In the eastern Netherlands, innovative companies are teaming up to flourish in the biobased economy. The BIC-ON programme enables them to join forces with ambitious governmental authorities and leading research institutes, including Wageningen UR. This ensures that biobased products from biorefineries can find their way to the market.
The objective of the programme BIC-ON (Bioeconomy Innovation Cluster Oost-Nederland) is to make efficient use of biomass. Working with smart biorefinery concepts allows for the production of a range of marketable biobased products, such as chemicals, materials, energy and fuels.
It is essential that we identify synergies, to be able to achieve impact, underlines Gülden Yilmaz, programme manager at Wageningen UR Food & Biobased Research and innovation manager at BIC-ON. “We make sure that companies have access to the breakthrough technologies and knowledge required, while also serving as a contact hub. Companies looking to make the transition to a biobased economy often find that there are gaps in the value chain. We can connect suppliers and buyers by finding another company in our network, which can convert biobased raw materials into valuable components. This creates attractive economic opportunities.”
BIC-ON removes obstacles, creates critical mass and accelerates innovation, Yilmaz continues. “A good example is the technology that Wageningen UR has developed for a more efficient crystallisation of sugars from plant residues. Together with IPSS Engineering, we are working on a pilot plant for the production of valuable components for the food or chemical industry. This brings small-scale biorefining within reach in the eastern Netherlands. Local residue streams can directly and locally be processed, providing many advantages: for instance, there is less need of transport, water and mineral residues can be led directly back to the land, and the biomass is more durable.”
Separating phosphate from manure
One of five pillars in the BIC-ON programme is manure.. Stichting Biomassa (Biomass Foundation), a network of companies in the Achterhoek region, focuses, among other things, on innovations related to manure processing. SME’s specialized in biorefinery techniques cooperate with Wageningen UR, and several universities of applied sciences. The results are promising, says Jeroen Sluijsmans, who, as business developer at BIC-ON, is coordinating the activities of companies in this value chain. “New separation techniques are now making it possible to separate phosphate from the smallest organic fertiliser particles and collect it in bulk. Next step is to produce al kinds of fertilizers on demand. The challenge however is to value all particles like minerals, organic particles, and the water. New refinery techniques will help us to make it profitable.
The eastern Netherlands abounds with pioneers in the valorisation of fibres, sludge, manure, algae and fresh biomass. Among them are projects that draw visitors from around the world and have even reached the TEDxBinnenhof platform for ‘ideas worth spreading’. Jeroen Sluijsmans has conducted an inventory for the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (Rijksdienst voor Ondernemend Nederland, RVO) on the biobased initiatives in the eastern Netherlands. The counter currently stands at more than 300.
Good for the environment and the economy
“BIC-ON is already a success and there is room for growth,” states Peter van den Broek, project leader for the biobased economy in the province of Gelderland. “The beauty is in the multiple benefits: it is good for the environment as we utilise biomass efficiently and use less fossil based resources, providing new jobs and innovations in the eastern Netherlands.”
The province facilitates this development via Valleybureau Greentech Alliances, which is powered by the kiEMT foundation. This allows projects to get access to knowledge brokerage, vouchers, grants or loans and participation from the provincial fund manager, PPM Oost. If you are interested in joining BIC-ON, contact Gülden Yilmaz or Jeroen Sluijsmans.