydrogen in a single step.

H2 is Coming - Christophe Coperet from the ETH Zurich in Switzerland for the development of efficient catalysts for the use of hydrogen and carbon dioxide to produce methanol.

Sustainable Farm to Fork - Wenbiao Shen from the Nanjing Agricultural University in China for the use of water enriched with hydrogen in agriculture to reduce fertilizer and pesticide use.

Next Steps

Each of the winners was awarded a grant of 50,000 euros (approx. $USD 57,000) and signed a partnership with Air Liquide Group that will allow them to receive a share of an additional 1.5 million euros to develop their proposals into market-ready technologies.

François Darchis, added: “This challenge enables us to continue expanding our knowledge related to Essential Small Molecules, with the aim to invent new solutions reducing carbon footprint and addressing the key challenges facing society."

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