On March 2, the Port Oostende and KU Leuven brought together more than 50 entrepreneurs, academics and researchers from their Kulak and Bruges campuses for the second ‘Interactive Forum Circular Economy’. 25 companies and organisations active in the circular economy were represented. It was an inspiring afternoon in which the first steps were taken towards cooperation between companies themselves and between companies and academics.
A cluster of companies active in the circular economy is forming in the port of Ostend. The idea behind the cluster is that companies reinforce each other, either by sharing information or by cooperating, for example in logistics. What is waste for one company can be a raw material for another. A second reason is that a cluster makes it interesting for new companies to come to Ostend and prevents companies from leaving Ostend.
The circular economy is also becoming increasingly important within the blue economy. At the end of the concession period, there will come a time when the offshore wind farms will have to be dismantled. Together with other ports, knowledge institutions and economic policy actors, the Port of Ostend is exploring the possibility of playing an active role in this new market and actively involving the circular economy cluster.
KU Leuven, with its Kulak and Bruges campuses, is strongly involved in this field and is therefore a logical partner, especially as there is already an effective research collaboration with some of these companies.
During the ‘Interactive Forum Circular Economy’, several domains were highlighted, such as materials science, building materials & structures and sustainable food.
The first part of the forum consisted of an explanation of which research groups within KU Leuven are active in the region, which are in line with the business activities being developed in Port Oostende, and how KU Leuven can contribute to these business activities from a research and knowledge-sharing perspective by establishing structural cooperation.
Within the various fields, Port Oostende and the professors started discussions with Ostend companies to see how these parties could strengthen each other. The companies in the district also discussed the possibility of forming a cluster.
Charlotte Verkeyn, President of Port Oostende: “The fully circular cluster, which has now taken firm shape, contributes to tackling climate issues and fits in with Port Oostende’s focus on sustainability and corporate responsibility. It also offers additional prospects for growth and employment”.
Dirk Declerck, CEO of Port Oostende: “The presence of knowledge and educational institutions, such as KU Leuven, among others, is a catalyst for attracting new innovative companies to Port Oostende. This cooperation is essential; companies, governments and knowledge & education institutions together achieve a better result than would be the case with separate approaches”.
Piet Desmet, Vice-Chancellor of KU Leuven: “Port Oostende is succeeding in attracting more and more companies, many of which are active in areas such as construction and recycling, new materials and food. These are sectors in which KU Leuven has been able to build up solid research expertise from its Kulak and Bruges campuses. It is therefore a logical ambition for both the port and KU Leuven to work towards a more intensive research collaboration. All this can only benefit the further development of the knowledge economy in our region”.
This article first appeared (in Dutch) on Port Oostende News – March 3, 2023.
Image credit: Port Oostende