First start-ups take up residence in BlueChem incubator for sustainable chemistry

With the relaxation of the corona measures, the first start-ups will take up residence in BlueChem this week. BlueChem is the first incubator in Belgium to focus on innovation and entrepreneurship in sustainable chemistry. The labs are already almost half full. With Calidris Bio, IBEVE, Peace of Meat and Triple Helix, four innovative growth companies once again choose BlueChem in Antwerp as a base for their research and business activities. With additional support from Air Liquide, ExxonMobil, SAS Institute and Vopak, BlueChem provides the right expertise and framework to accelerate sustainable innovations and increase their success rate for industrial application.

Despite the corona crisis, the labs in BlueChem are already almost half full

Due to the corona virus, the official opening of BlueChem at the end of April was cancelled, but the incubator for sustainable chemistry at the eco-company site Blue Gate Antwerp is making good progress. With 7 start-ups and scale-ups, the cooperation of 6 international companies and 5 strategic partners who offer a tailor-made service to the tenants in BlueChem, the available laboratories and office spaces are already almost half occupied. As a result, at least 60 people will already be able to work in BlueChem. The first start-ups will start their activities this week, of course with respect for the applicable hygiene measures and physical distance rules in order to guarantee a safe working environment.

 

 

International network

Shareholders essenscia, POM Antwerp, the city of Antwerp and VITO stress that there is still enough room in BlueChem for extra start-ups. With Air Liquide, ExxonMobil and Vopak zetten, three international companies once again joined the incubator for sustainable chemistry. Previously, industry companies BASF, Borealis and INEOS had already agreed to cooperate. This gives the entrepreneurs in BlueChem access to a unique and cross-border business network to scale up their innovations in sustainable chemistry to an industrial level, both at home and abroad.

 

Specialised service

The companies at BlueChem can also count on specialized services in the field of financing, innovation, legal support and business development. For example, the experts from Catalisti, the spearhead cluster for innovation in the chemical and plastics industry in Flanders, will be housed in BlueChem and strategic partners such as BNP Paribas Fortis, Deloitte, Deloitte Legal and Port of Antwerp will provide a tailor-made service. SAS Institute also enters into a structural partnership with BlueChem, making its advanced analytics platform available to start-ups and scale-ups. This allows them to work with big data, artificial intelligence and machine learning to take their innovative research and industrial applications to the next level.

Claude Marinower, Antwerp’s alderman for economy, innovation and digitilisation and director of BlueChem NV: “The flying start of BlueChem proves that Antwerp is becoming an attractive national and international hotspot for innovative companies in sustainable chemistry. In order to further strengthen this innovative power for the chemical sector, the economic engine of Antwerp and Flanders, we offer young entrepreneurs financial support with the BlueChem Kickstart Fund to set up their labs. Because they were forced by the corona measures to temporarily postpone their move to the BlueChem incubator, it was also agreed that the start-ups and scale-ups would only have to pay half the rent in April and May.”

Frank Beckx, chairman of BlueChem NV and managing director essenscia vlaanderen, the sector federation of chemical and life sciences industry: “The great interest shown by companies demonstrates that we are writing a success story with BlueChem. It is clear that there was a need for an incubator for sustainable chemistry in Flanders. BlueChem offers the right accommodation in the right place to successfully support ground-breaking innovations with a strong focus on sustainable chemistry and circular economy in their growth strategy. I would like to thank all entrepreneurs and partner companies for their commitment to take the lead with BlueChem in making the chemical and other industries more sustainable. For the chemistry of the future, you have to be at BlueChem.”

 

Innovation in sustainable chemistry

After Arpadis, Creaflow en InOpSys, who signed their lease in BlueChem in December 2019, four promising companies, Calidris Bio, IBEVE, Peace of Meat and Triple Helix, once again choose for BlueChem. Calidris Bio is a start-up founded last year that carries out innovation projects in cooperation with Flanders’ FOOD and with the cooperation of Catalisti and VITO, knowledge partners of BlueChem.

Calidris Bio uses fermentation technology to produce a high quality, nutritious and affordable source of protein with a low ecological footprint. The technology makes maximum use of renewable raw materials and has minimal impact on land use or marine ecosystems. The mission is primarily to offer an alternative to soy and fishmeal for animal nutrition. We are also investigating what is needed to use this same protein for human nutrition at a later stage.

