Flanders is fully focused on the sustainable chemistry of the future. And what better place for this than Antwerp, in the heart of Europe’s largest integrated chemical cluster? Today, the first spade was put into the ground of BlueChem and Blue_App. BlueChem is the very first incubator for sustainable chemistry in Flanders, Blue_App is an open innovation hub for research projects of the University of Antwerp in the field of sustainable chemistry. Both projects are the first two realisations on the circular, water-bound business park Blue Gate Antwerp. The opening of BlueChem and Blue_App is planned for spring 2020.

Antwerp has the largest integrated chemical cluster in Europe. Nevertheless, an innovative and sustainable transformation of the chemical sector is needed to firmly anchor chemistry in the region. “Today we have taken the first steps in the creation of a new eco system for sustainable chemistry in Antwerp”, says Mayor Bart De Wever. “It is therefore our ambition to valorise the existing knowledge and experience in chemistry in our region with the creation of new innovative companies. This way we ensure and strengthen the future of the chemical sector in Antwerp, and by extension in Flanders.”

BlueChem, incubator for sustainable chemistry

BlueChem will be the very first incubator for sustainable chemistry in Flanders. The incubator will support promising (inter-)national start-ups and innovation projects within the chemical industry, so that these can develop on an industrial scale.

“We have noticed that it is not easy to let promising innovations grow into new companies in the chemical sector. It takes a lot of time, money and confidence. BlueChem offers the right accommodation at the right place to offer innovations in sustainable chemistry the best possible chance of successful industrialisation and commercialisation”, says Frank Beckx, Managing Director of essenscia vlaanderen, the federation of chemistry and life sciences and chairman of BlueChem NV. “BlueChem offers adapted infrastructure, tailored services, financial support for the purchase of specialised lab equipment and direct access to knowledge and expertise within an extensive network of leading chemical companies, renowned research centres and the five Flemish universities.”

BlueChem is more than 3.300 m² in size and provides a mix of flexible workplaces, offices and laboratories for starters, SMEs and innovation project for large companies and knowledge institutions. CATALISTI – The Flemish spearhead cluster for chemistry and plastics – takes an active role in BlueChem to launch and support new promising innovation projects.

The chemistry incubator mainly focuses on the valorization of waste and side streams as a pioneer of the circular economy. Other innovation themes are process optimization and the development of renewable chemicals and sustainable materials. The building will cost a total of around 7 million euros. The total investment of the project is 11 million euros, of which 4 million euros from the city of Antwerp.

BlueChem receives a maximum subsidy of 3.473.589 euros via the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). Flanders is investing 868.397 euros in the project via Hermesfonds. “With our ambitious cluster policy , we focus on specific sectors and clusters that closely match the strengths of the Flemish industry and the knowledge institutions, with which we can also make the difference internationally. That way, sustainable chemistry is also a clear spearhead”, explains Philippe Muyters, Flemish Minister for Economy and Innovation. “BlueChem fits perfectly into this strategy and therefore fully receives our Flemish support.”

BlueChem is a public-private partnership. For example, the project is supported by eight different partners who provide the necessary capital through two companies (BlueChem NV and BlueChem Building NV). Three private partners are taking the majority interest. essenscia is the majority shareholder in BlueChem NV and Bopro and DEC (DEME Environmental Contractors) in BlueChem Building NV. The government partners of BlueChem NV are the city of Antwerp, VITO and POM (Provincial Development Company) Antwerp and of BlueChem Building NV AG VESPA and PMV (Participatiemaatschappij Vlaanderen).


The university of Antwerp has a clear ambition to further profile itself as an entrepreneurial university. To realise this, various efforts are being made to translate research results, knowledge and expertise into society. The development of pre-incubation structures, open innovation hubs, within the University of Antwerp is one of these. A pre-incubator is an inspiring and supportive environment in which entrepreneurial ideas are tested for their sustainable market potential.

We believe in a model of open innovation, with which we will exchange innovative ideas with companies and other partners at an early stage of the research. In an open innovation hub such as Blue_App, researchers and business people are taken out of their comfort zone and work together in co-creation projects”, says Silvia Lenaerts, Vicerector Valorisation & Development at the University of Antwerp. “Blue_App will be a lever, because we can combine multidisciplinary knowledge here and link it to training and education. Both materials for sustainable evaluation and digitization within the domain are part of the expertise of the excellent research projects that will be carried out here. We want to create economic and social impact with Blue_App, as in jobs, spin-offs, attracting international companies, sustainability and lifelong learning.”

Blue_App will be more than 5 000 m² and will have four floors in which both labs and office space will be accommodated.

Blue Gate Antwerp

BlueChem and Blue_App are the first two projects that are being realized at Blue Gate Antwerp, a circular and water-bound business park that is leading in the field of sustainability in Flanders. Design & Engineering NV is responsible for the realisation of BlueChem. For the implementation of the Design & Build effort, they call on MBG (CFE Bouw Vlaanderen) and THV LOW, Ingenium & ELD. The designers of Blue_App are LOW, Ingenium and ELD. No executer has been selected yet for this job.

“Blue Gate Antwerp will be a climate-neutral business park of no less than 63 hectares that is exclusively reserved for innovative companies that attach great importance to the reuse of raw materials. We are very pleased to welcome bluechem and Blue_App on site. After all, these projects are in line with the ambitious vision of Blue Gate Antwerp, the first eco-effective water-bound business park”, says Caroline Bastiaens, chairman of Blue Gate Antwerp Public Holding and alderman for the Economy of Antwerp. The opening of BlueChem and Blue_App is planned for the spring of 2020.

More info about this press release

For BlueChem

Gert Verreth, essenscia, tel. 0477 46 42 27, gverreth@essenscia.be

Johan Vermant, spokesperson Mayor Bart De Wever, tel. 0491 35 84 87, johan.vermant@stad.antwerpen.be

Liesbeth De Maeyer, spokesperson Caroline Bastiaens, tel. 0477 39 95 41, liesbeth.demaeyer@stad.antwerpen.be

Veerle Van Nieuwenhuysen, advisor communication Minister Muyters, tel 0486 49 44 80, veerle.vannieuwenhuysen@vlaanderen.be

For Blue_App

Ellen Bogaert, communication unit Valorisation UAntwerp,
tel. 0498 13 87 40, 03 265 37 20, ellen.bogaert@uantwerpen.be

For Blue Gate Antwerp

Katrien De Coster, communication manager Bopro, tel. 0475 68 35 48, bd@bopro.be