Reflections on the innovation mission to Brazil by Jacqueline Vaessen

The Netherlands and Brazil strengthened cooperation on bio raw materials this week during an innovation mission to Brazil. More than thirty Dutch companies, knowledge institutions and governments, led by Jacqueline Vaessen, chair of ChemistryNL took part in the mission.

On December 14, in the capital Brasilia, Minister Barbosa de Oliveira Santos (Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation of Brazil) and Director Karlo Van Dam (Sustainable Industry, Ministry of Economic Affairs & Climate) signed a deal to further the collaboration. intensify in the field of sustainable biomass for materials, integrated biorefineries, biopolymers and advanced biofuels.

In the Netherlands, the chemical industry converts approximately 11 Mton of carbon per year into high-quality products. The Netherlands has high ambitions to replace this carbon, which currently comes from oil, with sustainable alternatives such as bio-raw materials. Brazil has a lot of knowledge and experience with the refining of bio-raw materials. The Netherlands brings knowledge and technology to convert biomass into high-quality products such as plastics, advanced materials and coatings.

The collaboration includes plans for cooperation in the field of market regulation, the establishment of a bilateral working group, the stimulation of public-private partnerships between Dutch and Brazilian companies and knowledge institutions and the setting up of exchange programs for students and entrepreneurs. The agreement also provides for further cooperation with the Brazilian Ministry of Mines and Energy in Brazil.

Mission leader Jacqueline Vaessen is enthusiastic about the agreements made: ‘This mission was a follow-up to my visit to Brazil in May with Prime Minister Rutte. It was great that we were able to follow up on it at such short notice. The opportunities are enormous and I look forward to seizing them together with the participating parties. We had an enthusiastic group of companies and organizations in the mission. It was particularly nice that we had four start-ups with us, and I hope that this mission is a springboard for them to take a step further.’

Vaessen noticed that the level of knowledge and facilities was very high: ‘At CNPEM we visited an enormous particle accelerator (Sirius) in which catalytic reactions can be followed at molecular level. One of the mission participants was able to take a number of measurements here. The pilot plants and many labs are also state of the art. The people are highly educated and open to sharing knowledge.’

It was also striking that the contradictions in Brazil are very visible. Vaessen: ‘The fringes of society are visible from your hotel room. The gap between everything and nothing is enormous. The biggest challenge for the country is creating jobs for the poorest. I hope that we can contribute to this through the follow-up to our mission.’

The mission has generated a lot of inspiration and ideas for collaboration. “The challenge now is to prioritize all ideas and follow up on them,” says Vaessen: “My head is still spinning from everything we heard and saw there. It would be great if, with the follow-up, we could take a big step in making truly green molecules for the chemical industry and thus give the biobased economy a big boost.’

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