Stichting Ondernemers- belangen Rotterdam supports Circular Factory

Stichting Ondernemersbelangen Rotterdam supports the Circular Factory program by BlueCity and Tekkoo. Last month, Diederik van Dommelen and Jeannette Baljeu of Stichting Ondernemersbelangen Rotterdam and Sabine Biesheuvel of BlueCity signed the contract. In this interview, Diederik van Dommelen and Jeannette Baljeu talk about why Stichting Ondernemersbelangen considers it important to give circular startups the opportunity to scale-up. “The great thing about Circular Factory is that it focuses on the production side of circular entrepreneurship. That combination of entrepreneurship and production fits in seamlessly with the objectives of Stichting Ondernemersbelangen Rotterdam.”

Stichting Ondernemersbelangen

“Stichting Ondernemersbelangen stands for stimulating entrepreneurial activities and entrepreneurship in Rotterdam,” explains Diederik van Dommelen. “That also includes stimulating new, impact-oriented entrepreneurship. Because we go with the times. So themes such as sustainability, circularity, inclusiveness and digitization are becoming increasingly important. Where in the past we often financed individual projects, we now strive more for long-term involvement to make an impact.” Jeannette Baljeu adds: “Who are those new, great CEOs of the future? We hope to find them here in Rotterdam.” Diederik van Dommelen: “As far as we are concerned, the great thing about BlueCity’s projects is that it is a certain type of entrepreneur. Circular entrepreneurs have a differeint kind of impact than is currently the norm.”


Sabine van Biesheuvel, co-founder of BlueCity, noticed during the exploratory talks between the two organizations that there was a good match between Stichting Ondernemersbelangen Rotterdam and BlueCity. “Stichting Ondernemersbelangen indicated that they did not focus on supporting individual entrepreneurs, but believed in strengthening the innovation ecosystem around those companies. This was alongside the aim of enabling these entrepreneurs to scale-up. This ties in seamlessly with what BlueCity does, and specifically what we do with Circular Factory:focusing on scaling-up circular startups by building a strong ecosystem of experts.”


Stimulating production in Rotterdam

The support of Stichting Ondernemersbelangen for the Circular Factory program was therefore a logical step. Circular Factory is a support start-to-scale-up program, focused on the phase from lab-scale prototype to production in a real factory. In the intensive, 12-month process that started in May, six participating startups are preparing to set up their own circular factory: Bakkersgrondstof, Biophilica, BlueBlocks, Fairm, MaGie Creations and Nature’s Principles. According to Sabine Biesheuvel, the reason for the program was that “it is very difficult for the circular manufacturing industry to scale up, because it is so capital-intensive and entails many financial risks for investors. In this program, together with Tekkoo, we are building a strong ecosystem of partners and experts around the startups, thereby removing those risks.”


Diederik van Dommelen believes that such a program aimed at production “is something the city can use very well.” “What I always find interesting is whether we can also promote employment by stimulating entrepreneurial interests. And then it is certainly nice if you can do that in the manufacturing heart of this city.” Jeannette Baljeu adds: “Rotterdam is a city with an important manufacturing industry. So scaling up the many startup initiatives in the city fits very well with the identity of Rotterdam. As a city, Rotterdam has many large companies, but new companies must also be able to find their way and grow. We also really want to scale-up those circular startups and achieve the circular scaleup. The great thing about Circular Factory is that it focuses on that manufacturing side. That combination of entrepreneurship and production is in line with the objectives of the Rotterdam Ondernemersbelangen Foundation.”


The Rotterdam of the future

Circular Factory therefore fits in with the long-term vision that the foundation has for Rotterdam. Diederik van Dommelen: “Although a lot has changed in the past ten years, the Rotterdam economy is vulnerable because it has a fairly one-sided economic character. The harbor is quite dominant. The economy will have to be more versatile in order to continue to survive. This future-proofing of the city is the reason for us to continue to invest in circular and creative start-ups.” “A lot has indeed changed in Rotterdam in the past ten years,” confirms Jeannette Baljeu. “Some people say: the current industry must go. No, the current industry has to change, is my response. And then you can still very well have them here in the industrial complex. In addition, new industry will be created, because new materials and new types of production will also have to be created. But it is both. It is a change of the current industry and the emergence of a new industry. About ten years ago, the harbor stated that it wanted to be not only the best, but also the most sustainable. We must pursue that future perspective. We also owe that to future generations.”


She continues: “You can see that huge steps are being made in Rotterdam. Think of the greening of energy sources, especially with hydrogen. And the chemical industry is important in the search for circular, biobased fuels. There also has to be a complete turnaround. And the great thing is, they are doing just that. In order to achieve that vision of the future, innovation must come first. And those new ideas, new developments, new designs… That’s what BlueCity does, for example together with Tekkoo with Circular Factory. As Stichting Ondernemersbelangen Rotterdam we are happy to contribute to that.”

Circular Factory is a program of Tekkoo, BlueCity, Renewi, Stichting Ondernemersbelangen Rotterdam, Municipality of Rotterdam and InvestNL.


Text: Evelien van der Kooi, Photography: Jacqueline Fuijkschot

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