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Hans Leemhuis and Lubbert Dijkhuizen

Hans Leemhuis en Lubbert Dijkhuizen

The gateway to a new economy

Carbohydrates (e.g. starch, sucrose) are the ideal building blocks for applications in the Agri&Food sector. Modifying carbohydrates at the molecular level may yield new products and applications, a firm basis for innovations. Public-private partnerships between industry and science are the driving force for this new economy.

The North of the Netherlands is the epicentre for carbohydrate research. ‘You wouldn’t believe what you can get out of a simple starchy potato,’ says Hans Leemhuis, product developer at the international starch co-operative AVEBE in Veendam. Besides developing and selling new starch applications, AVEBE is conducting research into new starches aiming to provide health benefits: Healthy Ageing. ‘Potato starch is easily broken down by the body and so glucose is quickly absorbed into the blood. This may cause health problems. Emphasis is on starch modifying enzymes that would allow the glucose to be released more slowly, this could be an important step in controlling diseases such as obesity or type 2 diabetes.’

Win-win

AVEBE’s research into enzymatic starch modification is carried out in the Carbohydrate Competence Center (CCC) in Groningen, a centre in which the University of Groningen, Wageningen University, four national knowledge institutes, twenty companies and the government have joined forces to work together on excellent, demand-driven carbohydrate research. CCC research at academic (and non-academic) knowledge institutes provides a strong stimulus for the R&D of the industrial partners. ‘Taking part in CCC introduces these companies to the most recent developments and knowledge available within the universities,’ says Lubbert Dijkhuizen, Professor of Microbiology at the University of Groningen and scientific director of the Carbohydrate Competence Center. The University of Groningen gets plenty in return. Dijkhuizen: ‘We carry out in-depth fundamental research in collaboration with our industrial partners, resulting in scientific publications in international journals. Often this collaboration generates follow-up research, for which we can appoint more PhD students: it is a win-win situation.’

Synergy

Leemhuis has experienced the synergy of the best of both worlds at first hand. He obtained a PhD degree at the University of Groningen and entered his current research position within AVEBE via CCC. ‘Cooperation with CCC leads to new products, new employment and in our case, a higher potato price for our farmers. It really is the gateway to a new economy.’

Last modified:19 June 2014 4.12 p.m.
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