On the Wednesday afternoon of 23 November, Member of Groningen’s Provincial Executive IJzebrand Rijzebol conducted the celebratory opening of the Chemport Innovation Center (CIC). The first lessor, ExxFire, was welcomed at the same time. The Chemport Innovation Center offers ample space for upscaling, innovation, demonstrations and ongoing industrial growth. That makes it an important link in the cycle of industrial start-ups.
The old factory on the Groningen Seaports industrial estate in Delfzijl, where the CIC is located, is undergoing a complete metamorphosis. The outer walls of the office are still standing; the rest have been or are being renewed. Insulation and air conditioning are up-to-date, meeting rooms, company floors, office spaces, canteen, car park: nothing has been forgotten. The Chemport Innovation Center is standing by to help start-ups that contribute to making that industrial growth more sustainable.
The first lessor, ExxFire, signed the lease today. ExxFire is developing a revolutionary method to fireproof high-value areas using non-compressed gas. “Examples include critical IT racks in data centres, archives, electrical installations, museums, libraries, and depots. We offer a solution where extinguishing water might do more damage than the fire itself,” says CEO Harm Botter.
ExxFire has developed the technology at the laboratory level at the Zernike Campus over the past few years and is now poised to scale up and make the leap to the market. The company now has a hall and office in the CIC for this purpose. “We have exactly the facilities we need right now to continue to innovate and eventually start manufacturing,” says commercial director Edwin Verver.
The Northern Netherlands still lacked a place where that next phase in the process of industrial start-ups takes shape. At the CIC, start-ups further developing and scaling up their technology can make joint use of the facilities, which yields huge cost savings. More start-ups are already showing interest.
Companies moving into the CIC are eligible for a grant from the province of Groningen. Member of the Provincial Executive Rijzebol confirmed that ExxFire would receive a contribution of 50,000 euros for the set-up costs. “The Chemport Innovation Center has a bright future. More companies will soon follow ExxFire to use this test site as a springboard to get new products to market.”
Green and sustainable
ExxFire is a perfect fit for the conditions Chemport Europe sets for lessors of the CIC: innovative, ready for demonstration and scaling up, and sustainable. “The starting point is that the companies here contribute to making the industry more sustainable,” says Cas König, CEO of Groningen Seaports. “That is also in our interest. We need to go green, and we desperately need innovative initiatives to achieve that.”ExxFire’s green credentials are clear. The world is still using high-pressure greenhouse gases to put out fires – where water is a bad idea – but ExxFire’s technology works with green nitrogen, which is highly innovatively stored pressure-free in solid form in a Cool Gas Generator. Botter: “That is different from nitrogen oxides, which are now the subject of much debate. An added advantage of our system, whose technology comes from space travel, is that it is maintenance-free. In addition to complete safety and a green extinguishing gas, that makes it a real game-changer in the world of fire safety.”