Sustainable Chemical Industry: new materials, bio-aromatics, electrification

TNO helps the chemical industry to innovate by enabling businesses to reduce costs and get new products to the market faster. Businesses looking for new products or production processes turn to TNO for advice, pilot designs and trials in TNO or third party laboratories. This enables TNO to continually contribute to successful innovations in this sector.



Chemical companies wish to become less dependent on a single group of raw materials, such as fossil raw materials, for their products. The transition from fossil to renewable raw materials offers new opportunities and is helping to make the chemical industry more sustainable. Europe's bulk chemical industry is faced with heavy competition from regions where energy and raw material costs are low, such as the Middle East and the United States. In addition, emerging economies are a key growth market for bulk chemical products. In response to these trends, European chemical industries are developing into producers of specialised products that are locally produced near the sources of the raw materials, such as biomass and other sustainable energy resources.

Diversification and specialisation

TNO has developed a vision in answer to these developments and has translated this into three concrete propositions for accelerating innovation in the chemical industry. We anticipate that businesses will focus more and more on niche markets with high-grade materials and specialised products. TNO is helping chemical companies to apply alternative raw materials, produce more efficiently and get their products to the market faster. We focus particularly on suppliers of renewable raw materials, fine chemicals, specialty chemicals and polymers and consumer chemicals. TNO is not only supporting the industry with new technology, we also help design new value chains and business models.

Three routes

The first route to new opportunities for the chemical industry is the flexible use of raw materials. TNO and its partners jointly develop alternatives to fossil raw materials that are sustainable, economically feasible, safe, cost-effective and relatively easy to scale up. Examples are biomass constituents or the extraction of raw materials from CO2.

The second route leads to smarter and more efficient production processes. We conceive and develop technologies, methods and business models to make existing processes more sustainable and economically feasible in order to enable more flexible production of smaller batches of more diverse products. This enables businesses to respond more quickly to changing market demands. 

For the third route, TNO is focusing on the qualitative improvement of the functionality of chemical products. This will enable chemical, pharmaceutical and personal and home care companies to respond more adequately to trends in the supply chain, such as the growing consumer demand for special and personalised products. Formulae and special materials are becoming more and more complex and this demands solutions for new functionality, whereby product safety plays an essential role.

Our products and services

We advise clients and provide various options that they can choose from, whereby technology, sustainability, safety and economic feasibility are seen as integral parts of a whole.

We provide engineering services to companies that are looking for new concepts for products or processes. Together with our partners, we design and build trials at the bench or pilot scale.

We share the technology we and others develop with our clients via contract research or licences. The intellectual property involved may belong to either TNO or the client.

Our clients profit from collaborations with knowledge institutes, businesses and government agencies via open innovation programmes, which means the development costs and risks are shared.

Curious about the possibilities to make the industry more sustainable together?


Sustainable Chemistry

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Germany and The Netherlands come up with a bilateral agenda on hydrogen and green electrons for industry

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In a bilateral virtual workshop between Germany and The Netherlands, hundred invited experts from industry, knowledge institutes, regions and governments discussed ideas for a bilateral agenda on hydrogen... Read more

E-fuels crucial to sustainable heavy transport

23 September 2020
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When social innovation meets technological innovation

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Sunlight as fuel for sustainable chemical processes - Project LUMEN

15 November 2019
In the Interreg project LUMEN, TNO is collaborating with universities and industry to develop a lab-scale demonstrator to show that hydrogen and carbon dioxide, in combination with sunlight, can be converted... Read more

Sunlight used to convert CO2 to methane extremely efficiently

29 April 2019
TNO and Hasselt University (Belgium) have developed an innovative method which uses sunlight to power chemical processes directly. The two organizations succeeded in converting CO2 into methane fuel at... Read more

‘Green’ hydrogen covenant South Holland signed

12 December 2017
TNO is working on the energy system of the future. We always do this in cooperation with partners. The Covenant for a Green Hydrogen Economy South Holland: test bed Energy Island Goeree-Overflakkee (H2G-O)... Read more

10 million for developing sustainable raw materials for chemical industry

01 December 2017
Biorizon partner, TNO, ECN and VITO and the Province Noord-Brabant are jointly investing 10 million euro in the development of bio-aromatics. The four parties made this announcement in Antwerp during... Read more


Ir. Peter Wolfs

  • Chemistry
  • Chemicals
  • Formulation
  • Procestechnology
  • Personal & Home Care

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