The winner of the 2021 award was Panos Kouris. Co-sponsored by Stamicarbon, the award was announced during a ceremony at the Brightlands campus in Geleen.

Panos Kouris
Panos receiving his award

The jury was impressed by Vertoro’s advanced plans to extract lignin from wood waste to use as fuel for ships or as a sustainable raw material for plastics. Dysmus Kisulu of Solar Freeze and Werner Schouten of the Young Climate Movement shared second place. Pejman Djavdan (Stamicarbon Managing Director) has this to say “Stamicarbon has signed a four-year sponsor partnership to support this commendable initiative to drive innovation, whilst also showing our own commitment to sustainability. We are proud to support this award, the acceleration of breakthrough ideas and the talented people behind them."

Lignin potential

Panos is the co-founder of Vertoro, a start-up which has been located at the Chemelot campus since last year. The company 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 polluting diesel fuel in ship’s engines and as a raw material for naphtha crackers instead of fossil fuels. “The maritime sector is responsible for a significant proportion of CO2 emissions,” Panos said. “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.”

Vertoro will now be able to build a pilot plant at Brightlands Chemelot Campus in 2022. This facility will be used to further develop marine fuels in collaboration with Maersk, and to produce other Goldilocks® applications in both the materials and chemical sectors. “It’s a huge step, but we won’t be opening the champagne until the first ship driven by our alternative fuel leaves the port,” Panos Kouris laughs. (quote sourced from