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SINTEF researchers win innovation award

Delighted winners: Christian Simon and Ferdinand Männle from SINTEF Materials and Chemistry. Photo: EARTO
Christian Simon and Ferdinand Männle from Materials and Chemistry recently received an innovation award from EARTO, a trade association of European research institutes.

The award was the result of their innovative contribution towards the development of a new type of eco-friendly paint.”We didn’t win first prize — that went to Fraünhofer for a new type of solar cell module”, says Christian Simon. ”But we were joint runners-up together with three other participants, and are very pleased with that”, says Christian Simon.

Low-solvent paint
The eco-friendly paint is already available in the shops. In fact, one of the award criteria was that the technology in question should already be in use or commercially available. The paint has already been featured in Gemini and in SINTEF’s 2009 Annual Report. 

The reason for all the encouraging interest is that although the paint is almost solvent-free, it retains the properties of being both durable and fast-drying. The researchers achieved this by utilising a new technology called FunzioNano – and it was this that resulted in our colleagues’ recent award of the innovation prize.

”Many people have been sceptical to nanoparticles because of the potential dangers of their uncontrolled release into the natural environment. We can guarantee that ”our” nanoparticles are completely harmless, because they bind themselves chemically to the paint components and thus do not exist in their own right once the paint is completely hardened. This is an example of an application in which nanotechnology is extremely eco-friendly”, says the researcher, who is especially pleased to see the results of his own research on sale in the shops.

A film as well — all part of the award
All award winners were offered the opportunity to have a film made about their respective innovations. Simon and Männle both believe that the film will be useful in promoting their future work towards commercialisation of the technology.
”The film gives us an excellent opportunity to make our technology better known and to promote SINTEF on the global stage. We believe that this is vital when we come to apply this technology in other contexts”, says Simon. He emphasises that this has been a multidisciplinary SINTEF project for which many people can take some credit.
”Advanced characterisation methods developed in Trondheim and Oslo have made a major contribution to our success,” adds Männle. “The FunzioNano technology is a registered trademark. The name reminds us of functional nanoparticles and means, if read in Italian, that “they work”. And we have shown this to be true”, says Ferdinand Männle.
Patent rights
The paint is currently manufactured on a large scale by Jotun. Production is being carried out under a licence from SINVENT — a SINTEF subsidiary established to promote the commercialisation of research results.
IPR (intellectual property rights) protection was a key component of the innovation process.
”SINVENT, headed by Nils Spidsøe, was of great assistance during the commercialisation work and can take a lot of the credit for the benefits we are reaping from this technology. SINTEF’s IPR expertise was, and continues to be, a major factor in the ”industry-patent office-research centre” triangle”, says Männle.
”We now hold 18 patents based on six priority applications”, says Männle. The most important patents were already in place when SINTEF contacted Jotun, which required assistance to meet new and stricter EU environmental requirements.
The innovation award was presented for the first time last year. More than 300 European research institutes are currently associated with EARTO, which awards the prize.
Watch the film about the new paint product and read more about the paint product in SINTEF’s 2009 Annual Report

By Christina Benjaminsen