maandag 4 mei 2015

How Brightlands realizes the government’s ambitions

It is striking how well the Dutch government vision on science fits with the developments at Brightlands Chemelot Campus and Brightlands Maastricht Health Campus. Or, stated differently: how well these campuses fit with that vision.

Han Dols Photography

Last year, the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science published its vision on science. *) This vision describes three ambitions for the year 2025:
1. Dutch science is world class.
2. Dutch science is more connected with society and industry.
3. Dutch science is a breeding ground for talent.

Challenges for science
These ambitions are really necessary, because the Dutch science faces major challenges. First of all, international competition is increasing rapidly. Therefore, it is important to further develop those areas where the Netherlands is committed to be the best in the world. Furthermore, governments and societies increasingly rely on science to contribute to the grand societal challenges. That’s why scientists have to join forces with industry and civil society organizations.
Finally, scientists are under pressure to publish much, while they must do more to the commercialization of knowledge.

Brightlands Chemelot Campus and Brightlands Maastricht Health Campus take these challenges in their own way and at the same time they contribute to the realization of the national government’s ambitions. As described in my March 30, 2015 blog post “A land without borders”, these efforts are actually expressed in the name Brightlands.

Collaborating on innovations
With its education the Netherlands is among the leaders in Europe. Government, industry, universities, and research institutes work closely together in the top sectors **) on knowledge and innovation, preferably in a public-private partnership. Innovations come about in regional ecosystems of knowledge institutions, companies, and other parties.

In fact, such ecosystems are being developed at the Brightlands campuses. For instance, in the top sector ‘Chemicals’ Chemelot Campus is being developed by the (Dutch) Province of Limburg, DSM, Maastricht University, and Maastricht University Medical Center.

In the same top sector – Chemicals –two research institutes at Chemelot Campus are in various stages of development. In Brightlands Materials Center (BMC), which was launched in March, Brightlands collaborates with TNO, an independent Dutch research organization that employs some 3,000 specialists. The new center has about twenty committed partners. 
Chemelot InSciTe (Institute for Science & Technology) is a collaboration of Brightlands, Eindhoven University of Technology, DSM, Maastricht University, and Maastricht University Medical Center.
Both institutes are supported by the Province of Limburg.

Knowledge crossing borders
Smart collaboration is required, also with parties abroad. Choices must be made, because the Netherland cannot be the best at everything.

At Chemelot Campus the Aachen-Maastricht Institute for Biobased Materials (AMIBM) is located, a collaboration of Maastricht University and the RWTH, the technical university just at the other side of the border in Aachen, with more students than the three Dutch technical universities combined.
In this respect, AMIBM is a nice demonstration of the Brightlands tagline: “Knowledge crossing borders”.

Bio-Based Materials, AMIBM’s focus area, is one of the key domains of Chemelot Campus, in addition to Performance Materials and Biomedical Materials.
It’s true, you can’t be the best at everything  – but we can in these three areas!

Grand Challenges
Scientists should contribute to solving societal challenges (the Grand Challenges of the European Commission, as defined in Horizon 2020). Consider healthy aging, sustainable transport, food security, and issues of energy, climate, and water.

The institutes BMC, InSciTe, and AMIBM contribute to the grand societal issues. BMC focuses on fundamental research into the production of polymeric materials (plastics), their chemical and physical properties. For example, these materials are applied in mobility (lightweight cars), packaging, healthcare, electrical appliances, and energy production.
InSciTe focuses on the development of bio-based materials and biomedical materials. Bio-based materials are more environment-friendly than conventional materials, while biomedical materials should contribute to affordable healthcare.
AMIBM engages in the production and processing of bio-based materials (read my February 3, 2014 blog post “Friend of Plants”).
Elsewhere in Limburg (Greenport Venlo) the efforts are focused on improving food security.

Scientists also have to deal with other problems that are socially and economically relevant for the Netherlands: quality of life, circular economy, resilient society, building blocks of life, complexity (dealing with unpredictability and big data).

At Brightlands Chemelot Campus solutions for the circular economy (bio-based materials) are developed, while at Chemelot Industrial Park the company QCP is currently constructing a factory that will produce polymers, using plastic waste material as feedstock.
Elsewhere in Limburg (Smart Services Hub in Parkstad) big data is handled on a daily basis.

Large-scale infrastructure
The government vision on science emphasizes the availability of large-scale infrastructure in the form of state-of-the-art facilities.

Enabling Technologies B.V., a joint venture of DSM, Maastricht University, and the Province of Limburg, located at both Brightlands campuses, has installed advanced analysis equipment, such as electron microscopes. The remarkable thing is that in principle all companies and institutions have access to these expensive devices.
The coming years, pilot and mini plant facilities will be realized at Chemelot Campus, and these will have a great appeal to top scientists.

Commercialization as core competency
Commercialization not only includes the economic utilization of knowledge, but also utilizing knowledge for solving the societal issues or contributing to societal debate.

Commercialization is a competency of the Brightlands campuses. For instance, Chemelot Campus has a team of business developers that support entrepreneurs with starting new companies that are based on the (licensed) intellectual property of third parties.

Combination of education, research and commercialization
Part of the curriculum of the universities is to stimulate their graduates into entrepreneurship. For example, at vocational level Centers of Expertise combine education, research, and commercialization.

Chemelot Innovation and Learning Labs (CHILL) is located at Brightlands Chemelot Campus. In this national Center of Expertise for Chemistry students and professionals are educated in the discipline of chemistry. Real assignments from the industry are part of the curriculum. The center is a collaboration of Zuyd University of Applied Science, Arcus, Leeuwenborgh, Maastricht University, DSM, and SABIC.

Regional clusters
In addition to internationalization we see more and more integration, clustering, coordination, and harmonization in specific regions. In many regions we see the rise of Science Parks, campuses, and economic clusters through strategic alliances with companies, research institutions, and local and provincial governments.

For the government vision on science Chemelot Campus serves as an example. This campus is actually developed with the help of substantial support from governments at all levels (the Province of Limburg and the municipality of Sittard-Geleen, as well as the European Union and the national government). Over the next ten years, hundreds of millions of euros will be invested here, mainly in research.

Unique in the world
Chemelot Campus is unique in the world, because here universities bring their knowledge to the industry. This attracts international top talent; smart people who will present their results under the name Brightlands. They will play an important role in realizing the ambitions of the Dutch government in the field of science and its application.

*) The report “Vision on Science – choices for the future” (“Wetenschapsvisie 2025 – keuzes voor de toekomst”), November 2014. This report is available (in Dutch):
**) The top sectors were defined by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs (2010). These are the strong areas of the Dutch economy that merit additional support: Horticulture and propagation materials, Agri-food, Water, Life sciences and health, Chemicals, High tech, Energy, Logistics, and Creative industry.

This blog post is a repost of my (Dutch) December 15, 2014 post.
Read my May 20, 2013 blog post about the reason why of my English reposts.

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