At the Chemelot Campus in Geleen (Netherlands) the meeting room is filled with around 80 people interested in cooperating with scientists of RWTH Aachen and Maastricht University. The Germans and the Dutch have joined forces in the new Aachen-Maastricht Institute for Biobased Materials (AMIBM).
“The focus on biobased materials reflects the shift in energy sources: we changed from a coal economy to an oil economy and now suffer the consequences”, says Giuseppe Strina, consultant at Osto Systemberatung.
Interest from health tech
Gunnar Seide from the Institut für Textiltechnik (RWTH Aachen) adds that the new biobased materials institute likes “Research for industry, not research for library”. Seide especially expects interest from companies in the health tech sector.
Klaas Bos, communications manager at Chemelot Campus, modestly points out that since 2005 fifty new companies started on Chemelot Campus, “And that figure is minus the companies that have merged, or have left since.”
Without any publicity fifty students have found their way to Chemelot Campus in 2011, “Out of which 45 are still studying here now.” The second student cohort started in 2012. Because of the somewhat remote location, the campus has organized a bus line to and from the railway station, so that students can easily travel to the Geleen site.
Doubling the jobs in ten years
“The main goal of Chemelot Campus is to create first-rate employment in the region”, says Klaas Bos. “One researcher attracts eight to ten first-rate jobs and that is counting without services jobs. We have now 1200 people working on the campus, our goal is to reach 2500 within ten years.”
Gert-Jan de Gruter represents one of the Chemelot companies with ambition to grow. His company, Avantium, has developed a biobased material dubbed ‘PEF’, that can compete with petroleum-based bottles for soft drinks and beer. “Our product is perfectly fit for recycling and has certain characteristics that outclass PET. A YXY-bottle allows less oxygen to enter the bottle and keeps CO2 inside.”
Avantium already has a pilot plant on the Chemelot site, and considers developing a large plant in three years’ time. “We are considering sites in Western Europe and North America”, says De Gruter. Let the PET bottles be warned.