Martijn de Graaff: Good living in CO2-neutral future
Just this week, the SER warned: the raw materials transition is lagging behind the energy transition. I share that concern, because global demand for fuels, materials and food is growing unabated. This means we really need to speed up the transformation of value chains and companies. But this also offers opportunities. The Netherlands has what it takes to be a springboard for start-ups and scale-ups for the global roll-out of carbon tech.

The task ahead is so big that we should not bet on just one horse. Waste recycling and bio-based production are also promising routes. But these options are not enough to meet the ever-increasing consumer demand. 

Green energy

Carbontech, the reuse of CO2 and CO, is therefore crucial. Especially when combined with renewable energy production - in the form of green electricity or hydrogen - there are huge opportunities. Once this green energy is available in large quantities, residual gases such as (low-grade) CO2 and CO, are 'pumped back up' into useful products with value. A more sustainable alternative than permanent underground storage.

Techniques grow out of the lab

Universities and knowledge institutions have done a lot of research on the valorisation of CO2 and CO. Consequently, many technologies are now growing out of the lab. This can be seen in the large increase in startups getting into carbontech.

For example, there are start-ups working on new forms of integrated CO2-capture like Carbyon, to highly selective catalysts like DelftIMP, or to advanced reactor concepts like Avantium and Coval Energy. Photanol, in turn, is engaged in designing new bioroutes. And then there are the startups that actually produce CO2-based products like Skytree and Deep Branch. All these ideas and techniques are needed in the new carbon-tech value chains that big companies want to work with, nationally and internationally. And it shows, as interest in these kinds of ventures is noticeably increasing, both among end users and investors.

More than 25 startups and SMEs

More than 25 startups and SMEs have now joined the FutureCarbonNL consortium. They aim to play a major role in the national development and demonstration of carbontech products and value chains. To then roll these out internationally to countries where large amounts of renewable energy are available, such as in South America, the Middle East and Australia.

Support needed

But this does not happen automatically. To take their technologies and products further, startups need support from knowledge institutions (to address outstanding technical challenges), from large companies (to develop technology in practice and act as launching customers) and from the government (to limit investment risks and create a level playing field).

Role of Growth Fund proposal FutureCarbonNL

And that is exactly where FutureCarbonNL's Growth Fund proposal can play a key role: connecting new carbontech companies with value chain partners in joint development projects, field labs and demonstration projects. And guiding startups to find their first product or service in this emerging international market.

Leap into foreign value chains

With the support of the Growth Fund, FutureCarbonNL therefore wants these companies to accelerate their first step in the Netherlands. Then, with a track record and references in their pockets, they can make the leap to the big foreign value chains. That way, we not only contribute to CO2-reduction and circularity on a global level, but also secure ourselves a good living in a CO2-neutral future.

Martijn de Graaff
(Business and Programme Director, TNO)