A Flemish-Dutch collaborative project plans to transform the Gent-Terneuzen Canal Zone into the most important centre for the bio-based economy in Europe.
By applying technological innovation and training, this initiative will speed up the transition to a sustainable, bio-based economy.
Bio Base Europe is a joint initiative of Biopark Terneuzen and Ghent Bio-Energy Valley.
Both organisations have been working for some time for the expansion of a bio-based economy in the Flanders-Netherlands border region.
The bio-based economy includes much more than a bio-fuels.
It also includes the development of bio-dyes, bio-plastics, bio-chemicals and bio-detergents.
Bio Base Europe has two components: a pilot plant for bio-based products and processes and a training centre for process operators of bio-based activities.
Scientists will use the testing installation to determine how agricultural by-products, such as wheat straw, corn cobs, wood chips, Jatropha oil, and algal oil can be converted to bio-fuels, bio-plastics and other bio-based products.
Special attention will be given to scaling up processes to an industrial scale.
The pilot plant will be housed in the former fire station on the Rodenhuizekaai in the Port of Gent.
It will go on-line in early 2010 and will provide 35 new jobs.
'The Bio Base Europe Pilot Plant will operate on the open innovation model and will focus on companies throughout Europe in a number of sectors, including chemicals, bio-tech and energy,' said Prof Wim Soetaert, who is in charge of the Bio Base Europe Pilot Plant.
This initiative is also a welcome development for the industry federations.
'The Bio Base Europe Pilot Plant will enable companies, both large and small, in the chemicals and bio-tech industry to explore the potential of bio-based products,' said Frans Dieryck of Essenscia Vlaanderen, the chemistry and life sciences federation, and Nelo Emerencia of the Association of the Dutch Chemicals Industry (VNCI).
The training centre will be built in Terneuzen.
'The idea is to turn out skilled operators and technical maintenance specialists for the bio-based economy,' said Peter van den Kieboom, head of the Bio Base Europe Training Center.
'Like every other industrial sector, the bio-based economy is struggling to make up a short-fall of qualified technical personnel.
'And there is a glaring lack of technical personnel specialised in bio-processes.
'We will be filling in this gap ourselves through this training centre.
'And beyond that, the centre will take on a networking and information role for the bio-based economy,' he added.
The centre will be operational in 2011.