Start-ups in BlueChem present their innovations to the city council of Antwerp

The city council of Antwerp paid a working visit to BlueChem, the first incubator for sustainable chemistry in Belgium. BlueChem opened its doors at the beginning of May and helps promising start-ups and ambitious growth companies to scale up their innovation projects in sustainable chemistry and circular economy to industrial production. BlueChem has got off to a flying start: with 7 start-ups and 6 partner companies, a third of the available laboratories and office spaces in BlueChem is already occupied.

The city council of Antwerp met for the occasion in BlueChem. During an extensive tour, the mayor and aldermen were subsequently introduced to the specialised lab infrastructure in the incubator. The entrepreneurs of the start-ups and scale-ups presented their promising innovations during the working visit. With Arpadis, Calidris Bio, Creaflow, IBEVE, InOpSys, Peace of Meat and Triple Helix Group, 7 innovative growth companies are already working in BlueChem.


First incubator for sustainable chemistry

Frank Beckx, chairman BlueChem and managing director essenscia vlaanderen: “BlueChem is the first incubator for sustainable chemistry in Belgium. With BlueChem, here in Antwerp, in the heart of one of the largest chemical clusters in the world, we offer the right accommodation in the right place to help grow promising innovations in the field of sustainable chemistry and circular economy: from lab experiments to industrial production. The great interest of both start-ups and international chemical companies shows that we are writing a success story with BlueChem. For the chemistry of the future, you have to be in BlueChem.”

BlueChem is the first realised project on the eco-commercial site Blue Gate Antwerp. The incubator is sustainably built and meets the BEN standard and the BREEAM Excellent label. With the BlueChem Kickstart Fund, the city of Antwerp offers companies in BlueChem financial support for their lab equipment. With Catalisti, the spearhead cluster for the chemical and plastics industry, and VITO (Flemish Institute for Technological Research), BlueChem can also rely on an extensive and valuable network of scientific knowledge partners.


Claude Marinower, Alderman for Economy, Innovation and Industry and director of BlueChem: “It was impressive to discover all those inspiring entrepreneurial stories about innovating for a sustainable industry and society. BlueChem proves that sustainability and economic growth do not have to be mutually exclusive. With the BlueChem Kickstart Fund, the city of Antwerp offers financial support to start-ups in the incubator so that they can equip their labs with the most advanced equipment. In this way, we are realizing more innovative power for the chemical industry.”

Bart De Wever, Mayor of the city of Antwerp: “With BlueChem we are strengthening one of Antwerp’s major economic assets: our chemical industry. This is investing in the future, in an ecosystem for top innovations in sustainable chemistry and climate technology with which we can make a global difference. BlueChem is a new asset for Antwerp that will play a full part in the international promotion of our city. We also strongly believe in the cross-fertilization between government, industry and academia.”

BlueChem is a unique collaboration between industry, government and knowledge institutions with the joint ambition to further strengthen the economically important chemical industry in Flanders. Shareholders in BlueChem NV are essenscia, POM Antwerp, the city of Antwerp and VITO. Supplemented with Catalisti, they form the Board of Directors. Chemical companies Air Liquide, BASF, Borealis, ExxonMobil, INEOS and Vopak are also involved in this project. Strategic partners are BNP Paribas Fortis, Deloitte, Deloitte Legal, Port of Antwerp and SAS Institute. They offer the companies in BlueChem specialised advice tailored to their needs.

Leentje Croes, manager BlueChem: With BlueChem we have everything we need to help promising start-ups and ambitious growth companies from home and abroad to successfully develop their sustainable chemistry innovations. Adapted infrastructure at a top location, financial support for setting up labs, tailored services – from business and legal advice to data analysis platforms – and direct access to knowledge and expertise within an extensive network of international chemical companies, research centres such as VITO and the Catalisti innovation cluster that collaborates intensively with the five Flemish universities. BlueChem is a unique initiative that will frequently be heard of.”


Interview: BlueChem to become Antwerp's incubator for sustainable chemistry

Antwerp has the second largest cluster of chemical companies in the world, so it is only logical that this is where the first incubator for sustainable chemistry will open its doors in 2020. BlueChem will be an ecosystem where new chemical companies can find a network, support and equipped labs. Some fifteen small organisations that have outgrown the start-up phase will come into contact with each other and with major players in the sector. This cross-fertilisation gives them every opportunity to grow and exchange knowledge.

