BlueChem doubles lab capacity with BlueChem XL

BlueChem, the unique incubator for sustainable chemistry in Antwerp, has an investment dossier ready for a substantial expansion that will more than double the lab capacity for innovative start-ups. Barely three years after the start, the specialised labs in the incubator are almost all occupied. The new BlueChem XL should open its doors in spring 2025.

Europe’s largest chemical cluster

In the BlueChem incubator for sustainable chemistry, near Europe's largest chemical cluster in Port of Antwerp-Bruges, a dozen promising start-ups are innovating to make production processes and materials climate-neutral, circular, more environmentally friendly and energy-efficient. These include turning CO2 into a valuable raw material, purifying precious metals such as palladium from wastewater or using new technologies to recycle plastics better. But there are also experiments with molecular beer, proteins for more sustainable food, more accurate analytical techniques for environmental measurements and drones to inspect production facilities.

International appeal

BlueChem's innovative power is gaining traction internationally. Two foreign start-ups have already decided to establish themselves in the chemistry incubator this year. Aquature is a British company specialising in water treatment technology that removes CO2 from wastewater and captures it for reuse as feedstock. Fairbrics is a French scale-up that has developed a technology to convert CO2 into polyester, a widely used textile fibre for clothing.

BlueChem's formula for success - specialised lab infrastructure combined with comprehensive customised services within a strong innovation network - is catching on. That is why the various partners of BlueChem NV - main shareholder essenscia, city of Antwerp, POM Antwerp and VITO - have decided to move ahead with BlueChem XL, a substantial expansion of the existing incubator.

BlueChem XL

In the yet-to-be-built 'Blue Gate Antwerp Terminal North' - a new business hub on the Blue Gate Antwerp eco-business park, 500 metres from the existing incubator - BlueChem XL will occupy an area of 2,500 square metres, spread over two levels. It will mainly house labs (1,350 square metre), complemented by a limited number of offices (150 square metre). Lab capacity will more than double: the existing incubator has 900 m² of lab infrastructure. A conscious choice, as the supply of specialised chemistry labs in Flanders and Europe is minimal.

The expansion involves an investment of EUR 6.3 million. The initiators are counting on government support from Europe and Flanders for half of that amount. The Flemish Government has already promised support in principle via the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). It is currently processing the application for support from the Fund for Innovation and Enterprise. Thus, with the two projects combined, Flanders will guarantee support of just under €3 million. If all goes according to plan, BlueChem hopes to open its doors in spring 2025.

Liesbet Boogaerts and Barbara Veranneman, manager and chairman BlueChem:

"The success of BlueChem exceeds all expectations. It makes it clear that there are a lot of sustainable innovations developing in the chemistry sector and that there remains a great need for suitable accommodation with state-of-the-art labs to support those innovations best. This is more than just an expansion. This highly strategic investment decision will give BlueChem extra clout to attract more promising and innovative start-ups from home and abroad. The incubator has quickly become a European hotspot for technological innovations in sustainable chemistry. We want to strengthen that leading position."


Liesbet Boogaerts and Barbara Veranneman
Liesbet Boogaerts and Barbara Veranneman