Barbara Veranneman

Chairwoman BlueChem & Director International & legal affairs at essenscia

BlueChem offers a complete solution for every startup wanting to innovate in sustainable chemistry.

© Barbara Veranneman

Barbara Veranneman
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Barbara Veranneman is the right person to take us through the extraordinary story of sustainable chemistry in Antwerp.

How does BlueChem make a difference? 

"BlueChem offers a complete solution for every startup wanting to innovate in sustainable chemistry. We offer lab spaces and we provide startups with support such as a reception and security. Additionally, our strategic partners ensure that startups easily can access assistance such as legal advice and help to find opportunities for growth. Thanks to our support, startups can knuckle down and do what they love doing most, which is innovation and research." 

How do startups interact with major companies? 

"The physical presence of major companies such as ExxonMobil and Ineos is very important. That’s how a correlation between startups and the big chemistry industry is created. It goes both ways: major companies provide startups with advice on safety measures for example. In return, startups hope to sell their products to those major corporates. It’s great to observe those interactions happening in real life. Essenscia plays a significant role in that process too. As a federation of the chemistry industry and life sciences, we are part of a big network that we can use easily to connect parties with each other."

How is BlueChem different from similar ecosystems elsewhere? 

"Our location in Antwerp hosts the second biggest petro-chemical cluster in the world, which is a great asset. BlueChem can be considered as an incubator, allowing innovation to grow and flourish and leading to the development of solutions on an industrial scale. In Antwerp every place can be reached easily, especially compared with Houston, which is the largest petrochemical cluster. The support offered by the City of Anwerp is also of incredible value. Our neighbour BlueApp is a pre-incubator for sustainable chemistry. Some of the startups think that the NextGen District, which is the hotspot for circular economy, will follow this trend. Antwerp’s ecosystem offers companies loads of opportunities." 

What is circularity’s added value? 

"Circularity and climate are important topics. We are aware of Europe’s carbon reduction ambitions and as a chemistry industry we can make a crucial contribution. That’s why startups who want to co-operate with BlueChem must be able to prove their connection with circularity, producing more with less resources, recycling, water purification…"

"We aim to enhance supply chain sustainability. One example of this process is a French company that is about to begin a collaboration with BlueChem. This company aims to convert CO2 into a new resource through a chemical process. Other countries showing interest in Antwerp’s facilities include Italy, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. Right now, we’re thinking about expanding our building, it will soon be necessary!" 

What do foreign entrepreneurs or investors need to know when doing business in Antwerp? 

"Antwerp is a small city, which makes it very easy to meet people in person. In a building that is filled with state-of-the-art-infrastructure, the coffee machine is the most important device at BlueChem. That’s the place where conversations arise and collaborations between startups and major companies develop. In fact, you could see Antwerp as one big coffee bar. Antwerp does business in a very natural and human way." 

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