IBEVE is an expertise agency that is part of the IDEWE Group and offers entrepreneurs and their employees specialist services in the areas of safety, sustainability and the environment. At BlueChem, IBEVE wants to set up a test lab to develop high-quality analysis techniques under strictly controlled conditions for more accurate detection and evaluation of nanomaterials, asbestos fibres and other dust particles. Therefore, an advanced scanning electron microscope (SEM) will be installed in BlueChem this summer. The goal? Better protect human health and the environment and conduct more scientific research in collaboration with universities and public authorities.

Peace of Meat is a rearing meat company that uses biological processes to grow fat and liver cells, among other things to produce animal-free foie gras. The primary focus is on the production of cultured fats, but Peace of Meat also wants to produce other types of cultured meat in the long term in order to become a European leader in this market segment. One of the projects is the marketing of foie gras based on laboratory-grown duck liver cells with a taste and texture identical to the traditional product. For this purpose, the start-up is part of a consortium with KU Leuven, the Bio Base Europe Pilot Plant and some players from the food industry.

Triple Helix supports sustainable innovations of start-ups, growth companies and large corporations to accelerate the introduction of innovative technologies to the market. Based on a unique model, Triple Helix injects expertise and invests financially in companies focused on the transition to sustainable chemistry. The emphasis is on the development of circular value chains in high-quality materials such as PET, polyurethanes and phenols. The ambition is considerable: from BlueChem, Triple Helix wants to become an international player in sustainable chemistry in the long term.

Bluechem boardroom

 

About BlueChem

BlueChem is a unique collaboration between industry, knowledge institutions and government with the ambition to help promising innovations from start-ups and young companies active in sustainable chemistry grow to an industrial scale in order to strengthen the economically important chemical industry in Flanders. Project partners in BlueChem NV are essenscia, POM Antwerpen, the city of Antwerp and VITO, which together with Catalisti form the Board of Directors. The incubator accommodates about 20 companies and has 15 labs, 24 offices, 20 flexplaces and some meeting rooms, spread over 4 floors.

BlueChem can count on financial support from the Flemish government via the Hermes Fund (868,397 euros) and on European support via the ERDF, the European Regional Development Fund (3.47 million euros). The construction costs for BlueChem amount to more than 7 million euros. The City of Antwerp supports young entrepreneurs with the BlueChem Kickstart Fund, which provides them with financial support in furnishing their laboratories.

With the support of:

 

 

 

 

More information

Leentje Croes
Manager BlueChem
0472 889 776
leentje.croes@bluechem.be 

Magalie Verstraelen
Spokesperson alderman Claude Marinower
0487 67 87 03
magalie.verstraelen@antwerpen.be

Gert Verreth
Head of Communication & spokesperson essenscia
0477 46 42 27
gverreth@essenscia.be


BNP Paribas Fortis and BlueChem work together on sustainable chemistry

Helping growth companies to develop sustainable innovations for the chemistry of the future. That's the aim of the BlueChem incubator. Leentje Croes, manager of BlueChem, and Jeroen Vangindertael, expert at BNP Paribas Fortis' Sustainable Business Competence Centre, talk about this unique initiative.

BNP Paribas Fortis is one of BlueChem's strategic partners. You can find all the strategic partners here.

Read the full article here: https://companies.bnpparibasfortis.be/en/article?n=bluechem-and-our-bank-are-committed-to-sustainable-chemistry.


BlueChem also focuses on innovation and sustainability in office design

Creativity and productivity. It is around these two key concepts that BlueChem, the incubator for sustainable chemistry, wants to create the ideal working environment for innovative start-ups and SMEs. In collaboration with Forum Office, the innovation focus will be extended to office design. Flexible workplaces for optimal focus and concentration are combined with spaces where employees can relax and exchange ideas. A sense of comfort, durable materials and a smart use of colours are central to this furnishing concept. In this way, we make BlueChem a stimulating working environment that is bursting with creativity where employees feel at home at the same time.

BlueChem atrium BlueChem meeting rooms BlueChem flex BlueChem offices


BlueChem: where sustainable chemistry and sustainable building go hand in hand

As an incubator, BlueChem focuses specifically on start-ups and young companies active in sustainable chemistry. BlueChem is also extending this pursuit of sustainability to the construction of the incubator. It will be a place where sustainability and chemistry literally come together.

