The Green Chemistry Campus (GCC) offers unique facilities to green chemical companies that are due for upscaling and are looking for space with a level 5 industrial permit for this purpose. Furthermore, the campus has a lively community consisting of companies in diverse sectors ranging from construction to infrastructure to packaging. The common theme is that all of these members have an innovative chemical process: circular or biomass-based.
The formula is working. This is evident from the fact that the number of community members has doubled to almost 40 in recent months. This partially involves start-ups and SMEs with a need for contacts within the network or for the Campus’ services, for example laboratory services or financing support. Ten community members also occupy physical space in the Campus Demo Facility, including major parties, such as the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research (TNO), the Flemish Institute for Technological Research (VITO) and in the near future the Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN), part of TNO, as well. Together, they are the three initiators of the Shared Research Centre Biorizon, which conducts research into bio-aromatics. They too are ready for the next upscaling phase.
‘We are therefore working on preparing for a third building phase, the next expansion,’ says Koenders. ‘This new phase is already ready on paper. We are now going to verify our design with incumbent companies who would like to expand, as well as with parties who have expressed interest in making use of the new facilities sometime in the near future.’
One of these candidates is already knocking on our door, so to speak: the planned Shared Facility Centre for Polymerisation. This is a common research centre for new types of biobased plastics and recycled used plastics. Its aim is to support companies with new product-market combinations in Technology Readiness Level (TRL) phases 3 to 6. This would require an open pilot plant to be constructed on the GCC, similar to the Bio-Base Europe Pilot Plant in Ghent (Belgium) or the Bio Process Facility in Delft, but then with a different focus.
‘The expansion must not be a copy of the facilities that competing colleagues are already offering in the region,’ Koenders emphasises. ‘It is important for us to be unique. You would not want to do the same thing in several places in the Netherlands.’ This would lead to a fragmented offer and unnecessary rivalry.’ ‘The ecosystem of the Biobased Delta distinguishes us from others. Together, we offer a unique mix of knowledge, experience, facilities, training and education, and services at the interface of the agricultural and chemical sectors.’
In addition to the regular expansion plans, the Green Chemistry Campus is also working on developing an iLab in the region: Green Zebra, an incubator where start-ups working in the biobased and circular domain can do their work. ‘We are working on this together with the HZ, Avans and HAS universities of applied sciences, the ROC West-Brabant regional training centre and the Royal Association of the Dutch Chemical Industry (VNCI). While there are iLabs in various places in the Netherlands already, there are as yet none in the field of green chemistry nor are there any in West‑Brabant (in the Province of Noord-Brabant). This is because there are no universities here. However, there are some really great universities of applied sciences (HBOs) and senior secondary vocational educational institutions (MBOs) here, as well as numerous large companies ready to welcome start‑ups with open arms because they reinforce innovative strength.’
The commitment of the business sector is important because start-ups in the chemical sector often are technology-driven. They have a need for guidance and support relating to entrepreneurship, laboratory services and financing. After all, their work often involves capital-intensive activities.
Moreover, an incubator would not automatically be given a place on the Green Chemistry Campus. ‘For example, a potential location would be the Sugar Lab in Bergen op Zoom, where HAS and various agricultural companies are active. They too have low-threshold facilities. The Green Chemistry Campus is exclusively for companies that require a level 5 industrial permit. Often this is not yet necessary for start-ups.’
This article was created in cooperation with Biobased Delta