Barbara Veranneman of essenscia, the sector federation for chemistry and life sciences, has been elected chairwoman of the Board of Directors of BlueChem NV, the incubator for sustainable chemistry in Antwerp. She succeeds Frank Beckx, who recently joined the employers’ federation Voka. Ann Verlinden, who became general manager of Catalisti, the spearhead cluster for innovation in chemistry and plastics, has also been appointed to the Board of Directors. Together with manager Leentje Croes, three women are helping to define the strategic lines of BlueChem, a chemical incubator.

Frank Beckx has chaired BlueChem since its inception in his role as managing director of essenscia vlaanderen. Now that he has recently transferred to Voka, as director of the knowledge and lobby center of the Flemish Business Network, he is passing on the torch to 36-year-old Barbara Veranneman. She is Director of International Affairs and Legal Advisor at essenscia, the sector federation of chemistry and life sciences that is also the main shareholder in BlueChem.

Barbara Veranneman holds a master’s degree in law from KU Leuven and the University of Sidney, with a specialization in international and European environmental and energy law. She also completed a management course at the international business school INSEAD in France. She started her career as a lawyer at the firm Loyens & Loeff and has been with essenscia since 2011.

In addition to her extensive legal expertise, Barbara Veranneman also specialises in everything to do with foreign trade and international trade agreements. In terms of innovation, through her involvement in the essenscia Patent Unit, she is familiar with the protection of intellectual property and the specific innovation needs of start-ups and scale-ups. Together with manager Leentje Croes (33), she forms a strong female tandem for the daily management of the incubator.

“I want to fully commit to developing BlueChem’s innovation potential to the maximum and to play it off as an international asset.”

Barbara Veranneman, president BlueChem NV

Barbara Veranneman, Chairman of BlueChem NV: “One year after its opening, BlueChem is already firmly established at home and abroad as the place to be for innovations in sustainable chemistry. It is thanks to my predecessor Frank Beckx that this incubator got off to a flying start, convinced that more innovative power in chemistry will result in more sustainability in our economy and society. I want to dedicate myself fully to continuing to work on this basis, together with partners from the very beginning POM Antwerp, city of Antwerp, VITO and Catalisti and in collaboration with chemical companies Air Liquide, BASF, Borealis, ExxonMobil, INEOS and Vopak who have been committed from the start to developing BlueChem’s innovation potential to the maximum and playing it as an international trump card.”

“Together with Barbara and the full Board of Directors, we are going for even more start-ups, more successful innovations and more international exposure.”

Leentje Croes, manager BlueChem NV

Leentje Croes, manager BlueChem NV: “I would like to thank Frank Beckx for the trust and inspiring cooperation during the past years. Together with Barbara and the entire Board of Directors we are now going for more start-ups, more successful innovations and more international exposure. With the explicit ambition to help make a difference from BlueChem for the climate and the transition to a circular economy by launching breakthrough technologies, introducing more efficient production processes and commercializing sustainable products.”

The labs and offices in the BlueChem incubator are already more than half occupied. Ten promising start-ups are working there on the chemistry and circular economy of the future. This ranges from the recovery of valuable metals from industrial wastewater to the conversion of captured CO2 into a valuable raw material and the development of new reactors and technologies for chemical processes with a lower ecological footprint. Better recycling techniques for plastics and new protein applications or meat alternatives for more sustainable food production are also high on the innovation agenda.

Today, BlueChem’s Board of Directors also welcomed Ann Verlinden as a new director. She succeeds Jan Van Havenbergh, her predecessor as general manager of Catalisti. Ann Verlinden is a civil engineer in chemistry with a specialization in environmental technology from the KU Leuven. She obtained her PhD at the University of Leeds-Bradford, where she focused on powder technology, and previously worked for companies including ExxonMobil Chemical and BASF Antwerp, two partner companies in BlueChem.

Jan Van Havenbergh remains active in BlueChem as manager of the Moonshot innovation program for a climate-friendly industry, which is supported by the Flemish government.

“The cross-pollination between start-ups and international companies, between academic knowledge and industrial expertise is what makes BlueChem unique and effective.”

Ann Verlinden, Managing Director Catalisti

Ann Verlinden, Managing Director Catalisti: “There is no better home base than BlueChem imaginable for organizations engaged in sustainable chemistry innovations. From here, together with universities, research centers and numerous companies, we are writing a great story for the chemical sector to take the lead in the climate transition. The cross-pollination between start-ups and international companies, between academic knowledge and industrial expertise is what makes BlueChem unique and effective.”