Following the success of the first essenscia Innovation Award, the jury’s chairman, François Cornelis, former Vice President of Total Executive Committee, created in 2013 the Innovation Circle vzw/asbl. This permanent structure offers to startups and SME of the sector free assistance and mentoring in order to develop their project till market entry.


The ultimate goal is to create employment and added value in the Belgian chemical sector.
The innovation Circle gathers 13 ex CEO and academics of the chemical sector: François Cornélis (Chariman), Philippe Bodson (Glaverbel, Tractebel), Edouard Croufer (Exxon, UCB), Koenraad Debackere (KU Leuven), Benoit Gailly (UCL), Christian Jourquin (Solvay), Jean-Marie Solvay (Solvay), Luc Sterckx (Indaver, Oleon, EDF-Luminus), Carl Van Camp (Total), Guido Vandervorst (Deloitte), Luc Vansteenkiste (Recticel) et Yves Verschueren (essenscia).

essenscia, Deloitte, KUL and UCL are the main sponsors of this initiative.


The Innovation Circle guarantees absolute confidentiality in relation to the submitted projects and any related information. The transmission of any information related to a project outside the Innovation Circle is allowed only with prior written approval of the project owner.


First step: the project is addressed to the General Secretary, who meets the project owners and checks the conformity with the Circle’s scope of activity. There is an obvious link with chemistry, life sciences and/or plastics. There is a strong innovative character and the academic part of the R&D is proven and protected. Added value can be expected for Belgium and the project is sustainable.
If necessary, a preparatory meeting with Deloitte is planned before the presentation to the Circle.

Second step: the project is presented by its owners at an Innovation Circle’s meeting (there are at least 9 meetings per year).

After the presentation, the Circle decides sovereignly if the project is selected for assistance and the type of assistance it will receive. The decision is based on objective criteria and is transmitted to the project owners within a reasonable time.

If the project is selected, a godfather (or mentor), is chosen amongst the members of the Circle. 

Follow up:
  the godfather will follow the project during one year, renewable.  At regular intervals, the project will be discussed internally or with the project owners.

If, after one (or more) year, the Circle judges that it can’t add value to the project or that the project is not developing rapidly enough, it can decide sovereignly to stop the collaboration. The project owners will be informed by the General Secretary.


Projects assisted by the Circle can use following sentence:
“Project XXX  gets the support of the Innovation Circle, a permanent structure that offers to the start-up and innovative companies of the chemical sector free support  in order to develop their idea’s.
The relation between the project owners and the Circle is based on full confidence and there is no control on the validity of any information transmitted to the Circle.”

No mention of the godfather (mentor) is to be made.


Mature projects needing capital can be addressed to the Innovation fund.
Also an initiative of François Cornelis, the Innovation Fund sa/nv invests in innovative startups and companies active in the field of chemistry and life sciences. The Fund has been created in February 2015 and its capital amount presently to 28,4 million EUR. Through its investors and partners, extra capital is accessible for projects with a strong innovative character, from early stage on.
The Circle and the Fund are distinct entities. But obviously, the Award, the Circle and the Fund form together ‘a one-stop shop’ for start-ups and innovative companies in the chemical and life sciences sector.

On June 14 2016, the Innovation Fund held its first annual general meeting.
François Cornélis, Chairman, outlined a positive assessment of the first 16 months of the fund: capital amounts to € 20 million and 5 projects were decided, for an initial investment of € 1,980,000.
The annual report is available on or on request at


Edith Coune – 0032 475 90 15 10 –

To summarize

Essenscia Innovation Award Innovation Circle
Innovation Fund 


Essenscia Initiative

Essenscia hosting 



 F. Cornélis, Jury Chairman

F. Cornélis

F. Cornélis, Board Chairman

General Secretary

 Corine Petry

 Edith Coune

 Edith Coune

Functioning mode    
Jury reappointed every two years Former top level executives or academics on a voluntary basis Investors, experts and professionals

What is in it for start-ups or innovative companies


Strategic advice
Business assistance

Follow up