BlueChem Israël

BlueChem highlight of the economic mission to Israel

BlueChem, the incubator for sustainable chemistry that opens in Antwerp in 2020, was one of the highlights of the economic mission to Israel led by Secretary of State for Foreign Trade Pieter De Crem and Antwerp Alderman Caroline Bastiaens.

Cleantech and digital innovation: these were the substantive spearheads of the economic mission to Israel. As number 1 in the Cleantech Innovation Index, and with the highest number of start-ups per population, Israel is known as one of the most innovative countries in the world.

Circular economy

The aim of the mission was to promote Belgian companies with knowledge and expertise in digitisation, waste management, chemistry and the circular economy in Israel and to encourage Israeli companies to invest in Antwerp and Flanders.

The assets of the BlueChem incubator were highlighted to Israeli investors during the Antwerp Business Seminar organised during the world-renowned DLD Innovation Festival in Tel Aviv. Blue Gate Antwerp, Umicore, Indaver and Isvag also presented their know-how and expertise there.

“Chemistry incubator BlueChem focuses on the effective use of waste and side streams”

Interview with Frank Beckx in Mblad
The first applicants for a place at Blue Gate Antwerp have confirmed. BlueChem, the future incubator for sustainable chemistry, has also chosen the new top location.

Antwerp is home to the largest chemical cluster in Europe. Blue Gate Antwerp was thus a logical choice for BlueChem. “BlueChem will become a breeding ground for innovative ideas in chemistry. The incubator brings together start-ups, SMEs and large companies and provides them with the knowledge and infrastructure to develop ideas,” says Frank Beckx, Managing Director of chemical federation essenscia vlaanderen and Chairman of BlueChem. “This is necessary, because the development of an idea for a chemical process requires time and money. It often takes a long time before an idea can be put to effective use. We want to accelerate that process.”

BlueChem will make offices and labs available and bring users into contact with knowledge partners and potential investors. Candidates can also count on the expertise and network of Catalisti, the spearhead cluster for chemistry and plastics.

Frank Beckx: “The main theme of the incubator will be the effective use of waste and side flows as a pioneer of the circular economy. Another focus area is the search for alternative sustainable raw materials, such as algae and biomass.”

“The main theme of the incubator will be the effective use of waste and side flows as a pioneer in the circular economy”

- Frank Beckx (BlueChem)

BlueChem is a public-private partnership between the chemical federation essenscia, developers DEC and Bopro, the city of Antwerp, the Flemish Institute for Technological Research (VITO), the Provincial Development Agency (POM) Antwerp, the Participation Company Flanders (PMV) and the Autonomous Municipal Company for Real Estate and City Projects in Antwerp (AG Vespa). The project will receive €3.4 million from the European ERDF programme and around €860,000 from the Flemish Hermes Fund. The incubator should be operational by 2020.

duurzame chemie

BlueChem stimulates trailblazing innovations in sustainable chemistry

Setting promising start-ups and high-potential innovation projects in sustainable chemistry on the path to growth and success. That is the objective of BlueChem, a new incubator for sustainable chemistry that will open its doors at the Blue Gate Antwerp business park in 2020. In doing this, the initiative aims to guarantee and strengthen the future of the economically important chemical sector in Flanders. BlueChem is a unique public-private partnership in which the private sector accounts for half of the investment. The private partners are essenscia, Bopro (BSI) and DEME (DEC). The government partners are the City of Antwerp, VITO, POM Antwerp, PMV and AG VESPA.

Flemish Minister for Economy and Innovation Philippe Muyters announced today that he is allocating €3.4 million of European funds to BlueChem, the future incubator for sustainable chemistry. The City of Antwerp is putting in €4 million. The federation of chemistry and life sciences, essenscia, the main shareholder, is taking the lead in the operation of BlueChem, together with the City of Antwerp, POM Antwerp and VITO.

