Port of Antwerp
Source: Port of Antwerp

The former General Motors site will become a hotspot for circular economy and will be known as NextGen District. Port of Antwerp – one of the strategic partners of BlueChem, the incubator for sustainable chemistry – is fully engaged to develop the 88-hectare site into an environment where innovative companies have the opportunity to develop and demonstrate their circular concepts. One of the start-ups in BlueChem is in the running to claim one of the very first spots.

BlueChem is the first Belgian incubator that specifically focusses on sustainable chemistry within a circular economy. The incubator, located at Blue Gate Antwerp, aims to help promising start-ups and growth companies to scale up their sustainable innovations in the chemical industry.

Focus areas are the processing of waste and side streams, process optimization and the development of renewable chemicals and sustainable products. Port of Antwerp is one of the many strategic partners that helps entrepreneurs within BlueChem to grow by linking them up with suitable contacts for pilot projects and industrial upscaling, for example in the NextGen District.

Hotspot for circularity

Neighbouring worldwide renowned companies such as Air Liquide, BASF, Borealis, ExxonMobil, INEOS, and Vopak, the NextGen District is located next to Europe’s largest chemical cluster. “This location is a dream come true.”

Dries Van Gheluwe, Advisor Business Development at Port of Antwerp, explains: “This exact location initiates a lot of opportunities for companies within the NextGen District to be part of an existing network, both in terms of the sales and utilities market, and in terms of residual flows.” It mainly focuses on companies whose main target is circular processes and models, recycling, sustainability and reducing CO₂ emissions.

A win-win for all parties

That is what the circular economy is all about: using waste flows from plastics or residual flows such as water, steam, heat and chemicals within circular processes. “It is a win-win situation for all parties involved. Circular companies process flows that can be used within the chemical cluster”, Van Gheluwe states.

“By reducing the circular activity to the level of the molecule, this cycle can be repeated infinitely. That is why products not only get a second life, but even a third and a fourth. It is our ambition that everything which is produced here, will be separated at the end of their useful life and reused as raw materials for our local companies.”

Obviously, this constant flow of components has to be transported. Van Gheluwe sees various possibilities. “This can be done by rail, through pipelines, over water and the road. To ensure that we develop the site as sustainably as possible, we are investigating which services we can organize collectively.”

DEMO zone, PARK and LOTS

NextGen District must also be a site where companies are given the opportunity to fully develop themselves in often new technologies. To achieve this, Port of Antwerp has divided the district into three entities.

“The DEMO zone offers a place for projects that are still in a phase of development and want to demonstrate their lab technology on a larger scale. While PARK provides extra space for projects that want to show themselves on a larger scale. LOTS on the other hand offers well-established, bigger players considerably larger surfaces. In this way we give different types of projects and companies, from young to mature, a chance to create their base in the NextGen District.”

Port of Antwerp has already presented the first candidates with a chance of winning a concession within the NextGen District: Novali, Biondoil, Laupat Industries and Triple Helix‘ Molecules as a Service (THX MaaS), a BlueChem start-up. Triple Helix’s Sure PUre project aims to build a recycling plant at NextGen District for polyurethane foam and PET shells, which will be converted into polyols.

“Being a proud partner of BlueChem, we shall help entrepreneurs to evolve, connecting them to relevant contacts for pilot projects and industrial upscaling, suitable for the NextGen District. This will contribute to an innovative ecosystem that enables us to secure a sustainable future for the chemical cluster in the port of Antwerp.”

Interested companies can still submit their candidacy until October 20, 2021.
All information can be found on the website www.portofantwerp.com.

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