Not only the company operations at BlueChem, but also the facilities, will become models of sustainability. The incubator’s building will be certified as BREEAM Excellent. BREEAM is an internationally recognised label for assessing the integral sustainability of buildings. Attention is paid to the techniques applied, also taking into account a high-quality working environment, safety aspects, the use of sustainable materials, etc. The BlueChem building also complies with the NZEB standard (Nearly Zero-Energy Building).

In the construction of BlueChem, there is a concern for minimum environmental impact and maximum sustainability.

  • The roof will be completely covered with solar panels.
  • The building will be connected to the heating network of the Blue Gate Antwerp industrial park, by which green residual heat is shared.
  • BlueChem will thus purchase not only CO2-neutral electricity, but also CO2-neutral heat.

The BlueChem building is a true feat of technology. Because of the complexity of the construction project, the BIM (Building Information Management) system has been used from the design phase. In this system, engineering firms, contractors, architects and builders all draw together using the same 3D model, which significantly reduces the number of errors on the worksite. This method immediately reveals the secret of the smooth progress of this construction site: BlueChem’s construction is in fact ahead of schedule.

The incubator concept is at the heart of the architecture: the building is built with maximum flexibility.

For example, the partitioning between office and laboratory space can easily be adapted depending on the tenant’s needs. In addition, BlueChem wants to stimulate cooperation by means of different meeting areas throughout the building. The heart of the incubator is the atrium, bathed in daylight from the roof dome. This is the central meeting place where tenants can exchange ideas and share experiences.

bluechem site

bluechem inside


BlueChem chemistry incubator concludes important partnership agreements

In announcing four strategic partnerships with BNP Paribas Fortis, Deloitte, Laga and the Port of Antwerp and appointing Leentje Croes as Manager, BlueChem is taking important steps forward. The incubator for sustainable chemistry will open its doors next spring. It is the first project at the new Blue Gate Antwerp eco-business park. The construction works are on schedule, and this week the usufruct agreement was signed between BlueChem NV and BlueChem Building NV.

BNP Paribas Fortis, Deloitte, Laga and the Port of Antwerp: BlueChem's strategic partners

Providing start-ups and growth companies that will be accommodated at BlueChem with specialised advice and supporting them with specific, customised services: this is the ambition with which four renowned organisations are working on the development of BlueChem, the first incubator in Flanders that specifically concentrates on innovation and entrepreneurship in sustainable chemistry. The focus is on the effective use of waste and side flows, process optimisation and the development of renewable chemicals and sustainable products.

BNP Paribas Fortis, the only participating bank, will assist innovative start-ups and scale-ups in their financing and will share its financial expertise in sustainable entrepreneurship with them. Deloitte will offer strategic advice in business development, law firm Laga will provide legal support and the Port of Antwerp  will help entrepreneurs at BlueChem develop by making the right contacts for pilot projects and industrial upscaling. All these partnership agreements have been concluded in recent weeks.

BlueChem NV's Board of Directors chose Leentje Croes (31), who holds a Master's degree in Bio-engineering Chemistry and Bioprocess Technology from UGhent, as its Manager. She started her career at Atos Consulting, supported an automation project at Sanofi and joined Catalisti, formerly FISCH, the spearhead cluster for chemistry and plastics, in 2012. While there, she brought companies and knowledge institutions together to set up innovation projects. “The fact that an ambitious initiative like BlueChem gains the support of four renowned partners right away gives me a lot of confidence to put this incubator on the map successfully in Antwerp and Flanders, but also beyond,” says Leentje Croes.

“With BlueChem, we are literally building a prime location with state-of-the-art infrastructure to shape the chemistry of the future.”

Frank Beckx, Chairman of BlueChem NV and Managing Director of essenscia vlaanderen

Frank Beckx, Chairman of BlueChem NV and Managing Director of essenscia vlaanderen: “BlueChem is now fully on track. The building is a new landmark in the city already, even during the shell construction stage, the contracts with the first tenants are being negotiated and even international companies are showing interest. We are quite literally building a prime location with BlueChem, with state-of-the-art infrastructure to shape the chemistry of the future.”

“With BlueChem Antwerp is building an incubator for top innovations in sustainable chemistry with which we can make a difference globally.”

