Chemelot InSciTe biomedical facility
The Chemelot Institute for Science and Technology (InSciTe) is a public-private partnership between DSM, Eindhoven University of Technology, Maastricht University/Maastricht University Medical Center+ and the (Dutch) Province of Limburg. It’s a ‘Triple Helix’ collaboration between business, education, and government.
As much as possible, these organizations involve other academic and industrial parties in their activities, including SMEs.
Open innovation ecosystem
The activities of Chemelot InSciTe relate to the development and application of biomedical materials and the sustainable production of bio-based materials. To this end, the institute offers an open innovation infrastructure with shared facilities, which the individual partners cannot afford. There is ample opportunity to develop the outcomes of research into business.
For the research and the necessary facilities Chemelot InSciTe has a whopping 60 million euros at its disposal. In addition, Chemelot InSciTe intends to acquire 30 million euros through partnerships, scholarships, and grants.
The Province of Limburg invests via Brightlands Chemelot Campus.
The challenges we face
Chemelot InSciTe focuses particularly on two challenges the contemporary society faces. Firstly, how to sustain the health of an ageing population and simultaneously maintain our health care system. This is the domain of Chemelot InSciTe’s biomedical 'leg'.
Secondly, how to produce the resources that are crucial for our prosperity and welfare, without depleting natural resources and without harming the environment. This is the focus of Chemelot InSciTe’s bio-based department.
Chemelot InSciTe focuses on the joint development of an idea into a product, which can be marketed. To this end, the institute combines expertise, experimentation, entrepreneurship, and education. The outcome includes research projects, laboratories and pilot plants, start-ups, and dissertations. Throughout, open innovation is the magic word.
BIOMEDICAL: making smarter materials
By making the materials smarter, affordable and good quality health care is possible. Chemelot InSciTe offers solutions on the basis of biomedical materials that can be used safely in the human body. Examples include different medications and the replacement, repair, and even the regrowth of tissue. Healing and prevention replace expensive chronic care.
At Brightlands Chemelot Campus Chemelot InSciTe has a new 600 square meter facility at its disposal, an excellent working environment for every researcher in the field of biomedical materials.
In this facility are three sections: an open laboratory (level 1), a controlled research laboratory (level 2), and (closed) GMP certified class B (ISO 5) clean rooms for clinical testing (level 3).*)
As the level of the section increases, the number of research projects (unusable ideas are dropped), the number of researchers involved, and the area needed decrease, while complexity and cumulative costs increase.
In the facility is all kinds of equipment, such as instruments for testing material fatigue (e.g., to determine the durability of an artificial knee), a scanning electron microscope, and an electro-spinner for making so-called scaffolds. Scaffolds are minuscule structures to be placed inside the body, for example in a vein, allowing body cells to grow on it, to restore the tissue.
In addition, the biomedical facility has sufficient space for researchers to bring their own equipment.
A striking biomedical research project
One of the biomedical research projects concerns ophthalmology. The administration of drugs in the eye is very unpleasant, for example for patients with macular degeneration or glaucoma. The research focuses on the mode of administration of these drugs. This research is directed towards a tiny, spindle-shaped tool that is placed in the eye (ocular insert) to release the drug for a longer time of time in the correct dosage.
In addition to ophthalmology, biomedical research is conducted on applications for cardiovascular diseases and orthopedics.
Pilot Plant complex with the Chemelot InSciTe bio-based pilot plant
Artist impression Broekbakema
BIO-BASED: making materials smarter
By making materials smartly, chemicals and materials can be produced from renewable raw materials. Chemelot InSciTe produces such materials, so-called bio-based building blocks (4BS), that do not compete with the food chain, save water, and reduce carbon emissions.
Bio-based pilot plant
At Brightlands Chemelot Campus a pilot plant facility is currently under construction. The complex accommodates pilot plants for Sappi, Avantium, and Techno Force, while Chemelot InSciTe establishes here a pilot plant of 520 square meter for the production of bio-based materials.
Lignine as bio-based building block
One of the bio-based research projects involves lignin, the material that makes plants stand upright. Lignin has the natural tendency to break down; this phenomenon gives old books their characteristic smell. Converting lignin chemically in a controlled way yields building blocks for materials. The design and scale of this conversion process is the subject of research.
In addition to the lignin path to 4BS, two other ways are object of research, with hemicellulose respectively cellulose as a raw material. Hemicellulose is a component of the cell wall of plants, cellulose is also a material in plants, particularly in trees (that also contain lignin).
This research can lead to the replacement of fossil fuels, drop-in 4BS, or to entirely new applications, new 4BS. To this aim Chemelot InSciTe uses the thermo-chemical, catalytic, and biochemical expertise of its partners.
Chemelot InSciTe also offer the course "Working in a pilot plant".
Collaboration is crucial
During the official opening, there was a speech by Koenraad Debackere, Director of KU Leuven. At Leuven campus development started way before Chemelot.
Debackere explained that collaboration of a company with universities leads to increased sales of new products, while collaborating with suppliers and customers is boosting the sales of improved products.
Debackere presented his own version of the Triple Helix, which indicates what is required for good results: entrepreneurship, collaboration, and sound management of intellectual property. When companies work together they are often wary of the associated risks (especially the loss of intellectual property). Through the collaboration between companies and universities such risks can be reduced – and that is exactly what happens at Chemelot InSciTe.
Chemelot InSciTe started officially on September 28, 2015; for more information: www.chemelot-inscite.org.
*) More information about (the classification of) cleanrooms: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cleanroom.
This blog post is a repost of my (Dutch) October 5, 2015 post.
Read my May 20, 2013 blog post about the reason why of my English reposts.