Flanders and the Netherlands are at the forefront of the biobased economy. With the presence of a large agricultural and chemical sector, a favourable geographical location (i.e. deep-sea port) and the cooperation between multinationals, SMEs, knowledge centres, educational institutions and governments, we have an entrepreneurial, exclusive and application oriented region. However, opportunities for economic growth, maintaining and expanding jobs are under pressure from a shortage of technically skilled people. Therefore, education is on top of the agenda. This project aims to to ensure the urgent need for skilled employees for the biobased economy, both quantitatively and qualitatively.
The two main challenges to get the promising biobased economy in our region off the ground are:
- Increasing the awareness of companies to the opportunities available in this field and consequently creating demand for research and facilities.
- Training suitable technical and techno-economic staff, both in qualitative and quantitative terms, directed towards the creation of business opportunities. Both the skills of current employees in the industry and education programs for professionals of tomorrow are still falling short. There’s still a gap between the supply of and the demand for education from the business community.
This project focuses mainly on addressing the second challenge, but will also (in)directly deal with the first challenge. For both issues it’s important to strengthen cooperation between both education institutions (horizontally between disciplines and vertically between education levels) as between education and businesses. There is also a great need for training and practice facilities for educating students as well as employees within the biobased economy by means of the most modern facilities and the latest knowledge on biobased conversion techniques and their valorisation potential, partly on the basis of demand driven research from companies. Furthermore, the challenge and the goal of this project is to utilize these facilities more efficiently and effectively across the Dutch-Flemish border.
Some teaching modules for the biobased economy are already being developed, but they are fragmented and each institution acts primarily from their own expertise. The challenges in this respect are twofold: firstly to establish cross border education programs and facilities, where modules, students and teachers are exchanged actively and secondly to develop continuous learning from secondary to university level and to lifelong learning. It’s also important for the biobased economy to bring different sectors together, such as the chemical sector and agriculture, agro and construction and the chemical sector and the textile sector. To stimulate innovation in the biobased economy, cooperation between sectors and disciplines is essential.
Our research group will mainly be involved in work packages 3 ‘Market Demand’ and 4 ‘Knowledge and skills’. We will investigate in cooperation with the other partners which competences future graduates need for filling in future vacancies in the biobased economy. Once the desired competences are known, we will develop customized educational material for techno-economic assessment and a brand new postgraduate program for the biobased economy.
The other partners of the project are: vzw Instituut van het Heilig Graf, Hogeschool Inholland, Stichting Avans, SPK, Bio Base Europe Training Center, ROC West-Brabant, HoGent, VITO nv, Gemeente Dordrecht, Strategische Projectenorganisatie Kempen (SPK vzw), Thomas More Kempen vzw, Stichting Biobased Delta, HZ University of Applied Sciences en St. ROC Zuid-Holland Zuid, Da Vinci College
The total project budget is 3 000 000 euro. 50% of this is funded by Interreg-Vlaanderen Nederland