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Discover an international hotspot for innovation in sustainable chemistry

Interview with Liesbet Boogaerts, Manager at BlueChem


Few places in the world have such a high concentration of chemical companies, research institutions and sorting centres as Flanders. This offers many opportunities in the field of innovation. For example, a great deal of future-oriented research and production takes place in plastics and chemistry.

Liesbeth Boogaerts, Manager at BlueChem

Liesbet Boogaerts, BlueChem

The first incubator for sustainable chemistry

Spearheading this evolution is BlueChem, one of the first incubators for sustainable chemistry in Europe. Since 2020, start-ups in the sector have found here a network, support and work and research space for the roll-out of promising projects and products.

The location in Antwerp is no coincidence, according to manager Liesbet Boogaerts: “Antwerp has the largest chemical cluster in Europe and that is very interesting economically. Companies specialising in CO2 capture and reuse, among others, are keen to establish themselves here. It is a prime location for innovation and knowledge exchange.

BlueChem brings promising start-ups and big players together, thus encouraging cooperation and cross-pollination. BlueChem also offers start-ups practical help. For example, we rent out equipped or yet to be furnished laboratories and there are meeting rooms and a post and reception service.”

Antwerp has the largest chemical cluster in Europe.

From start-up to scale-up via a unique relocation system

“But especially for strategic advice, start-ups at BlueChem are in the right place. This advice comes from partners such as BNP Paribas Fortis, Deloitte, the Port of Antwerp-Bruges, SAS and SGS. Close contacts with Catalisti (Flanders’ Spearhead Cluster for Chemistry and Plastics), research partners such as the Flemish universities and VITO, and partner companies BASF, Air Liquide, Vopak, Borealis, INEOS and ExxonMobil are leading the way in circular chemistry and feedstock use.

Anyone who has outgrown the start-up phase can find new accommodation at scale-up locations such as the NextGen District in the port of Antwerp. BlueChem therefore works with a relocation system in which we continue to encourage and maintain close contacts between all parties. By the end of 2022, we expect all our labs to be fully occupied. The relocation system ensures that growing companies that want to scale up are again making room for the next batch of innovative starters.”

Towards an international learning network

“BlueChem doesn’t just receive requests from Belgian start-ups and spin-offs. Phone calls and emails are also increasingly coming from abroad. In the coming years, BlueChem wants to further expand and develop into an important international hotspot for innovation within sustainable chemistry. We also dream of a learning network, in which we can bring our own partners, research institutions and incubators from other sectors together and share our best practices. Nationally and internationally. And we notice that there is interest from all corners of the globe.”


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