Blue Gate Antwerp as a breeding ground for sustainable chemistry

Frank Beckx is the Chairman of BlueChem and Managing Director of essenscia vlaanderen, the chemistry and life sciences sector federation. “With BlueChem, we are concentrating on young companies working on sustainable chemistry: turning waste back into valuable raw materials, looking for renewable chemicals or developing solutions for the climate problem. By providing the right framework, BlueChem wants these promising innovations to grow until they are ready for the market.”

“The incubator is an ecosystem in which young chemical companies are given opportunities to grow”

BlueChem is coming to Blue Gate, formerly the Petroleum Zuid site. “A prime location,” explains Leentje Croes, Manager of BlueChem, who takes care of the day-to-day management of the incubator. “Antwerp is very well known for its chemical cluster, so there is already a great deal of know-how. But we also want to put Antwerp on the map as an innovator in the chemical sector. BlueChem will thus also collaborate with large companies, universities and other high-potential starters. It will become an ecosystem in which cross-fertilisation is possible, and exchange is a matter of course.”

Infrastructure and guidance

There will be room for some fifteen companies at BlueChem. They can rent offices and labs there. Frank Beckx: “Those labs are very well equipped. We have three that can be used immediately and twelve other labs that companies can set up according to their wishes. These are real chemistry labs, unlike the laboratories in biotech incubators, for example.”

“BlueChem is more than a lab or an office. It is a place to network, exchange expertise and develop.”

Leentje Croes: “At BlueChem we want to offer more than just an office or a lab. It happens too often these days that a promising young company stops because it does not have enough financial resources or because it cannot successfully apply the product of its research. Thanks to the collaboration with the partners, we can also support them in this. For example, the City of Antwerp offers the companies at BlueChem financial support for equipping their laboratory. Deloitte, Laga, BNP Paribas Fortis and the Port of Antwerp are our other partners. They provide services and advice if one of the companies requests it. And Catalisti, the spearhead cluster for innovation in chemistry and plastics, will have a permanent office at BlueChem. They will provide access to a broader network. All these contacts ensure that companies can find each other and exchange knowledge.”

Such a state-of-the-art incubator costs a lot of money. Fortunately, BlueChem has the support of the EU through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). BlueChem has received €3.4 million from this fund. Flanders is also giving over €860,000 in support via the Hermes Fund, and the City of Antwerp, VITO and POM are also investing in BlueChem. The City of Antwerp has a fund to support companies as well.

Leentje Croes is currently holding initial discussions with interested companies. If you think you might be eligible for a place at BlueChem, please contact Leentje Croes on 0472 88 97 76 or by email at:


BlueChem in the spotlight during Antwerp's trade mission to Moscow

Sector federation essenscia vlaanderen highlighted the many assets of the chemical sector in Flanders during an investment seminar in Moscow. The port of Antwerp is home to the largest integrated chemical cluster in Europe and was therefore one of the economic spearheads during the City of Antwerp’s trade mission to Moscow and Saint Petersburg. For example, more than half of Belgium's exports to Russia come from the chemical, plastics and pharmaceuticals sectors.

The chemical sector, together with the port and the diamond industry, was one of the main economic themes during the Antwerp trade mission to Russia led by Mayor Bart De Wever. An investment seminar was planned in Moscow to highlight the assets of the chemical cluster in the port of Antwerp for Russian companies and investors.

Export to Moscow

Of the total Belgian exports to Russia last year, no less than 53% came from the chemical and life sciences sector, representing a turnover of €2.1 billion. As far as Flanders is concerned, exports to Russia of plastics as well as chemicals and pharmaceutical products increased by 16% last year. Russia is also the second most important overseas trading partner for the port of Antwerp, with traffic of 14 million tonnes of goods in 2017.

Welcome team for the chemical sector

Frank Beckx, Managing Director of essenscia vlaanderen and Chairman of BlueChem, said: “The aim of this trade mission is to put the chemical sector in Antwerp and Flanders even more firmly on the international map. We have a great many logistical advantages: we are the largest integrated and most diverse chemical cluster in Europe with excellent domestic and overseas connections, we lie at the heart of the Western European pipeline network and we have a unique capacity of almost 10 million m³ of tank storage, which means that a quarter of all chemicals in Europe are stored in our country. Moreover, we have talented employees with specialised knowledge and skills we can rely on, we are building the future with BlueChem, the incubator for sustainable chemistry that opens in Antwerp in 2020 and, together with Flanders Investment & Trade (FIT), we recently set up a Welcome Team for the Chemical Sector to provide the best possible support for foreign investment projects.


The trade mission’s delegation also visited leading research and innovation centres such as the Skolkovo Innovation Center and the TechnoSpark incubator. There was also a meeting with the Russian chemical company EuroChem, which has had a major fertiliser production facility in Antwerp with almost 400 employees since 2012.