Claude Marinower, Antwerp's Alderman for Economy, Innovation and Digitisation

Claude Marinower, Antwerp's Alderman for Economy, Innovation and Digitisation: “With BlueChem Antwerp is building an incubator for top innovations in sustainable chemistry with which we can make a difference globally. So I am delighted with the new steps we are taking today with BlueChem. We are expanding BlueChem's ecosystem with four strategic partners, to which residents can turn for customised growth advice. In addition, as of today, BlueChem will also have a face with Leentje Croes as Manager. I wish her every success and look forward to the opening next year.”

During a site visit this week, the usufruct agreement was also signed between BlueChem Building NV and BlueChem NV for the use of the building for a period of 30 years. The incubator is being built according to the principles of BREEAM-Excellent, a sustainability label for buildings with minimal environmental impact. In this way, not only are BlueChem's activities sustainable, but so is its housing.

“We are pleased to make our network and expertise available to this industry, one that is very important to our country.”

Didier Beauvois, Head of Corporate Banking, BNP Paribas Fortis

BlueChem - strategic partners

Didier Beauvois, Head of Corporate Banking, BNP Paribas Fortis: “We are very proud to be BlueChem's partner, which, like our bank, is committed to sustainable development and open innovation. We are pleased to make our network and expertise available to this industry, one that is very important to our country.”

BlueChem - strategic partners

Guido Vandervorst and Frederik Debrabander, Partners, Deloitte: “Setting up the BlueChem incubator in the heart of the chemical cluster can make an important contribution to maintaining the leading position of the chemical industry in the port of Antwerp area. Deloitte is very happy to be able to contribute to this innovative project to support the chemical companies of the future.”

Kathleen De Hornois, Partner, Laga: “The local anchoring, in combination with the focus on growth companies, innovation and sustainability, are the key elements as to why Laga has chosen to become a partner in this project. We are delighted to be involved in this project this early on and look forward to the further development of BlueChem with great enthusiasm.”

“BlueChem will contribute to an innovative ecosystem that will enable us to ensure a sustainable future for the chemical cluster in the port of Antwerp.”

Jacques Vandermeiren, CEO Port of Antwerp

bluechem - strategic partners

Jacques Vandermeiren, CEO Port of Antwerp: “BlueChem will contribute to an innovative ecosystem that will enable us to ensure a sustainable future for the chemical cluster in the port of Antwerp. We are thrilled to be part of this unique partnership, as innovation is crucial to meeting the challenges of the future successfully.”

BlueChem is a unique public-private partnership. BlueChem NV is responsible for the operation and day-to-day activities of the incubator. The partners are essenscia, the City of Antwerp, POM Antwerp and VITO. BlueChem Building NV is in charge of the construction of the incubator. The partners are DEME Environmental Contractors (DEC), Bopro Sustainable Investments, AG VESPA and PMV. BlueChem also has the support of the European and Flemish governments. Through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), Europe is investing over €3.4 million. Flanders is contributing €868,397 via the Hermes Fund and the City of Antwerp is investing €4 million.


Interview: BlueChem to become Antwerp's incubator for sustainable chemistry

Antwerp has the second largest cluster of chemical companies in the world, so it is only logical that this is where the first incubator for sustainable chemistry will open its doors in 2020. BlueChem will be an ecosystem where new chemical companies can find a network, support and equipped labs. Some fifteen small organisations that have outgrown the start-up phase will come into contact with each other and with major players in the sector. This cross-fertilisation gives them every opportunity to grow and exchange knowledge.

Blue Gate Antwerp as a breeding ground for sustainable chemistry

Frank Beckx is the Chairman of BlueChem and Managing Director of essenscia vlaanderen, the chemistry and life sciences sector federation. “With BlueChem, we are concentrating on young companies working on sustainable chemistry: turning waste back into valuable raw materials, looking for renewable chemicals or developing solutions for the climate problem. By providing the right framework, BlueChem wants these promising innovations to grow until they are ready for the market.”

“The incubator is an ecosystem in which young chemical companies are given opportunities to grow”

BlueChem is coming to Blue Gate, formerly the Petroleum Zuid site. “A prime location,” explains Leentje Croes, Manager of BlueChem, who takes care of the day-to-day management of the incubator. “Antwerp is very well known for its chemical cluster, so there is already a great deal of know-how. But we also want to put Antwerp on the map as an innovator in the chemical sector. BlueChem will thus also collaborate with large companies, universities and other high-potential starters. It will become an ecosystem in which cross-fertilisation is possible, and exchange is a matter of course.”

