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Game-changing collaboration on exciting growth fund proposals

By 17 December 2021December 22nd, 2021Article

Brightsite has recently contributed to four different growth fund proposals. “We are in an exciting period, where many different initiatives and consortia are being created to work toward the greening of Dutch chemistry. It’s great that we have been able to join forces to create such fantastic growth fund proposals,” says Arnold Stokking, Managing Director of Brightsite.  

The Nationaal Groeifonds (National Growth Fund) is a government fund investing in projects that will provide long-term economic growth. It has received 37 proposals, which will be examined by an independent committee in the near future, with the successful proposals expected to be announced in the summer of 2022. In this article, we will take a look at the proposals that have been submitted together with the partners involved.

Why are these Growth Fund Proposals important?

“No single entity will be able to cope with the transitions that we are now facing. Scaling up promising innovations is of national importance in order to meet the climate goals. This will require cross-sectoral collaboration, for example in the field of water, electrification, agriculture and using waste as a raw material, and that calls for a certain level of direction and stimulation. The National Growth Fund is a government fund investing in projects that will provide long-term economic growth. The four Growth Fund Proposals discussed here will help to provide the direction that is needed. A number of coalitions have come together and jointly developed proposals in various areas.

Arnold Stokking (Managing Director Brightsite):

“We are living in interesting times – I have never before seen this level of cooperation among coalitions and consortia. At Brightsite, we give this our full support, because together we can achieve more. Although these applications have not yet been given the green light, we learned a lot from each other during the drafting process. That is hugely valuable. Besides, each of the proposals has breakthrough potential. Whether it is using sugar in the ‘plastic route’, coming up with circular and sustainable material innovations, producing circular plastic from waste streams or developing a new generation of water purification – here at Brightsite, we are proud to be able to contribute to these four proposals for making the Netherlands more sustainable.”

Agri-Based Chemicals – Circular plastics based on sugar

As well as the energy transition, it is also necessary to fully commit to the raw materials transition in order to achieve the climate goals. Fossil raw materials for chemicals and materials must be replaced with renewable sources of carbon. The Agri-Based Chemicals program will play an important role in this by helping to scale up the use of bio-based raw materials for chemicals and plastics. “Our program focuses on the implementation of two ‘demonstrators at scale’ for sugar-based chemicals and materials. These will act as the driving force behind the development of new initiatives on both the raw materials side and the market side,” explains Kees de Gooijer (member of the Agri&Food and the Biobased Economy Top Consortia for Knowledge and Innovation (TKI)).

Kees de Gooijer (Chief Inspiration Officer TKI Agri&Food en TKI Biobased Economy):

“The partnership between the agri sector, chemistry and the food industry is unique”

“When it comes to the transition of raw materials, we are still not doing enough. We need a broader and more ambitious approach. We need to look for new polymers, for example made from sugar. That is no mean feat, and scaling up will be a crucial element. This growth fund proposal came about because we want to look at what is possible and how we can scale up. We expect to be able to eliminate one-third of all chemical emissions. How great would it be if we can use biomass to make a plastic that will then be in your window frames for the next 50 years? If we start using bio-based raw materials – plants that remove CO₂ from the air – we will even be taking CO₂ out of the air ourselves. Sugar beet is a good starting point. I expect this proposal to lead to so much more. The unique thing about this program is that it brings together three strong Dutch sectors: agriculture, chemicals and the food industry. Together with technological and organizational innovations, that collaboration will help to create new value chains across these sectors,” De Gooijer explains.

MaterialenNL – Chemical recycling & Brightlands Circular Space

As we work toward a sustainable future, we will need to find innovative ways to reduce CO₂ emissions and material wastage. Functional, sustainable and circular material innovations are a key part of this. This will require a transition to the economically profitable production and use of sustainable and 100% circular materials with new functionalities. Duurzame MaterialenNL (Sustainable MaterialsNL) seeks to resolve bottlenecks in scaling up from the lab to production.

This proposal addresses three key material sectors with great economic and sustainability potential: energy materials, construction materials and circular plastics. The proposal aims to develop twelve demonstrators for new technologies. “The challenges we face today are a puzzle that is difficult to solve. This growth fund proposal can greatly contribute to achieving the 2050 targets of zero CO₂ emissions, zero fossil use and zero waste,” says Willem Sederel (Chair of Circular Biobased Delta).

Willem Sederel (Chair of Circular Biobased Delta):

“We will only be able to create a circular plastics industry if we use different technologies side by side in large volumes”

Brightsite is involved in two work packages:

Showcase: producing circular plastic from waste streams:

“We want to achieve a circular plastic chain. That is a huge challenge, because where do we get the feedstock from? We will use a combination of biomass and waste. This means a transition to solid raw materials, and from a specified fossil feedstock to heterogeneous material. Waste will first have to be sorted and purified so that the chemical industry can work with it. The quality of waste streams as feedstock for conversion technologies will be crucial in determining whether this can be applied in the production of circular plastics. We have a toolbox with several promising technologies to convert plastic waste streams into (circular) raw materials for the plastics industry – chemical recycling is just one of them.

We will only be able to create a circular plastics industry in the Netherlands if we use different technologies side by side in large volumes. This development can only take place if we gain experience in how to close the plastic loop in practice. This showcase, among other things, will help us gain this experience. We will look at all the steps and work out how to make a business case from this. The techniques that will be successful will have to be more tolerant, and be able to handle more heterogeneity,” says Sederel.