We are investing in BlueChem to contribute to the innovative and sustainable development of the chemical sector. Thanks to the intense collaboration between chemical companies, start-ups and SMEs and research and knowledge institutions, BlueChem must develop into a catalyst for top innovations through which Flanders can make a difference globally. Promising ideas are to be given support here to allow them to grow from lab experiments to new chemical companies,” says Wouter De Geest, Chairman of essenscia.

Antwerp is one of the largest chemical clusters in the world. Nevertheless, it turns out not to be easy to apply this knowledge and expertise when setting up new innovative companies. For example, starters and innovation projects need a location where they can benefit from customised services in combination with adapted infrastructure. BlueChem offers the right facilities in the right place.


The incubator will have a surface area of 3,375 m² and will offer a mix of flexible workplaces, private offices and laboratories that can accommodate starting companies, SMEs and large companies as well as research centres and educational institutions. The new Spearhead cluster for Chemistry and Plastics will also be housed there to detect and assist promising innovation projects. The opening is planned for early 2020. The building will cost €8.68 million and will be located at the Blue Gate Antwerp site. “This is an important step for Blue Gate Antwerp. BlueChem enables us to position ourselves as an important place for R&D and thus attract other companies,” says Peter Garré, Managing Director of Bopro (BSI).

European support

BlueChem is being supported by the European Union and is receiving €3,473,589 from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). “The objective of our ambitious cluster policy is to continue to innovate and strengthen Flemish industry by allowing entrepreneurs and knowledge institutions to collaborate among themselves and together in order to accelerate innovation. Industry 4.0 and the circular economy are spearheads in this regard. BlueChem fits in perfectly with this strategy and is thus receiving our full support. This is why we are also providing 10% co-financing alongside the ERDF resources,” says Philippe Muyters, Flemish Minister for Economy and Innovation.

BlueChem will also be supported by a new Investment fund that is to be set up by the City of Antwerp that will invest in equipment for the incubator. “All together, we are investing €4 million in the building, operations and the Investment fund, making the city of Antwerp the largest financier of BlueChem. We are doing this because, as a city, we consider innovation in our industrial sector to be a major priority,” says Caroline Bastiaens, Alderman for Economy of the City of Antwerp.

Furthermore, the University of Antwerp is investigating the possibility of also accommodating its chemical contract research for companies at Blue Gate Antwerp in its own building right next to BlueChem. This would offer powerful synergies with the start-ups that establish themselves at BlueChem. “We strongly believe in synergies between companies, government and the academic world. We are achieving this synergy here, as well as in the digital innovation project,” says Bart De Wever, Mayor of the City of Antwerp. “BlueChem will become a strong element in our international investment promotion activities, and we will strongly promote BlueChem during the city’s mission to Shanghai and Seoul at the end of this year.

The BlueChem project is supported by eight partners that share in the capital of two companies (one for the building and one for operations). Three private partners hold a majority share: essenscia (the chemistry and life sciences federation) in operations and BSI (Bopro Sustainable Investments) and DEC (DEME Environmental Contractors) in the building. The latter two are also private partners in the Blue Gate Antwerp project. The government partners are the City of Antwerp, AG VESPA, PMV (Participation Company Flanders), VITO (Flemish Institute for Technological Research) and POM (Provincial Development Agency) Antwerp.

Innovation focus

Innovation is a strategic priority for essenscia. Five years ago, FISCH was founded. This is the innovation platform for sustainable chemistry that has been recognised by the Government of Flanders since last month as a new spearhead cluster for Chemistry and Plastics. With the Patent Unit, essenscia is helping sector companies protect their intellectual property. Initiatives such as the Innovation Circle and the Innovation Fund have grown out of the biannual essenscia Innovation Award to help start-ups develop a business plan and raise venture capital.

BlueChem is the next step in this innovation story. It will mainly focus on the effective use of waste and side flows, process optimisation and the development of sustainable products and renewable chemicals.