A sustainable, clean and healthy world. This is what knowledge institutes, companies and governments in the Northern Netherlands wish to contribute to with the development of a 'biobased economy'. Together the parties are looking to innovatively utilise crops and residual flows from agriculture and the food industry in a useful way. The Northern Netherlands traditionally produces many of these organic materials, which can replace raw fossil fuels in the production of, for example, medicines, plastics and energy. When the industry produces on the basis of biomass instead of petroleum or other raw fossil fuels, it will result in energy savings, less pollution and less waste. Moreover, innovation leads to new biobased products and processes, creating plenty of opportunities for the northern economy.
Chemport Europe for making the industry green
By 2030, industry in the Eemshaven, Delfzijl and Emmen must run almost entirely on green fuel. This is the objective of Chemport Europe, in which scientists, governments and the (chemical) industry work in close collaboration. Together they are researching how existing industry can switch to green electricity and steam and to sustainable resources. The collaboration often also provides new business.
A good example is the company BioBTX, which worked with northern knowledge institutes to develop a way of making plastic out of agricultural residues. With a subsidy from the Province of Groningen, BioBTX built a pilot plant to scale up the technology.
Without the hurdles of knowledge to biobased product
All conditions are in place in the Northern Netherlands to make the (often long) road from idea to practice as easy as possible. It’s easy for researchers and entrepreneurs to find each other. The northern colleges of higher education and the University of Groningen often collaborate directly with industry on innovations related to the biobased economy. The research groups of the institutes in the Bio Economy Region Northern Netherlands (BERNN) network are also well connected with the business community. This is important, because new insights often emerge at the interface of different disciplines. There are also good test facilities for startups in Innolab Chemie.
And in the test lab ZAP, Zernike Advanced Processing, education, research and industry can find one another. Students from the university, college and MBO test ideas in a semi-industrial environment and ensure that promising technology doesn’t remain stranded in the lab. At the same time in ZAP, employees for the biobased world of tomorrow are gaining training.
Shrimp shells and grass: no waste but raw material
After mowing, the (Dutch) Forestry Commission, gardeners and other landscape managers were always left with a mountain of grass. They approached students from the Knowledge Center for Biobased Economy at the Hanze University of Applied Sciences to ask whether they could use this in some way. The students were able to make paper from the grass and explore the possibilities of fabricating bioplastic or other materials using chemical processes.
The mountain of shrimp shells coming from Telson’s shrimp peeling machine in Lauwersoog also doesn’t have to end up as waste. Shrimp shell derives its firmness from chitin and this can also be used as a raw material for paint, plastic or a multitude of other applications. Northern knowledge institutions are now searching, together with the renowned German Fraunhofer Institute, for ways to process chitin.