With backing from the BlueChem Kickstart Fund, Triple Helix and Aquature open the way to a more sustainable industry
Circular economy, sustainability and ecological entrepreneurship are not only hot topics, but also essential to keep the port of Antwerp at the cutting edge. For this reason, through the Kickstart Fund, the city of Antwerp supports high-tech start-ups that herald a new future for a more sustainable and less polluting chemical sector in Antwerp. Triple Helix and Aquature are two companies that received support from the Kickstart Fund and are happy to reveal why BlueChem is their ideal base of operations.
Triple Helix is one of the first-generation residents at BlueChem (April/May 2020 in full lockdown). CEO Steven Peleman devised a plan around sustainability, recycling and venturing in the chemical sector late last decade. It resulted in a widely read paper in 2019, but its potential impact only really became visible when the concept was systematically implemented since 2020. The circular venture studio, which routinely establishes companies to help close material loops, became an exemplar of circular economy and sustainable industry based on concrete challenges and solutions in a short time.
"Triple Helix revolves around MAAS: molecules as a service," Steven clarifies. "If you want to fight emissions and pollution, you have to try to keep the molecules that products are made with at the end of their life in the economy and not just burn or hide them. Therefore, we upcycle from waste to quality raw materials. To control and improve the purity of those materials, a lot of tools (including digital ones) are needed to support our processes. For instance, in our SurePure project, we collect, dismantle and recycle the main waste streams of polyurethane (PU) foam, from insulation and car seats to mattresses. Our new lab at BlueChem allows us to do all the necessary chemical analyses and prepare the upcycling processes."
"Despite setting up a SurePure plant at the new NextGen district, our lab invariably remains at BlueChem. With the support of the Kickstart Fund, we were able to set up everything from test reactors to viscosimeters, safety equipment and all the chemicals. Thus, in this facility we can not only depolymerise components, but also make polyurethane (PU) foam again ourselves and do all the analyses related to contamination and processing of the materials. For us, there is no better place than BlueChem: we cooperate with universities, launch new initiatives and engage with colleague companies. And finally, the Antwerp connection gives us plenty of opportunities to globalise. We are in the ideal breeding ground here to work out our plans for local hubs in Boston and Singapore.”
Thanks to the Kickstart Fund, we were able to set up everything from test reactors to viscometers, safety equipment and all the chemicals.
Steven Peleman, CEO Triple Helix
In the year 2022, Aquature came into existence as a start-up, representing the exciting culmination of several years of dedicated research and personal investment. “At Aquature, we are proud to be developing a unique upcycling treatment for highly polluted wastewater,” says CEO Bjoern Pietruschka. “We use a bio-electric process in which micro-organisms convert the wastewater into reusable hydrogen and green, reusable chemicals. This bio-electric process unlocks more energy in the form of hydrogen during the wastewater treatment than is consumed electrically during the purification! This opens the door to on-site, cost-friendly wastewater treatment and energy production, which results in an economical benefit for companies.”
"Our innovation is therefore always energy-positive, but to demonstrate it we need to do a lot of development and research. And that's why Antwerp is the perfect location: the port serves as an ideal industrial base for commercial demonstration, especially at a time when reducing the carbon footprint of the chemical industry has become more critical than ever before. Furthermore, there is BlueChem, which holds the top spot as an incubator, with a strong focus on supporting circularity and fostering a dynamic start-up ecosystem. The city itself is also the prime location for our staff, given the inviting and social character of the region and the continuous support and engagements that we receive from the city. It's just nice to live here: the heart of Aquature beats in Antwerp."
"Of course, we were all too happy with our support from the Kickstart Fund: with this, we completely set up our lab and built a complete chemical-technical workstation capable of performing all analyses and proving our results. How pure the extracted hydrogen is, how contaminated the wastewater was and what green, reusable chemicals we obtain as a residual product: the lab ensures that we can test and validate our concept. In fact, it is going so well that next year we plan to start pilot projects at several sites, including the port. With feedback from the industry itself, our turnkey solution is being developed faster and allows us to turn our decentralised platforms into reality as efficiently as possible."
BlueChem is the ideal incubator and the city itself is a prime business location. The heart of Aquature beats in Antwerp!
Bjoern Pietruschka, CEO Aquature
BlueChem Kickstart Fund
Companies setting up in BlueChem can benefit from the BlueChem Kickstart Fund. This investment fund was set up by the City of Antwerp as part of its ambition to promote sustainable innovation in the chemical sector.
With the help of the BlueChem Kickstart Fund, companies can receive support up to 70.000 EUR to set up their lab.
Would you like to apply for the BlueChem Kickstart Fund? Then quickly book your place at BlueChem, rent a self-furnished lab and complete your grant application.