Sino-Dutch chemical cooperation on an academic and a business level

“To deal with the global challenges and shape a sustainable future, innovative scientific insights and ground-breaking technologies are required. These can only be achieved by working together.” These words of Jan Mengelers, President of the Executive Board of Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e), exemplify the reason for the recent chemistry delegation visit. Three public-private partnership consortia with a focus on Chemistry visited Beijing and Shanghai a few weeks earlier. The aim? Creating strategic collaborations between top-notch researchers in China and the Netherlands as well as exchange opportunities for innovative companies in both countries.

The mission was led by the Dutch Top Sector Chemistry and organized by IA China. The three consortia were the established Advanced Research Center Chemical Building Blocks Consortium (ARC CBBC), and ARC initiatives Soft Advanced Materials (ARC SAM) and ARC GoChem. Maurice Mourad, Programme Coordinator and Business Developer at ARC CBBC, mentions: “Dutch companies often see China as the country of opportunities, with its large market and good education. The Dutch chemical industry also has a good reputation in China. ARC CBBC participants such as AkzoNobel, BASF and Shell are very well-known and have their own Chinese facilities and network.”

In the Netherlands, such consortiums create even more possibilities. “Government, science and companies have agreed to engage in a strategic cooperation in the next ten years. This will lead to profound changes within the chemical industry in the Netherlands. Not only can the field become more competitive regarding price and quality, but also generate greener, less energy-consuming and more sustainable results.”

Linking university and industry

China and the Netherlands are no strangers and there are already quite some interesting initiatives between both countries. In 2015, the TU/e and the South China Normal University (SCNU) in Guangzhou (China) founded DIRM, a joined R&D lab with the aim to bring academic results closer to industrialization. The DIRM initiative serves to strengthen the Sino-Dutch collaboration in science and technology, enabling exchange of knowledge and students.

Mr. Mourad adds, that for the future “we envision a cooperation wherein Dutch and Chinese institutes will have joint programs. Within these programs, projects for a new chemistry field with involvement from the industry can be developed. We expect that science as well as the industry will both benefit from such a construction. And you can already see involvement from Dutch and Chinese parties by looking at the delegation. The Dutch government, the top sector team, and the joint program of industry and university were all present. Furthermore, further cooperation with china is prospected to be of added value an appealing future. And we also saw during this visit that the Chinese side wants to work together with Dutch parties.”

Another result of Sino-Dutch cooperation, is the recently opened Feringa Nobel Prize Winner Scientists Joint Research Center. East China University of Science and Technology (ECUST) and the University of Groningen signed an university cooperation agreement. Mr. Ben L. Feringa, the Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry of 2016, was also appointed honorary Professor of ECUST earlier this month. The center’s staff is composed of both Chinese and foreign parties and its research contributes to substantive international cooperation between institutions and agencies.

During the visit, two seminars were hosted by the Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Organic Chemistry in Shanghai (CAS SIOC), and CAS Institute of Chemistry in Beijing (ICCAS). Next to that a number of visits to universities were organized which shows mutual interest. As ms. Katja Loos mentioned in our previous article: “There are many joint research projects between academic groups and a lot of Dutch universities have Chinese partner universities.”

Mr. Mourad adds that “the connection between product development at companies and top scientists  is what makes the Dutch chemical industry unique. Moreover, this does not only limit itself to the inflow of new employees at companies or use of proven technologies, these are collectively conducted programs. The Netherlands is a frontrunner in these kinds of long-term cooperation between industry and universities.”