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Marc Cornelissen Brightlands Award makes sustainability pioneering possible

On January 20, 2021, the Marc Cornelissen Brightlands Award will be presented for the third time to a sustainability pioneer. Registration is now open. The foundation behind this incentive prize has seen growth in the interest in this award. The new chairman, Maria van der Hoeven, explains what this all means.

Does a new president mean a new course? Maria van der Hoeven: “Not necessarily. The course isn’t new, but it does represent continued development with the addition of new elements that my predecessor, Jan Cobbenhagen, had already begun. He deserves a lot of credit for that. At the same time, Jan realized that he didn’t have enough time to keep carrying the load. The foundation started looking for a successor and ended up contacting me. I was already the jury chair, so I was very familiar with the foundation’s work. I’m really honored that they asked me to be the chairman of the foundation.” Why do you feel it’s worth the effort? Maria van der Hoeven: “One the one hand, because of my interests and the work I do in sustainability in the other roles I fulfill. Specifically, the award’s objective makes it well worth it to me. As a society, we are facing a major challenge when it comes to sustainability. We already knew this, of course, but this has become even more manifest during the corona crisis. It is a need that is fortunately getting more and more recognition at the national and international level with initiatives like the Green Deal. On a regional level, I view something like the development of the Chemelot Circular Hub as a challenging yet logical ambition.” What role does the award play in this? Maria van der Hoeven: “Not only are government, companies and knowledge institutes necessary for this challenge, it’s mostly the individuals who can push boundaries. In practice however, the road to achieving breakthroughs that matter is often one filled with bumps and potholes. It is a long-haul road that is solely reserved for true sustainability pioneers with a mission. And we can’t get enough of these types of people. This award is an incentive prize for these pioneers, not just for the winner. It is encouragement for anyone who is prepared to deviate from the path of least resistance, show courage and perseverance to achieve their goal. We need these people to help society make progress. By awarding this prize, we want to help them take the next step in making their own contribution to a sustainable future for us all.” What aspects of the award will change? Maria van der Hoeven: “A few things. It’s an award for sustainability pioneers, so we are aiming for entrepreneurs or researchers who have a dream they would like to pursue, either on their own or in teams, and who are on their way to achieving it. You have to see it in broad terms: it might involve topics such as the circular economy, digital innovation, nutrition or health. It’s important for the participants to do this in the same spirit as Marc Cornelissen: with guts and perseverance, making connections across borders and with respect for the environment and our planet. One new aspect of the selection process is the introduction of the semi-finals in which around ten candidates will compete. These contenders will give their pitches on December 8, 2020 to compete for a spot in the finals on January 20, 2021.

What are you expecting to see? Maria van der Hoeven: “As many candidates as possible, from every corner of the world as far as I’m concerned. I think it’s a great opportunity to give initiatives the boost they need. However, as I said, the attention is not focused solely on the eventual winner, but also on the other submissions. There will undoubtedly also be projects submitted that could make a difference. They also deserve the chance to take the next steps and cannot be allowed to fall by the wayside. The Marc Cornelissen Brightlands Award Foundation wants to help them do this. The condition is of course that the corona measures make this possible.”

How? Maria van der Hoeven: “We want to build a community of sustainability pioneers, joining forces with candidates participating this year or those who have applied in previous years, and entrepreneurs and researchers from Brightlands and the award’s partners. This manifests itself in a few ways, one of which is a special event prior to the awards ceremony with a spotlight on the projects of all of the candidates.” What is the purpose of a “Friends of the Marc Cornelissen Brightlands Award”? Maria van der Hoeven: “Yes. We noticed that many people can identify with Marc Cornelissen's pioneering mentality and believe it’s important to nurture and support talent in this area. This is why they support our work. This includes organizations such as the Province of Limburg and various companies, but also private individuals. We want to meet this need with the Friends of the Marc Cornelissen Brightlands Award initiative which will hopefully not just serve as the basis for the award, but also reinforce the idea of a truly sustainable society. A ‘friend’ of our foundation is someone who is just as dedicated to sustainability as we are and wants to continue to encourage talent. It’s very easy to become a friend, by the way via the website.  Become an award friend How can these sustainability pioneers apply to compete for the award? Maria van der Hoeven: “Candidates can apply via the Marc Cornelissen Brightlands Award website. If you or someone you know is a sustainability pioneer, be sure to check out the website. If you think you qualify for the award, please be sure to apply, and if you know someone you think deserves this incentive prize, tell them about it. The application deadline is November 15. Don’t wait too long!” Apply now