Panos Kouris, working at InSciTe on behalf of Technische Universiteit Eindhoven and owner of start-up Vertoro (an InSciTe spin off company) has won the Marc Cornelissen Brightlands Award 2021.
His advanced plans to extract lignin from wood waste as a fuel for ships and as a raw material for plastics were best appreciated by the expert jury. The winner of the biennial award, a work of art and a cash prize of €35,000, was announced and presented during an event at the Brightlands Chemelot Campus in Geleen by Theo Bovens, King’s Commissioner in Limburg.
Winner Panos Kouris’ company Vertoro is testing the conversion of wood residue, agricultural products and paper waste into lignin at a pilot plant at Brightlands Chemelot Campus. The resulting liquid can serve as a replacement for high-pollution diesel fuel in ship’s engines and as a raw material for naphtha crackers instead of fossil fuel. “The maritime sector is responsible for a significant proportion of CO2 emissions,” said Kouris. “If we replace diesel with lignin, the emissions will drop considerably and we won’t have to drill for oil anymore. I’m really happy with the award. We can use the prize money to bring science even closer to society.”
This award is an homage to Marc Cornelissen, the polar explorer and sustainability pioneer who perished during a polar expedition in 2015. A year after his death, a foundation chaired by former minister Maria van der Hoeven took the initiative to start the award, won that year for the first time by Martine Bouman. The award’s main objective is to motivate sustainability pioneers in areas such as circularity, nutrition, digitalization and health. The cash prize is intended to be applied toward the further development of an idea or innovation. In 2018, medical entomologist Bart Knols won the award for his role in fighting the malaria mosquito.