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The Dutch industry plays a crucial role in our economy and society. However, it is also responsible for approximately forty percent of greenhouse gas emissions in our country. In the Climate Agreement, it was agreed that the industry needs to become more sustainable. This is referred to as Mission C: achieving a climate-neutral and circular industry by 2050. This can only be accomplished through an industrial system consisting of new and renewed chains, where the energy system is carbon-free and carbon is used in a circular manner.

This Innovation Program focuses on the last part of that goal: carbon circularity. The program outlines how innovation in this area can contribute to the mission and identifies the innovation challenges that need to be addressed in the short term. TKI Energy and Industry provides targeted support to entrepreneurs and scientists in developing the innovations that contribute to these challenges.

Towards a sustainable use of carbon

Fossil carbon is a cornerstone of the current industry, serving as both an energy source and a raw material. Fossil carbon, mostly in the form of plastics, is present in various products we use. Eventually, these products often end up in waste incineration, releasing carbon as CO2. In a climate-neutral and circular industry, this scenario changes.

Fossil carbon is replaced by reused carbon from products, bio-based resources, and CO2. This approach reduces the need for new raw materials, minimizes waste, and lowers CO2 emissions. Therefore, this Innovation Program contributes to the goals of circularity and climate change. The targets for 2030 are:

● Circularity: 50 percent reduction of the primary use of raw materials. (Nationaal Programma Circulaire Economie).

● Climate: 55 percent reduction of the CO2-emissions (Coalitieakkoord). For the industry, we are talking an annual reduction of 19,4 Mtons of CO2-emissions.

Carbon sources for a circular industry

To promote innovations for the circularity of carbon, we focus on three themes that together cover the important future sources of carbon:

  1. Circularity (of plastics): 70 to 80 percent of the fossil carbon used for materials is dedicated to plastics. After use, a large portion of these plastics is incinerated. The Netherlands is a relatively significant producer of plastics, offering opportunities both economically and ecologically. This can be achieved through improved sorting and preprocessing techniques, chemical recycling technologies, and the development of more sustainable materials. Efforts are underway to develop technologies for perfect sorting: the separation of waste into specific streams that can be directly utilized as feedstock for conversion processes.
  2. Bio-based feedstocks (for products): By 2050, we aim to replace 20 percent of the current use of primary fossil feedstocks with bio-based feedstocks. It is crucial that these products are designed for circularity, allowing the materials to be reused. By focusing on the co-production of high-value intermediate products and biofuels, both can be efficiently produced. A key requirement for this is the development of effective pretreatment techniques to obtain pure biomass streams that can be utilized in high-value applications.
  3. Carbon Capture and Usage (CCU): The global demand for carbon products is growing rapidly, and currently there is insufficient supply of recycled carbon and bio-based feedstocks to meet this demand. Captured carbon, such as from unavoidable emissions, waste gases, or from the atmosphere and water, can play a significant role in bridging this gap. Innovations are needed to enable the separation and purification of CO2 and CO, as well as their conversion into platform chemicals. Additionally, captured carbon can be utilized and durably stored in construction materials, such as CO2-negative bricks.

For all these themes, digitalization and human capital are important success factors. Digital product passports, for example, contribute to supply chain transparency, and AI can help in separating complex material streams. Labor market shortages pose a limitation for the entire technical sector, and they will also be a challenge for the circular jobs that will be created in the coming years.

Getting to work

Innovations surrounding these topics will help the Netherlands on its way to a climate neutral and circular economy. The Innovation program offers help to businesses, knowledge institutions and others that wish to invest in this. Until now, there have been more than 180 projects set up surrounding sustainable industries.

Do you have any questions about the Innovation program, or are you seeking help, partners or funds to help you realize these innovations? Contact one of our program managers directly:

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