Brightlands Circular Space (BCS):

BCS connects two worlds: the world of academic and business innovations and the world of commercial scale-up. BCS represents an innovative ‘open space’ systems approach, creating the ideal conditions for scaling up innovative circular materials and processes. The heart of the targeted circular value chain is the Flexible Sorting Unit, which processes and separates collected plastic waste into fractions to be sent to various recycling technologies. “We need to move toward a situation where plastic waste is recycled and can be converted from recycled material fractions into circular materials in (existing) factories. We want to put this closed loop on the map and scale it up,” explains Lia Voermans (director of innovation strategy at Chemelot Circular Hub).

 

Lia Voermans (Director of innovation strategy at Chemelot Circular Hub):

“At Brightlands Chemelot Campus, we are ideally placed to shape the entire innovative circular value chain on plastics; we don’t talk, we do.”

“To achieve this, we will need various experts and a multi-level approach. We are proud of this proposition that has been jointly prepared by the entire ecosystem. Start-ups, large companies, knowledge institutions, government authorities and suppliers are all involved. In addition, we are creating learning communities through new courses at intermediate vocational, higher vocational and degree level. BCS is a unique hotspot, an important concrete development of the Chemelot Circular Hub. Here, we are ideally placed to put our words into action. The preconditions and the willingness to invest are there,” says Voermans.

NXTGEN HIGHTECH – plasma

The Netherlands produces high-tech equipment of the highest standard. But competition throughout the world is growing, there are urgent social challenges and the required investment is increasing all the time. The NXTGEN HIGHTECH growth fund proposal addresses all of this in one go. It aims to invest in six key areas of application: clean energy, data communication via light, equipment for faster drug development without animal testing, faster chips, innovative production of light composite materials, and fast and precise robots in agriculture and horticulture. “If we want to keep the Dutch high-tech sector among the best in the world, we will have to develop a new generation of high-tech machines. The energy transition will have a major impact and, for example, lead to new technology and machines within the chemical industry. We need to be in a position to deliver this,” says Marc Hendrikse (spokesperson for Topsector High Tech Systems and Materials).

In order to achieve this, consortia of companies and knowledge institutions are developing new technologies and stepping up their collaboration: exchanging knowledge, learning from each other and attracting new talent. “Within the chemical industry, plasma is one of the technologies with potential and we want to play our part in this. Our two worlds – the high-tech sector and the chemical industry – may not speak the same language, but we have managed to build a good relationship. The ball is rolling, now it’s time to pick up the pace.

Marc Hendrikse (Spokesperson for Topsector High Tech Systems and Materials):

“Our two worlds – the high-tech sector and the chemical industry – may not speak the same language, but we have managed to build a good relationship. The ball is rolling, now it’s time to pick up the pace”

It will be 2030/2050 before we know it and there is still so much to do. Together we want to discover what works and what doesn’t and gradually find the best possible solutions. It is important for us to remember that our worlds work in different ways. Within the high-tech sector, it is all about ‘fast, fast, faster’, while in the chemical industry safety is paramount. We are building a bridge between these two worlds so that we can aim for fast and safe. This process involves not only technical challenges but also cross-sectoral collaboration in a system architecture. At Chemelot, plasma is already being used on a small scale, so the site can act as an incubator for scaling up at a later date. We will work on the pilot projects together,” says Hendrikse.

Water technology – Circular water for Chemelot

The Water Technology growth plan provides an important boost to the expansion and export of the Dutch water technology sector. The plan also ensures that there will be enough clean water available in the Netherlands, both for drinking and nature as well as for agriculture, horticulture and industry, which consume (export) a lot of water.

Lianne van Oord (Program Manager Process innovation at Brightsite):

“Processes are changing and this will have an effect on water, although we are not yet sure exactly what this will be”

The growth plan covers the entire knowledge and innovation ecosystem: from research to further development, scaling-up and national and international exploitation. As well as all this, it will also intensify cooperation within the sector and with other sectors. Part of the proposal is a demonstration project on the water transition at Chemelot, as part of which discharges of substances to surface water and total water consumption must be significantly reduced.

“At 44 million cubic meters per year, Chemelot is a major water user. Water is crucial for the functioning of our plants. Because of the pressure on water, we want to optimize our water treatment and reduce our water use. As part of this, we will consider the impact that the transition to a sustainable site will have on water use and waste emissions to water. Processes are changing and this will have an effect on water, although we are not yet sure exactly what this will be. This is a huge challenge for an existing and largely integrated site like Chemelot, which is why we have launched the program ‘Circular Water for Chemelot’,” says Lianne van Oord (process innovation program manager at Brightsite).

Jos Boere (TKI Water Technology):

“A good level of motivation drives us to develop new technology”

“We want to ensure that there is enough clean water which is as sustainable and circular as possible. Within our growth plan, we were looking for demonstration projects that will make a difference, so this initiative ties in perfectly. Chemelot and Brightsite have recently launched their circular water program and it was clear that there is a good level of motivation behind it. It’s that motivation that drives us to develop new technology,” says Jos Boere (TKI Water Technology). “We are proud to be part of this growth fund proposal and to be able to make progress together. Our transition is still in its infancy, so it is good that its importance is being recognized. We are at the beginning of an exciting journey,” concludes van Oord.