A ‘Bright’ look into 2020

january 30, 2020

by Bert Kip, CEO Brightlands Chemelot Campus

Becoming part of the solution instead of the cause

I’ve got a baseball bat in my office labelled “Employee Motivation Bat”. This is obviously meant as a joke; don’t worry, I’ve never used it for that purpose. It’s a symbol, a reminder that those of us in this region should give each other a push more often, try to be less modest.

We have the tendency to get stuck in the here and now, and really could use the proverbial kick in the rear end now and then. This is, after all, the right time to ensure the future comes to us. A time when we can take a firm hold on change, now, in the middle of the energy transition, the raw materials transition and the digital transition. Now is the time that the markets and value chains are being shaken up, when new parties are coming on the scene who will be decisive. A sense of urgency to create our own future here in our region. This is what the bat stands for.

New context

Chemistry and materials. This is an area in which we have accumulated an incredible amount of expertise since the mines closed. Now is the time to view our field in a new context, to play a guiding role in the transitions we advocate, to make the choice for sustainability and innovation. And to go from being the cause of the problems to being the solution.

Circular hub

Ecological sustainability is gaining in importance, and this presents major opportunities for Brightlands Chemelot Campus. We aim to play a leading role when it comes to circularity. As a circular hub, we can offer smarter, faster and more innovative solutions to ecological problems, the kind our knowledge institutes are working hard to solve. At the Brightlands Materials Center (BMC) we are working on new, sustainable and recyclable materials through shared-research programs. Aachen Maastricht Institute for Bio-based Materials (AMIBM) is developing strategies for producing high-quality synthetic materials from biomass. Even though both institutes have only been around for five years, they have already made valuable contributions. Their materials are used in the automotive industry, the production of packaging materials, but also in the medical materials and consumer product sectors.

Engine driving a sustainable society

Working on the same goal together is what really helps developments take flight. Not only have we seen this with BMC and AMIBM, but also with the new Brightsite, an alliance between Maastricht University, TNO and Sitech focused on making process technology more sustainable. The entire chain comes together here; those involved in the theoretical and practical aspects seek out one another to study how existing processes may be made more sustainable on a structural level, from fundamental research to the realization of pilot installations. It’s all fully aligned with the climate goals and the energy transition and fits well within our goals to make the Chemelot site climate-neutral by 2050. The circular economy already exists at Chemelot, QCP, Sabic, Zitta Biogas, Ioniqa, and Niaga are great examples of companies that work according to circular concepts. We are past the stage of making plans and are also playing a leading role for innovation in a Euregional context within the trilateral partnership between Flanders, the Netherlands and North Rhine-Westphalia. Together, we are developing an integrated strategy in which the chemistry sector is the engine driving a sustainable society.

Re-thinking

We live in turbulent times. We don’t know which role our national government will play in the climate debate and have stopped waiting for it to decide. We are turning it around; we see opportunities to take a leading role. We continue to build, literally and figuratively, because we continue to grow. We are staying ahead of the game. The transition we are working on is huge and has an enormous impact. This demands close cooperation on a regional, national and European level. It requires re-thinking, to start viewing waste as a new raw material, for example. The chemistry sector is no longer the agent causing pollution, but we are contributing to finding the solution to a global problem instead. Our added value is higher than ever. So many great reasons to give each other a push and do all these good things at Brightlands Chemelot Campus and Chemelot Industrial Park. We don’t need a baseball bat to accomplish this. Let’s all expand our leading role in 2020 and work together on a clean and circular future.

Here’s to 2020, and a circular future!

Bert Kip is the CEO of Brightlands Chemelot Campus

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