Northern Netherlands the cradle of sustainable biobased

Biobased materials are made from renewable raw materials. Examples of these renewable raw materials include starch, sugar, cellulose, lactic acid, proteins or microorganisms. These raw materials are extracted from maize, beet, sugar cane, wood, potato, tapioca root or castor nuts, for example. Like products produced using fossil fuels, bio-based products also have what is known as an end-of-life. However, the CO2 released during combustion is of biogenic origin. This could, for example, be combined with green hydrogen to make biomethanol Production chains can be closed with bio-based raw materials as well as recycling and use of green CO2. The above-mentioned applications of biocommodities are possible in the Northern Netherlands. The basic conditions for a biobased economy in the northern Netherlands are favourable because of the agricultural and natural areas, the available space, the deep-sea ports, the broad support among the population and the cooperation within Energy Valley.

The North also has an extensive and broad biomass knowledge infrastructure. This makes the northern Netherlands the cradle of sustainable biobased. TheBiofuel Agenda North Netherlands discusses which developments are necessary for this.

Figure: Conceptual final situation for industry in the Northern Netherlands (source: Bioconstituents Agenda Northern Netherlands)

First of all, a clear line for the future is necessary. Acceleration of sustainable biobased production will take place if there is a widely supported vision of the biobased future, also beyond 2030. Here, success is largely determined by the quality of cooperation between all stakeholders. Regulation is another determinant of development. To develop and scale up a circular and biobased economy, it must be possible to use waste (residual products) for application as biorefinery. Current policies (waste laws and regulations) often do not allow this and this delays innovations. Moreover, it is mostly unclear when end-of-waste status is achieved. A platform or other partnership that can answer this question from both (SME) entrepreneurs and (decentralised) governments in a low-threshold way can provide a solution for this. In collaboration with a consortium consisting of Hanzehogeschool Groningen, Vereniging Circulair Friesland, Bio Cooperative, De Haan Advocaten, and the municipality of Emmen, Ecoras took important steps for the initial exploration of such a platform.

Through our network within different sectors, we were able to quickly identify various experiences and challenges. This led to important input that is now being used to prepare the Vision and a Plan of Action for the future Circular Economy Legal Platform. With Chemport Europe, industry in the North has an innovative and sustainable (eco)system for green chemistry.

As a booster of green chemistry, among other things, Chemport Europe facilitates scale-ups, chemical and innovative companies to advance sustainable ideas and technologies. Here, companies, governments and knowledge organisations work together towards a shared ambition: changing the nature of chemistry. Biomaterials Agenda North Netherlands recommends further investment for a recognisable Chemport Innovation Cluster and attracting new research and investment. Research, development and scale-up of new biobased production processes often require large and risky investments. A financial toolkit is necessary for promising and innovative processes to flourish. Here, government guarantees are an effective way to reduce uncertainties and attract investors. Grants also remain necessary for developing large-scale demonstration projects, among other things. The above ambitions can only be realised if sufficient and qualified human capital is available. The constant development of new technology, and hence the competences of the workforce, calls for intensive cooperation between industry and education. In addition to connection with knowledge institutions and appropriate educational programmes, a broader commitment to the living environment is also desirable for this purpose. If you have any questions as a result of reading this article, please contact Bert Hoefsloot.