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Planet is a foundation that focusses on the development of an open innovation ecosystem for industrial biotechnology from its location at Biotech Campus Delft. One-hundred-and-fifty years ago, the foundations for the combination of microbiology and technology was laid at this site in the form of a factory that produced a consistent quality of baker’s yeast. The site currently houses 9 businesses and 7 factories, all operating in industrial biotechnology.

DSM is one of the global players in the field of industrial biotechnology, and the owner of Biotech Campus Delft. In 2019, the company opened up the campus to other biotechnology firms to allow them access to the unique knowledge and infrastructure found there. In addition, the continued development of the location with the help of innovative new companies is of interest to DSM. The concept proved to be a success, and once multiple businesses had reported an interest in establishing themselves at the campus, enough trust had been built to engage in the founding of an independent foundation fully focussed on the development of an open innovation ecosystem for industrial biotechnology.

The Planet foundation was founded on 10 July of this year. Cindy Gerhardt, the director of Planet, explains: “We find ourselves fortunate enough to have five ‘founding partners’: DSM, TU Delft, the Municipality of Delft, the Province of South Holland and InnovationQuarter. All our partners contribute both financially and in terms of knowledge and networks to allow the ecosystem and the companies operating within it to optimise their establishment in Delft, and to subsequently grow their business.

Modern office spaces and labs
The foundation has two goals: on the one hand, to provide biotech firms with access to labs and offices available; on the other hand, to construct an ecosystem that offers biotech firms whatever they need to scale up and grow. At the centre of Biotech Campus Delft is het Beijerinck building, named after the first professor in microbiology working at Delft. On the ground floor are general utilities for all campus residents: a restaurant, a gym, and meeting rooms. The second, third, and fourth floors were empty, and have been renovated to create modern office spaces and labs with help from the partners. These are equipped to house some 30 small businesses or 150 new employees who are striving to make their innovative biotech dreams a reality. The unique selling point of Planet is in its network of experts, clients, investors, and mentors. The ecosystem is of particular support when it comes to upscaling. Gerhardt:  “Biologists or designers are very capable of wrangling micro-organisms at the scale of a single laboratory, but moving from there to consistent quality at low cost at an industrial scale is something else entirely. And that is exactly what makes Biotech Campus Delft so one-of-a-kind. Compared to other campuses, the required knowledge and experience are available at an industrial scale.”

Synergie between small and large business
This knowledge of upscaling is amply available at the established parties on the campus, such as DSM, the Bioprocess Pilot Facility plant, and at TU Delft. In addition, Gerhardt believes in synergy between small and large businesses. “Large business bring experience, knowledge of upscaling, quality and security. Small businesses bring exceptional ideas, daring, energy and quick action. Each can learn from the other and offer inspiration – if you manage to align them correctly.”

Expand the innovative ecosystem
Lastly, what actually goes on at the campus? “That list is endless”, Gerhardt laughs. “Basically, we always draw inspiration from nature, to develop processes or products that are more sustainable, healthier, or taste better. Enzymes that allow for more juice to be squeezed from fruit, algae that produce fish oil for salmon feed, yeasts that produce non-calorific sweetening agent Stevia, cells that grow into tender bits of animal-free meat, algae that end up in fashionable blue drink, and, of course, businesses with smart technological solutions. One of the latest businesses to arrive on the campus is developing a quick test for detecting coronaviruses. They add unique knowledge of nanobiotechnology and data management to the mix.”

Planet wants to continue to expand the innovative ecosystem with new businesses and network partners. The organisation has every confidence that correct knowledge at a single location and inspirational networking possibilities can combine into a flourishing hub for innovation, thereby accelerating the necessary change to a cleaner and more environmentally-friendly future. A future that is not just biobased, but circular as well.