BlueBlocks develops biomaterials from seaweed.

Their main product is SeaWood, a building material made from brown seaweed. This 100% natural, compostable, and chemical-free sheet material can be used as a building material and for acoustic wall panels. BlueBlocks was founded by Marjanne Cuypers, a researcher and biodesigner with a focus on designing for zero waste systems. Her background is in industrial design. “I became increasingly aware of the impact that the choice of materials, design choices and the life cycle of new products have on climate change and the loss of biodiversity. As a designer, I feel responsibilities for this too. In the search for better material choices, seaweed crossed my path as a future-proof material. The search into seaweed started in BlueCity, and later the BlueCity Lab. Seaweed has a number of properties that make it very suitable as a building material. At one point I had a material in my hands that I thought: this could turn out to be something, but it needs a lot more time and attention. That was the reason to quit my job and start in BlueBlocks in 2020. SeaWood was born. At this moment we have done our first pilots and demonstration projects at field lab level. The next step is that we will do a demo project in a real environment in autumn: the construction of a wall in collaboration with a housing corporation in Amsterdam. The next step after that is scaling up and entering the certification process.”

Questions and Challenges

“Upscaling is extremely important for us. For the construction industry, it’s important that you can deliver enough supply. Our current production process can’t meet the demand, so we need to scale up. But I want to do this consciously and sustainably. That’s why we decided to apply for Circular Factory. With my background as industrial designer, I know how to mass-produce products. But can we also do this in a way that minimizes the impact of the production process, preferably having no negative impact at all, of course? That’s the question we’re struggling with currently, and which we hope will be answered in Circular Factory. We are addressing some practical questions, like what are the environmental factors that we have to take into account? Which legal issues do we need to address? Which financial questions do we need to be answered? It’s not so much that I don’t think it wouldn’t be possible without the program, but it saves us time and effort now that we can access the knowledge and network of Circular Factory. You never address these questions alone: I want to make it happen together with others in the Circular Factory network. In this way, our factory won’t be an isolated seaweed factory, but embedded in a system, a joint achievement. Apart from the fact that you have your own motivation and drive, it becomes something bigger, something more than your individual business process.”


The future

“In 5 years, we will have our seaweed factory, where we make beautiful, qualitative and durable panels that are used in homes and offices. Besides this, I also see the emergence of a great many new biomaterials in our future. I believe there will be diversity in natural building materials. I also hope that our system in general will change. My motto is: if we can create systems with waste, we can create systems without them. I know this will be a challenge to achieve, but I think the crux is to be building our system more in line with nature. I always say that a frog won’t fly to America to catch flies there. We need to look regionally and locally and form and operate companies based on what’s available here. This would make the systems easier, with less waste and negative impact, maybe even regenerative. My prediction is that in the future in the Netherlands, to maintain a futureproof way of living, we’ll have to ensure that a local, sustainable manufacturing industry emerges that not only uses regional raw materials, but also regional processing and application.”



Circular Factory supporter Invest-NL about the future of circular startups in the manufacturing industry: “How can we use circular strategies to create a just and liveable society for all?”

Invest-NL is one of the supporters of the Circular Factory program. In this interview, Maud Hartstra and Guy de Sévaux discuss the importance of scaling up circular startups. “All kinds of developments are underway, which means that many more circular start-ups will be founded in the coming years. Circular Factory is designed for circular startups in the manufacturing industry that want to scale their production by building their first factory; and help them to make this factory circular. In addition to these startups, we also see on a larger scale a new focus of moving production closer to home. More and more manufacturing companies previously located in Asia and Eastern Europe are returning to Western Europe. With the Circular Factory program we want to point out to the entire value chain that making things circular and sustainable requires a different approach and mindset, but also changes in business models and new ways of financing. As far as Invest-NL is concerned, Circular Factory is coming at the right time.”

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From circular startup to circular startup with factory – recap Pitch & Plug Event 2022

On Tuesday 20 September, experts flocked to BlueCity to attend the first Pitch & Plug Event, part of the Circular Factory program by BlueCity and Tekkoo. The six participating startups pitched to the gathered crowd. This time not a shiny success story meant to sell their product, but a raw and real story about the key-issues that are currently holding them back from scaling up. Their vulnerability was rewarded with tailor-made advice. During this networking event, connections were made, feedback was given and plans were rewritten.

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