Infrastructure and guidance

There will be room for some fifteen companies at BlueChem. They can rent offices and labs there. Frank Beckx: “Those labs are very well equipped. We have three that can be used immediately and twelve other labs that companies can set up according to their wishes. These are real chemistry labs, unlike the laboratories in biotech incubators, for example.”

“BlueChem is more than a lab or an office. It is a place to network, exchange expertise and develop.”

Leentje Croes: “At BlueChem we want to offer more than just an office or a lab. It happens too often these days that a promising young company stops because it does not have enough financial resources or because it cannot successfully apply the product of its research. Thanks to the collaboration with the partners, we can also support them in this. For example, the City of Antwerp offers the companies at BlueChem financial support for equipping their laboratory. Deloitte, Laga, BNP Paribas Fortis and the Port of Antwerp are our other partners. They provide services and advice if one of the companies requests it. And Catalisti, the spearhead cluster for innovation in chemistry and plastics, will have a permanent office at BlueChem. They will provide access to a broader network. All these contacts ensure that companies can find each other and exchange knowledge.”

Such a state-of-the-art incubator costs a lot of money. Fortunately, BlueChem has the support of the EU through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). BlueChem has received €3.4 million from this fund. Flanders is also giving over €860,000 in support via the Hermes Fund, and the City of Antwerp, VITO and POM are also investing in BlueChem. The City of Antwerp has a fund to support companies as well.

Leentje Croes is currently holding initial discussions with interested companies. If you think you might be eligible for a place at BlueChem, please contact Leentje Croes on 0472 88 97 76 or by email at: leentje.croes@bluechem.com.


Groundbreaking ceremony for BlueChem, the very first incubator for sustainable chemistry in Flanders

In Antwerp today, the first sod was turned for the construction of BlueChem, the very first incubator for sustainable chemistry in Flanders and Belgium. The chemistry incubator offers the right infrastructure and customised services to enable promising start-ups, growth companies and open innovation projects to develop successfully to an industrial scale. BlueChem is a unique partnership between industry, government and knowledge institutions to anchor the economically important chemical sector in Flanders in the long term. The opening is planned for the spring of 2020, but discussions are already underway with the first prospective tenants.

Incubator BlueChem should accelerate sustainable innovations and anchor chemical sector in Flanders

With BlueChem, Flanders is fully committing to sustainable chemistry. And where better to do this than in Antwerp, at the heart of a world-class chemical cluster. This makes BlueChem one of the first realisations at the climate-neutral Blue Gate Antwerp business park, a leader in sustainability in Flanders. Chemistry federation essenscia vlaanderen participates as the main shareholder in the operation of the incubator.

In the chemical sector, it is not easy to make promising innovations develop into new companies. It takes a lot of time, money and courage. BlueChem offers the right facilities in the right place to offer innovations in sustainable chemistry the greatest possible chance of success. With BlueChem, we are going for more starters in chemistry, more excellence in research at our knowledge institutions and more innovative strength in the chemical sector, the economic engine of Antwerp and Flanders. We are world leaders in chemical production. We also want to achieve that in chemistry innovation with BlueChem,” says Frank Beckx, Managing Director of essenscia vlaanderen and Chairman of BlueChem NV.

BlueChem has many assets: a prime location with over 3,300 m² of flexible workplaces, offices and fifteen laboratories, extensive services, financial support for the purchase of specialised equipment and direct access to knowledge and expertise within an extensive network of chemical companies, research centres and all five Flemish universities.

Catalisti – the Flemish spearhead cluster for chemistry and plastics – plays an active role at BlueChem to help start up and support promising innovation projects. In addition to BlueChem, the University of Antwerp is building Blue_App, a complementary pre-incubator for research projects in the field of sustainable chemistry. Blue_App focuses on research, BlueChem on commercialisation and industrialisation.

BlueChem places particular emphasis on the effective use of waste and side flows as a pioneer in the circular economy. Other innovation themes are process optimisation and the development of renewable chemicals and sustainable materials. How do we recover useful chemicals from waste? How can we use a greenhouse gas such as CO2 as a valuable raw material? What chemistry is needed to make products even more reusable and recyclable? These are questions that BlueChem wants to answer.

The total investment in BlueChem amounts to €11 million, of which €7 million is for the construction of the building. The City of Antwerp is the largest investor, with €4 million. BlueChem is receiving a maximum subsidy of €3,473,589 through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). Flanders in turn is investing €868,397 in the project via the Hermes Fund.

