European huge grant for research promising biopolymers

Friday 27 May 2016

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The Groningen companies Syncom and Polyvation, in collaboration with the Spanish Biopolis have received a subsidary of 1.3 million euros. This Eurostars grant provide the companies the means to research new applications of PHAs, a promising group of biopolymers.

"The project is a wonderful example of a regional public-private initiative, culminating in an international partnership," says Business Development Manager NOM Errit Bekkering. "The idea to do more with PHAs arose during a conversation with Jan van Ee of Greenlincs, the platform for the development of the biobased economy in the northern Netherlands. By Syncom they were immediately enthusiastic and one thing led to another. Afterall, with the support of the Province of Drenthe, they did small research. Which led to a fully-fledged sequel due to the 1.3 million euros from the Eurostars program for cross-border R & D projects. "

Project manager André Heeres of Groningen Syncom explains the purpose of the project. "There is a lot of research done in recent years to polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs). These polymers are produced by micro-organisms and are therefore relatively easy to synthesize. However, since the properties of the polymers are difficult to regulate, they know very few practical applications. By combining our expertise, we think we may change that. "

According Heeres the technologies of the three research partners fully connect. "Biopolis specializes in biotechnology. They can make variants of functionalized PHAs. We can then modify chemically in Groningen. At Syncom we do it with organic chemistry, for applications in the pharmaceutical industry and Polyvation is specialized in the polymer chemistry for the development of degradable medical devices in the body. "

"The collaboration with the Spanish Biopolis was established during a Eurostars event in the Amsterdam Arena. "In response of the pre-project, I was walking around with the idea of a follow-up project, when I was in a speed dating session for companies to talk with a representative of Biopolis. We saw almost immediately that a joining of forces offered plenty of opportunities. After a follow up over the phone the foundation for a the project was laid. We can take it to a much higher level thanks to the grant of Eurostars premium. "

Such large-scale studies are generally carried out by large corporations and research centers. "But we are all ordinary SMEs", Heeres says with a smile. Errit Bekkering also sees the realization of the project as a good example for other SMEs. "With this project you can see how it can work out with smart collaboration", he says.

Heeres expects Syncom will spend the next two to three years with the research. "It will provide three more jobs in Groningen," he says. "When we have completed the research phase, it is time for the next step: working towards commercially attractive products and technologies."