Ten years with Brightlands Chemelot: 107 companies and 3000 jobs | 1 Limburg

A collection of innovative companies that jointly develop products in the field of health and sustainability. That was the ambition of Brightlands Campus in the Chemelot industrial area when it started in 2012. The campus has now been in existence for 10 years. What are the results so far?

Around 2010, the realization arose at Chemelot that heavy chemical plants should no longer be the cornerstone of the company’s activities. Attention was shifted to knowledge workers. People who are mainly concerned with sustainable development and who focus on health and sustainability. This led in 2012 to the establishment of a special collective.

DSM, Maastricht University and the province of Limburg have joined forces as the founders of Brightlands Chemelot Campus. Based on the idea that science, education, entrepreneurship and government must join forces. Celebrating its 10-year anniversary, Brightlands itself writes: “In ten years, the campus has developed into a leading innovative ecosystem where sustainable chemistry, circular materials and biomedical solutions are central. When it comes to developing high-quality, sustainable materials processes or biomedical innovations, the campus has become an actor of national importance with international influence. ”

This development is in parallel with the changes that the main inhabitant of Chemelot is undergoing: DSM divested its petrochemical plants at the beginning of this century by selling them to the Saudi company Sabic. In the years that followed, more and more new companies and laboratories came to the site.

Local economy
This effect is visible in the employment figures. While there were already around fifty companies and organizations on board at the start of the Brightlands Campus, this number by 2022 will be 107. The number of jobs is also growing. From 1250 FTE at the start to more than 3000 employees now. There are also about a thousand students walking around, where there were about three hundred in the early days. Brightlands has therefore grown into an important player for the local economy.

Students between the chimneys
Due to the increase in staff on site, there was a shortage of space in 2016. That is why Brightlands built the so-called ‘Center court’. This building houses restaurants, conference and meeting rooms, laboratories, sports areas, offices and shops. This is also a source of criticism, especially if a critical report is issued by the Dutch Security Council following a series of incidents at Chemelot. Local politicians wonder if, from a security point of view, it is smart for so many students to be taught between the chimneys in a business park full of chemical industry. To meet the growing demand for industrial premises, two more ‘Brighthouses’ were later built. The total number of square meters on campus has doubled to more than 114,000 since its inception.

Elsewhere in the province
The original idea of ​​collaborating parties has therefore taken off. Not only on the site itself, but also at companies and knowledge institutions in the Euregio. Brightlands itself expanded as well. There are now (smaller) campuses in Venlo, Maastricht and Heerlen. In Venlo, the Greenport Campus is located on the former Floriade site and focuses on healthy food. In Maastricht, the Health Campus is close to the hospital and the university. One of the most well-known initiatives here is the company Mosa Meat, which works with the development of the cultured meat burger. And in Heerlen, companies and educational institutions in the field of artificial intelligence and computer science collaborate in the former ABP building. This includes the open university.

Brightlands has given the anniversary party an appropriate English title: ‘Next ten.’ The desire is therefore a reason for Brightlands director Bert Kip to announce his ambition for the next ten years: “Together we want to make Limburg the new European leader in circularity and health. I look back with pride on our growth in numbers. “But especially on the successful innovations. But we are far from done. To be relevant tomorrow, you have to invest in talent today. Development does not stop, the challenges are great and innovation is never finished.”

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