With our ambitious cluster policy, we are focusing on specific sectors and clusters that are closely aligned with the strengths of Flemish industry and knowledge institutions, through which we can also make a difference internationally. This also makes sustainable chemistry a clear spearhead,” explains Philippe Muyters, Flemish Minister for Work, Economy, Innovation and Sport. “BlueChem fits in perfectly with this strategy and so receives our full Flemish support.”

With the groundbreaking ceremony for BlueChem and Blue_App, Antwerp is literally building a new ecosystem for sustainable chemistry”, says Mayor Bart De Wever. “Our ambition is to make good use of the existing knowledge and expertise in chemistry in our region by setting up new innovative companies. In this way, we guarantee and strengthen the future of the chemical sector in Antwerp and, by extension, in Flanders.”

We are pleased that BlueChem and Blue_App are the first realisations at Blue Gate Antwerp. Both projects fit seamlessly into the ambitious vision of this very first eco-effective and water-bound business park in the country”, says Caroline Bastiaens, Chair at Blue Gate Antwerp Public Holding and Antwerp Alderman for Economy.

BlueChem is a unique public-private partnership in which the private sector accounts for half of the investment. The project is supported by eight different partners that provide the capital needed through two companies. BlueChem nv handles the operation and day-to-day activities of the incubator. The project partners are the principal shareholder essenscia, POM (Provincial Development Agency) Antwerp, the City of Antwerp and VITO (Flemish Institute for Technological Research).

BlueChem Building nv is responsible for the construction of the incubator. The project partners are the majority shareholders Bopro Sustainable Investments (BSI) and DEME Environmental Contractors (DEC), together with the Autonomous Municipal Company for Real Estate and City Projects in Antwerp (AG Vespa) and Participation Company Flanders (PMV).

Design & Engineering NV is responsible for the construction of BlueChem. This is a consortium of construction company MBG, LOW architects, engineering firm Ingenium and design firm ELD. The construction works start at the end of this year.


“Chemistry incubator BlueChem focuses on the effective use of waste and side streams”

Interview with Frank Beckx in Mblad
The first applicants for a place at Blue Gate Antwerp have confirmed. BlueChem, the future incubator for sustainable chemistry, has also chosen the new top location.

Antwerp is home to the largest chemical cluster in Europe. Blue Gate Antwerp was thus a logical choice for BlueChem. “BlueChem will become a breeding ground for innovative ideas in chemistry. The incubator brings together start-ups, SMEs and large companies and provides them with the knowledge and infrastructure to develop ideas,” says Frank Beckx, Managing Director of chemical federation essenscia vlaanderen and Chairman of BlueChem. “This is necessary, because the development of an idea for a chemical process requires time and money. It often takes a long time before an idea can be put to effective use. We want to accelerate that process.”

BlueChem will make offices and labs available and bring users into contact with knowledge partners and potential investors. Candidates can also count on the expertise and network of Catalisti, the spearhead cluster for chemistry and plastics.

Frank Beckx: “The main theme of the incubator will be the effective use of waste and side flows as a pioneer of the circular economy. Another focus area is the search for alternative sustainable raw materials, such as algae and biomass.”

“The main theme of the incubator will be the effective use of waste and side flows as a pioneer in the circular economy”

- Frank Beckx (BlueChem)

BlueChem is a public-private partnership between the chemical federation essenscia, developers DEC and Bopro, the city of Antwerp, the Flemish Institute for Technological Research (VITO), the Provincial Development Agency (POM) Antwerp, the Participation Company Flanders (PMV) and the Autonomous Municipal Company for Real Estate and City Projects in Antwerp (AG Vespa). The project will receive €3.4 million from the European ERDF programme and around €860,000 from the Flemish Hermes Fund. The incubator should be operational by 2020.


BlueChem stimulates trailblazing innovations in sustainable chemistry

Setting promising start-ups and high-potential innovation projects in sustainable chemistry on the path to growth and success. That is the objective of BlueChem, a new incubator for sustainable chemistry that will open its doors at the Blue Gate Antwerp business park in 2020. In doing this, the initiative aims to guarantee and strengthen the future of the economically important chemical sector in Flanders. BlueChem is a unique public-private partnership in which the private sector accounts for half of the investment. The private partners are essenscia, Bopro (BSI) and DEME (DEC). The government partners are the City of Antwerp, VITO, POM Antwerp, PMV and AG VESPA.

