Flanders is fully committed to the sustainable chemistry of the future. And where else could it be better than in Antwerp, the heart of the largest integrated chemistry cluster of Europe, to develop this sustainable chemistry? On the 19th of June the first spade went into the ground of Blue_App and BlueChem. BlueChem is the very first incubator for sustainable chemistry in Flanders, Blue_App is the open innovation hub for research projects of the University of Antwerp in the domain of sustainable chemistry. Both projects are the first two realisations on the circular, waterfront Business Park Blue Gate Antwerp. The opening of BlueChem and Blue_App features in the spring of 2020.
Antwerp has the largest integrated chemistry cluster of Europe. However, an innovative and sustainable transformation of the chemistry sector is needed, so chemistry can remain anchored in the region. “With the ceremony of BlueChem and Blue_App we literally built in Antwerp the new ecosystem around sustainable chemistry”, says mayor Bart De Wever. “It is our ambition to valorise the existing knowledge and experience of chemistry in our region while creating new innovative companies. That’s how we ensure and strengthen the future of the chemical industry in Antwerp, and by extension in Flanders. ”
BlueChem, incubator for sustainable chemistry
BlueChem is the very first incubator for sustainable chemistry in Flanders. The incubator will support (inter-) national start-ups and innovation projects within the chemistry, so they can expand to an industrial scale.
“We realised that it isn’t easy in the chemistry sector to expand from promising innovations into new businesses. It takes a lot of time, money and audacity. BlueChem provides innovations in sustainable chemistry the right accommodation at the right place to offer them the greatest possible chance to turn their innovations into successful industrialization and commercialization, “says Frank Beckx, Managing Director of essenscia Flanders, the Federation of the chemical and life sciences and Chairman of BlueChem NV. “BlueChem offers tailored made infrastructure, services, financial support for the purchase of specialized laboratory equipment and direct access to knowledge and expertise within an extensive network of leading chemical companies, renowned research centres and the five Flemish universities.”
BlueChem is more than 3,300 m² and provides a mix of flexible places, offices and labs for starters, SMEs and innovation projects of large companies and knowledge institutions. CATALISTI – the Flemish high-tech cluster for Chemistry and plastics – will take an active role to start and guide new promising BlueChem innovation projects.
The chemistry-incubator, as a pioneer of the circular economy, will pay special attention to the valorisation of waste and secondary flows. Other innovation themes are process optimization and the development of renewable chemicals and sustainable materials. The building will cost about EUR 7 million. From the total investment cost of 11 million, EUR 4 million comes from the city of Antwerp.
Through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) BlueChem will get a maximum subsidy of EUR 3,473,589. Flanders invests in this project via the Hermes Fund EUR 868,397. “With our ambitious cluster policy we put special attention to specific sectors and clusters which are closely in line with the strengths of the Flemish industry and knowledge institutions, with whom we can make a difference on the international level. Sustainable chemistry is a clear priority, “explains Philippe Muyters, Flemish Minister for economy and innovation. “BlueChem fits perfectly in this strategy and gets full Flemish support.”
The University Antwerp has a stated ambition to position itself as an entrepreneurial University. To realize this ambition different efforts are made to translate research results, knowledge and expertise towards society. The development of pre-incubation structures, open innovation hubs, within the University of Antwerp is one of them. A pre-incubator is an inspiring and supportive environment in which entrepreneurial ideas are tested on their sustainable market potential.
“We believe in a model of open innovation, in which we are working with companies and other partners to exchange innovative ideas in an early research stage. In an open innovation hub such as Blue_App researchers and business people step out of their comfort zone and work together in co-creation projects, “says Silvia Lenaerts, Vice-Rector of Valorisation and development of the University of Antwerp. “Blue_App will be a leverage, because here we can gather multidisciplinary knowledge and link them to training and education. Materials for sustainable chemistry, such as process intensification, sustainability evaluation and as well as digitization within the domain belong to the experience of the excellent research projects that will be carried out here. With Blue_App we want to create economic and social impact, by creating jobs, spin-offs, attracting international companies and stimulating durability and lifelong learning. ”
Blue_App is more than 5000 m² and will count 4 floors where labs as well as office space will be accommodated.
Blue Gate Antwerp
BlueChem and Blue_App are the first two projects that are realized on Blue Gate Antwerp. Blue Gate Antwerp is the first sustainable, circular and waterfront business park in Flanders. Design & Engineering NV is responsible for the realization of BlueChem. For the implementation of the Design-& Buildop MBG (CFE Construction Flanders) and THV LOW, Ingenium & ELD were designated. The designers of Blue_App are LOW, Ingenium and ELD.
“Blue Gate Antwerp is a carbon neutral business area of 63 acre exclusively reserved to innovative companies which give high priority to the reuse of raw materials. We are very excited to welcome BlueChem and Blue_App. These projects fit seamlessly into the ambitious vision of Blue Gate Antwerp, the first eco-effective water-related business area of the country, “said Caroline Bastiaens, President of Blue Gate Antwerp Public Holding and Antwerp council member for economy. The opening of BlueChem and Blue_App features in the spring of 2020.
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More info on Blue Gate Antwerp: www.bluegateantwerp.eu