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New facilities for innovation at Zernike Campus Groningen
The biobased economy in the north is about to benefit from a number of brand-new innovation facilities - the Innovation Hall of the Zernike Advanced Processing Facility (ZAP) and the Avebe Innovation Centre that includes Innolab Agrifood. The next steps are being planned already. Zernike Campus Groningen, which started less than five years ago, is continuing to grow at a rapid rate. Member of the Provincial Executive Patrick Brouns called it a 'telling example of the Groningen way of working together’.
Mr Van Linschoten commented ‘We provide complete facilities for optimising processes in green chemistry. We can make a basic package of equipment and facilities available, but businesses can also build their own systems inside the Innovation Hall, as BioBTX did for example. An important benefit is that all permits are arranged by ZAP.’ According to Mr Van Linschoten there is a lot of interest in the new hall. ‘We have contact with large parties that conclude long-term contracts. Now the acquisition will focus on smaller and more short-term projects with more involvement from the lecturers and the students.’
ZAP Innovation Hall
The official opening of the ZAP Innovation Hall will take place on the 10th of October 2018, on Sustainability Day. The facility provides businesses with around 100m3 of space for pilot-scale testing – scaling up from grams to kilos – of biomass processes that were developed in the lab. BioBTX is one of those businesses, and it commissioned a new pilot plant for extracting chemical building blocks from liquid biomass and recycled plastics in the Innovation Hall on the 13th of September.
Apart from room with enough height for various systems, the Innovation Hall has the requisite technical facilities such as compressed air, high-voltage current, gases, etc. The building also has a quality lab with the necessary equipment and various meeting rooms. Next to the Hall there is a preparation area, where rough agricultural material can be pre-processed, reduced or be put in cold storage for a short period of time.
The next step in upscaling and professionalising the northern innovation chain has been taken already – alongside Chemical Park Delfzijl there will be a new Chemport Industry Campus that used to be known under its working title ZAP XL. This campus will provide large-scale test facilities for developing sustainable chemical products or processes on an industrial scale. Talent development within educational institutions and businesses will also play an important role. With this set-up Chemport Industry Campus, in conjunction with the innovation facilities at Zernike Campus Groningen, contributes to promoting the growth of green chemistry and renewable energy, as expressed in the Industry Agenda Eemsdelta.
Avebe Innovation Centre
The Groningen potato-starch group Avebe, partner of ZAP, opened its Innovation Centre at the Zernike Campus on 28th September 2018. The new premises house the Innovations, Sales and Marketing Departments of Avebe, and more than 100 employees. They carry out research into the applications of starch or protein in specific recipes and into ‘clean-label’ solutions, i.e. ingredients without E numbers. The new Innovation Centre will also play a role in making these innovations more visible. For example, the atrium can be used for training courses, events, presentations and workshops for clients, members, students and other stakeholders. There is also a room for start-ups in the agrifood sector under the header Innolab Agrifood, where Avebe will work on innovation projects together with Groningen University. This mainly concerns the very early stages of research and development, for example in the area of starch, stevia and fermentation methods.
According to Marnix Pool, Managing Director of Innolab Agrifood, the new facility is based on the same formula as the successful Innolab Chemistry, which was set up in 2014 in cooperation with the chemical company Syncom. “Here we facilitate start-ups that come out of Groningen University or the Hanze University of Applied Sciences. In Innolab Agrifood they have a fully equipped microbiological or biotech lab available. Avebe can also support the start-ups with specialised equipment and/or analysts.” Mr Pool expects that similar Innolabs for Engineering and Product Design will be established on the campus in the future.