New Clean Vision Summit helps companies boost sustainability


While demand for certain products is ever-increasing, the EU is asking industries to become climate-neutral. Vito’s new summit will address these seemingly counter-intuitive interests

Closing the carbon cycle

Researchers at Flanders’ cleantech research centre Vito are constantly developing novelties that can help companies to work more sustainably and efficiently – but not all companies can keep up with this stream of innovation.

That’s why the institute is hosting a new event this year: the Clean Vision Summit. During the full day of talks and activities next month, both local and international companies can get an overview of Vito’s activities in a multitude of areas.

“Attention to sustainability issues in business has rapidly increased in recent years, just like in our society as a whole,” says Vito spokesperson Désirée De Poot. “We have the technology and know-how to respond to the demand for green innovations. But we haven’t been able to reach all the various actors in the Flemish business world yet, and they in turn are not always aware that we can offer solutions to specific problems.”

Bridging the gap

The Clean Vision Summit, which is free of charge and in English, will bridge the gap between researchers and the industry. The first edition takes place on 18 February at the Lamot congress centre in Mechelen. The idea is to make it an annual event.

Participants will find out how their industry can benefit from the latest insights in clean chemistry, waste valorisation, energy efficiency, battery management, drone technology, 3D-printing, health and wellness and artificial intelligence.

A highlight of the summit will be the TechFair, an exhibition of 20 of Vito’s innovations in chemistry, construction, energy, materials, logistics and agriculture. The institute will, for example, present its WatchITgrow data platform for precision agriculture, which applies satellite images and other data to monitor soil, crops and the weather. WatchITgrow allows the agricultural sector to use farmland more efficiently, save on crop-protection resources and grow crops as efficiently as possible.

The growth of the middle class worldwide requires an exponential growth in production

- Dirk Vangeneugden

Vito will also showcase smart characterisation technology, which uses artificial intelligence to create a digital portrait of a company’s entire waste stream. The company can use this data to recycle more efficiently and extract maximum value from what would otherwise turn into pollutants.

To inspire companies, Vito is inviting a number of high-profile speakers. Hans Bruyninckx is the director of the European Environment Agency and thus a key decision-maker in European climate policy. Wim Michiels, CEO of Proviron, will explain how his company made the transition from classic chemical producer to a specialist of renewable solutions.

Vito will present its Cleantech Report, which provides an outline of the Flemish cleantech ecosystem, with a focus on companies that are pioneers in more sustainable production methods. The report also sketches out Vito researchers’ vision of a greener future in a variety of industries.

Personal help

Companies can also meet one-on-one with a Vito expert at the Clean Vision Summit to discuss how the institute can help them with specific challenges. And participants can attend 12 tech pitches featuring Vito specialists, who will present their projects and discuss possible collaborations.

“The technology pitches help us to find industrial partners who want to be involved in our initiatives one way or another,” explains Dirk Vangeneugden, business development manager at Vito. “Whether that’s participating or investing in them, or implementing them outright. This allows us to more quickly adjust our technology to industry needs and bring it to the market sooner.”

With his own pitch, Vangeneugden (pictured below) will target Flemish chemical companies. “This sector faces huge challenges, as the growth of the middle class worldwide requires an exponential growth in production. At the same time, the EU is demanding that we become climate-neutral by 2050.”

Vangeneugden’s project revolves around the use of 3D-printed catalysts to enable a higher output of chemical reactors, higher product quality, lower energy consumption and safer operations. Catalysts are substances that speed up chemical reactions, but are not consumed by the reaction.

Platinum, for example, is used in cars to convert exhaust fumes like carbon monoxide into carbon dioxide (CO2) and water vapour, which are then emitted through the exhaust system.

“Ninety percent of chemical reactors use catalysts, and 80% use solid substances in particular, which can be 3D printed,” explains Vangeneugden. “The advantage of using 3D printing techniques is that you can really tailor the size and shape of solid catalysts to the needs of a specific process, a flexibility that makes the production process much more efficient.”

At the end of last year, Vito finished an installation made up of 12 integrated 3D printers, which can produce catalysts on an industrial scale. Different companies are already testing the technology for specific production purposes.

According to Vangeneugden, the 3D printing technique for catalysts can in the future help to convert toxic CO2 emissions into fuels or chemicals that can be used again in the industry, like methanol. “This way, we can close the carbon cycle.”

Images, from top: ©Ratsanai/Getty Images, Vito business development manager Dirk Vangeneugden ©courtesy Vito