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NSM Focus | Robert Kok: “I want to generate socially relevant knowledge”

Assistant Professor of Innovation Management Robert Kok will work with other scientists on the integration of carbon capture and storage (CCS) into the steel industry. This research is possible thanks to a grant from the European Union. “I use fundamental knowledge to solve practical problems.”

“The steel industry generates a lot of CO2,” says Kok. “At ArcelorMittal we are going to examine whether we can capture and store this CO2 in abandoned gas fields in the North Sea. The aim is to make the CO2 suitable for reuse. We want to find out how this whole process can be socially accepted and become a successful business model. The latter means that it must be profitable and clear who is going to pay for it.”

Innovative business models

During the study, Kok will collaborate with business expert Vincent de Gooyert, environmental scientists Heleen de Coninck and Rosalie van Zelm, and colleagues from University College London. The scientists received a grant of 12.5 million euros from the EU's Horizon 2020 programme. They are going to examine whether all the elements needed to optimally integrate CCS into the industry are present. It addresses safety measures as well as aspects relating to environment, policy, and society.

The research should lead to innovative business models that can also be used in other industries. Kok: “Traditional business models will rely on the steel manufacturer as the customer. But we also want to look into other possibilities. For example, if it can be done on a sufficiently large scale, would a manufacturer be more willing to invest in capture and storage? They would then be not only the customer, but also a supplier of the CO2 that will be reused in the future. Numerous parties play a role in this situation and it is not clear in advance who could use this process as a business case. That makes it more complex, but also more interesting.”

State-of-the-art technology

The research is well suited to Kok's experience and expertise. For years, he has been researching the development of new products and process improvement, and their adoption. Kok regularly receives research questions from organisations. For example, he recently was presented with one from Radboud university medical center. It is working on new construction and wants to use state-of-the-art technology to do things such as guide patients, improve communication, and quickly locate equipment.

Kok was asked how different technologies can simultaneously deliver benefits for both patients and employees. “We're working with four Master's students on that research. It is partly about taking stock of the existing knowledge. In addition, we generate new knowledge. We conduct interviews and surveys among nurses. In doing so, we ask about issues such as work pressure and their attitude towards technology. Such knowledge can determine the successful implementation of innovations.”

Fundamental knowledge

Kok wants to generate “socially relevant knowledge” with his projects. “A lot of fundamental research takes place at universities. I use fundamental knowledge to solve the problems that practice struggles with. As you solve these problems, you generate new fundamental knowledge. The companies for which we conduct research are the first to have access to that knowledge. But after that, other organisations can also benefit from it.”/MvZ