In June of 2018 the Zernike Advanced Processing (ZAP) facility will open the doors of an unique innovation lab at Zernike Campus. ZAP provides excellent facilities for experimental biobased research in the Northern Netherlands. Furthermore, companies can make use of the existing equipment in ZAP. General manager Rob van Linschoten is looking forward to the opening.
Text: Ronald Vermeer
The ZAP facility is a semi-industrial environment where knowledge institutions and businesses collaborate on innovative solutions for the biobased economy. Van Linschoten: ‘Entrepreneurs contact the ZAP facility with applied research questions and we like to use the experience of these entrepreneurs to market new biobased products or to make (chemical) processes more sustainable. This contributes to a solid region and a stronger international position.’ Within ZAP, biomass residues are used. Examples of biomass are sugar beets, potatoes, grass, pruning waste, lupine, hemp and more. Biomass is used as an energy generator by combustion. However, this method does not add much value to the biomass. Applied research in ZAP focusses on valorization of biomass. It can be incorporated into materials or used in the pharmaceutical industry, cosmetics, nutraceuticals and clothing industry.
A good regional example is adding value to chitin from shrimp shells. Until recently, North Sea shrimps were peeled manually in Morocco. The company Telson from Lauwersoog developed a machine which peels the shrimps. Therefore the peeling process is now again conducted in the Northern Netherlands. What is left is a big pile of remains. These remains (biomass) can be used to improve the soil but in fact that is decapitalization. Chitin and chitosan are found in these remains. Chitin is being converted into high-quality, biobased raw material for the paper and paint industry, water purification and pharmacy, sustainable crop protection, in the clothing industry (coloring of jeans) or is used as a natural polymer alternative for durable implants.
The Zernike Advanced Processing facility was initiated by the Hanze University of Applied Sciences(lead partner), the University of Groningen (RUG) and Noorderpoort (secondary vocational education). Since the establishment in 2015 ZAP was mainly used for educational purposes. ‘From mid-2018 we offer industry the opportunity to scale up processes towards ‘proof of concept’ (TRL 4-6), possibly in collaboration with other (SME) companies and knowledge institutions. ZAP is an important link for SMEs and startups to bring ideas to a higher level, ultimately towards the market’, says Van Linschoten.
ZAP brings applied and fundamental sciences together by innovation focused on biotechnology. Van Linschoten: ‘Biotechnology connects the worlds of agro, food and chemistry and that offers opportunities. Cooperation between different chains is profitable.’ One striking example of biotechnology research is the cooperation of the science-based brothers Erik Heeres, professor Chemical Technology (RUG) and André Heeres, professor Biobased Chemistry (Hanze UAS). With a mix of students from RUG and Hanze UAS, the Heeres science team conduct research into biomass flows at the Delfzijl Chemical Park. ‘Research that may lead to the development of new green chemical products’, says Van Linschoten. It is research with a strong social impact. Van Linschoten: ‘The chemical industry is still depending on fossil fuels and petroleum. Within ZAP industry and knowledge institutions are researching green and more sustainable alternatives.’
Currently, the focus of ZAP is on bioconversion for green chemistry, biorefinery (among others green extraction) and Smart Processing. Van Linschoten: ‘But the ZAP facility is not limited to that. Biomass is so diverse; from agricultural cropsto (animal) residues. We invite everyone with an out-of-the-box idea contributing to the biobased economy to contact ZAP.’
The first startupswishing to establish themselves at ZAP have already expressed their interest, meaning that the newly built innovation hall is alreadyhalf-full. Recently, the WesterZwam company contacted ZAP to discussfuture settlement at the facility. WesterZwam makes oyster mushrooms grow on coffee grounds. The coffee grounds come from near-by restaurants. The mushrooms cultivated on the coffee grounds are, in return, being delivered to the same restaurants. The method of WesterZwam is inspired by the principle of the blue economy, in which natural systems are used for sustainable production and consumption. Van Linschoten: ‘WesterZwam has the intention to scale up their productivity using our ZAP facilities. Their biobased concept is changing society. Welcome in ZAP’s world of green innovation.’
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