Currently head of the group's Food Specialties unit, van Leen already has a good idea of the trends driving innovation in food.
When he takes up the role as the group's chief innovation officer in the first quarter of 2006, he will be in charge of accelerating 11 product development programmes, more than half of which are in the area of health and nutrition.
The goal is to generate up to €1 billion in sales from innovation by 2010, a key part of the new strategy revealed at the beginning of the month.
"Most of the growth has to come from the existing programmes, and the pipeline is already quite well filled," van Leen told NutraIngredients.com.
In weight management, the firm has recently signed an agreement with Sweden's LTP to distribute Fabuless, a satiety ingredient for use in dairy products. For diabetes prevention, it is working on a product expected to launch in 2006 that is "very close to success", according to van Leen.
DSM is also focusing on physical performance, with its PeptoPro sports drink, and cardiovascular disease, as well as gut health with its probiotics and "maybe mental health will also come into play".
Next year could also see the launch of a new drink, based on milk, yet without the taste or appearance of the dairy product.
"We're working on a product with all the nutritional value of milk but without its taste, perhaps to be targeted at children, although it's still too early to talk about the positioning," revealed Van Leen.
The nutrition innovation programmes, as well as those for the group's other activities, will gain from an extra €50 million each year, boosting the current spend on innovation of about €300 million.
A further €75 million has been allocated for acquiring products and small companies in the region of €10-30 million.
"This could lead to other deals like the Fabuless one, which is a good example of open innovation," said van Leen.
Spend on venturing, which also comes under the new innovation centre, will stay at the current level, but van Leen sees acquiring access to new products as a more 'aggressive', and less risky, form of venturing.
DSM also has a share in US-based nutrigenomics company Sciona, which will give it the key know-how needed to develop the area of personalized nutrition.
A growing trend in the western markets, personalised nutrition has been targeted as one of four new 'emerging business areas' that will 'prepare for market needs beyond 2010'.
"There is more and more evidence of links between small changes in DNA and the development of chronic disease," noted Van Leen.
"And the whole human genomics project has made available gene sequences for use in nutrition research. Sciona already has 19 genes or 'snips' patented," he added.
While DSM is not yet using the firm's intellectual property, it will have access to the genetics patents in the future.
"We have focused our innovation on metabolic syndrome, and the whole complex of weight management, cardiovascular disease and exercise. We will try to make a link between genetic changes, lifestyle and food," explained van Leen.
How this research will lead to sales for the group is not yet clear, but it may shape product development, create demand for food supplements or even drive the firm towards diagnostics.
"It's a field we feel we have a lot of strength in although it could be one year or more likely two to three before there is anything substantial on the market," added van Leen.