Flemish Minister for Economy and Innovation Philippe Muyters announced today that he is allocating €3.4 million of European funds to BlueChem, the future incubator for sustainable chemistry. The City of Antwerp is putting in €4 million. The federation of chemistry and life sciences, essenscia, the main shareholder, is taking the lead in the operation of BlueChem, together with the City of Antwerp, POM Antwerp and VITO.

We are investing in BlueChem to contribute to the innovative and sustainable development of the chemical sector. Thanks to the intense collaboration between chemical companies, start-ups and SMEs and research and knowledge institutions, BlueChem must develop into a catalyst for top innovations through which Flanders can make a difference globally. Promising ideas are to be given support here to allow them to grow from lab experiments to new chemical companies,” says Wouter De Geest, Chairman of essenscia.

Antwerp is one of the largest chemical clusters in the world. Nevertheless, it turns out not to be easy to apply this knowledge and expertise when setting up new innovative companies. For example, starters and innovation projects need a location where they can benefit from customised services in combination with adapted infrastructure. BlueChem offers the right facilities in the right place.

Location

The incubator will have a surface area of 3,375 m² and will offer a mix of flexible workplaces, private offices and laboratories that can accommodate starting companies, SMEs and large companies as well as research centres and educational institutions. The new Spearhead cluster for Chemistry and Plastics will also be housed there to detect and assist promising innovation projects. The opening is planned for early 2020. The building will cost €8.68 million and will be located at the Blue Gate Antwerp site. “This is an important step for Blue Gate Antwerp. BlueChem enables us to position ourselves as an important place for R&D and thus attract other companies,” says Peter Garré, Managing Director of Bopro (BSI).

European support

BlueChem is being supported by the European Union and is receiving €3,473,589 from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). “The objective of our ambitious cluster policy is to continue to innovate and strengthen Flemish industry by allowing entrepreneurs and knowledge institutions to collaborate among themselves and together in order to accelerate innovation. Industry 4.0 and the circular economy are spearheads in this regard. BlueChem fits in perfectly with this strategy and is thus receiving our full support. This is why we are also providing 10% co-financing alongside the ERDF resources,” says Philippe Muyters, Flemish Minister for Economy and Innovation.

BlueChem will also be supported by a new Investment fund that is to be set up by the City of Antwerp that will invest in equipment for the incubator. “All together, we are investing €4 million in the building, operations and the Investment fund, making the city of Antwerp the largest financier of BlueChem. We are doing this because, as a city, we consider innovation in our industrial sector to be a major priority,” says Caroline Bastiaens, Alderman for Economy of the City of Antwerp.

Furthermore, the University of Antwerp is investigating the possibility of also accommodating its chemical contract research for companies at Blue Gate Antwerp in its own building right next to BlueChem. This would offer powerful synergies with the start-ups that establish themselves at BlueChem. “We strongly believe in synergies between companies, government and the academic world. We are achieving this synergy here, as well as in the digital innovation project,” says Bart De Wever, Mayor of the City of Antwerp. “BlueChem will become a strong element in our international investment promotion activities, and we will strongly promote BlueChem during the city’s mission to Shanghai and Seoul at the end of this year.

The BlueChem project is supported by eight partners that share in the capital of two companies (one for the building and one for operations). Three private partners hold a majority share: essenscia (the chemistry and life sciences federation) in operations and BSI (Bopro Sustainable Investments) and DEC (DEME Environmental Contractors) in the building. The latter two are also private partners in the Blue Gate Antwerp project. The government partners are the City of Antwerp, AG VESPA, PMV (Participation Company Flanders), VITO (Flemish Institute for Technological Research) and POM (Provincial Development Agency) Antwerp.

Innovation focus

Innovation is a strategic priority for essenscia. Five years ago, FISCH was founded. This is the innovation platform for sustainable chemistry that has been recognised by the Government of Flanders since last month as a new spearhead cluster for Chemistry and Plastics. With the Patent Unit, essenscia is helping sector companies protect their intellectual property. Initiatives such as the Innovation Circle and the Innovation Fund have grown out of the biannual essenscia Innovation Award to help start-ups develop a business plan and raise venture capital.

BlueChem is the next step in this innovation story. It will mainly focus on the effective use of waste and side flows, process optimisation and the development of sustainable products and renewable chemicals.

 

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