Planet B.io: All you need to scale up your Industrial Biotech solution

Interview

Cindy Gerhardt, Director, Planet B.io & Campus Development Director for Biotech Campus Delft, DSM 

Planet B.io is an exciting new accelerator for innovative biotech solutions. Located at the Biotech Campus Delft, it welcomes startups, SMEs, knowledge institutes, and other pioneers in the field of industrial biotechnology. Cindy Gerhardt, director of Planet B.io and Campus Development Director for  the Biotech Campus Delft, discusses the ambitions behind the project and explains how organizations can get involved.

What is Planet B.ioall about?

Planet B.io focuses on the development of an open innovation ecosystem for industrial biotechnology from its location at the Biotech Campus Delft. One-hundred-and-fifty years ago, the foundations for the combination of microbiology and technology were laid at this site in the form of a factory that produced a consistent quality of baker’s yeast. Today, the site, which is owned by DSM, houses ten other businesses and seven factories, all operating in industrial biotechnology.

The Planet B.io foundation is established to develop the Biotech Campus Delft into thescale up campus for industrial biotechnology in Europe. The foundation focuses on two activities: on the one hand, it provides biotech firms access to top class labs and offices; on the other, it actively supports collaboration in an ecosystem that offers biotech firms whatever they need to scale up and grow.

Why was Planet B.iofounded?                                            

We all know today’s industry faces major challenges when it comes to resource depletion and pollution. In order to turn our current linear, fossil-based production processes into circular, bio-based ones, industrial biotech can play a major role. For billions of years, tons of bacteria, yeasts, fungi, algae and other microorganisms have been involved in circular, biobased processes. They are experts in converting all kinds of biological materials into new life or useful molecules that we, humans, can use in our advantage. In recent years, major technological developments have taken place, causing an increase in use of (parts of) micro-organisms in the sustainable production of food, materials, chemicals, or energy. All of this based on renewable raw materials and with minimal CO2emissions.

However, in order to capture the full potential of the new technological developments in biotechnology and synthetic biology, a lot of hard work is needed to bring lab-scale innovations to industrial scale. Planet B.io is founded by five partners (DSM, Delft University of Technology, the Municipality of Delft, the Province of South Holland, and the regional investment agency InnovationQuarter) who all contribute financially and share their knowledge and networks. We are all convinced that collaboration between knowledge institutes, small companies and big companies offers the best environment to create true economic impact from new biotech innovations.

What role has DSM played in creating Planet B.io?

DSM is one of the global players in the field of industrial biotechnology, with its Food Specialties business, its Biobased fuel business and its global Biotech R&D centre, all located at the Biotech Campus Delft. DSM realised the large potential of new technological developments in the field of biotech and synthetic biology, and opened up the campus in 2019 to allow students and other biotechnology firms to access the campus too. This enabled better use of the unique knowledge and infrastructure found on the campus, and created entrepreneurship and job opportunities for the students graduating from the nearby technical university.

Planet B.io is an independent, non-profit organisation that is fully dedicated to further develop the Biotech Campus Delft into an open innovation ecosystem. Planet B.io can support companies to find the right contacts within DSM if they wish, but there are no obligations whatsoever to be connected to DSM. Similarly, Planet B.io can support companies to establish collaborations with educational institutes, join public-private partnerships, access local subsidized innovation programs, or produce at the Bioprocess Pilot Facility on the campus. 

What are the facilities like?

At the centre of the Biotech Campus Delft is the Beijerinck building, named after the first professor in microbiology working at Delft. On the ground floor are general utilities for all campus residents: a restaurant, a gym, an open office and several meeting rooms. The first, second, and third have been renovated to create modern office spaces and ML-2 labs. These are equipped to house some 30 small businesses or 150 new employees who are striving to make their innovative biotech dreams a reality.

What makes Planet B.io different to other biotech communities?

Planet B.io provides a concentrated network of industrial biotech experts, clients, investors, and mentors. I strongly believe in creating synergy between small and large companies. Large businesses bring experience, knowledge of upscaling, quality, and security. Small businesses bring exceptional ideas, daring, energy, and quick action. Each can learn from the other and offer inspiration – if you manage to align them correctly.

The ecosystem is of particular support when it comes to upscaling. New technologies can be amazing at the laboratory bench, but moving from there to consistent quality at low cost at an industrial scale is something else entirely. And that is exactly what makes Biotech Campus Delft so one-of-a-kind: the required knowledge, equipment, and infrastructure are available to scale up at an industrial site. At the same time, this site is located at the vibrant western part of Holland, close to major cities, airports and harbour of Rotterdam.

What actually goes on at the campus?

We all draw inspiration from nature to develop processes or products that are more sustainable, healthier, or taste better. We have companies developing enzymes that allow for more juice to be squeezed from fruit or beer to be cleared quicker, algae that produce fish oil for salmon feed, yeasts that produce the non-calorific sweetening agent Stevia, cells that grow into tender bits of animal-free meat, or algae that end up in a fashionable blue drink. Other companies provide the latest technological solutions for reducing costs of fermentation, or better separation technologies. Last but not least we are growing our network of supporting companies that help businesses with their administration, IP, registration etc.

How can I get involved?

There are many ways to take part, and we welcome organizations of all shapes and sizes. Planet B.io wants to continue to expand the innovative ecosystem with new businesses and network partners. The organization has every confidence that correct knowledge at a single location and inspirational networking possibilities can combine into a flourishing hub for innovation, thereby accelerating the necessary transition to a cleaner and more environmentally-friendly future. A future that is not just biobased, but circular as well.

If you are interested in joining Planet B.io and renting office or lab space, then please visit www.planet-b.io, or contact me at cindy.gerhardt@planet-b.io. 

Between 5–9 October, Cindy will be taking part in EFIB 2020, Europe’s leading event on industrial biotechnology and the bioeconomy. On the opening day of the conference, Cindy will be participating in the Digital Start-up Forum, as a member of the moderating panel. On Day 3, she will be involved in the Innovation Campus live-pitching session, as a jury member and a participant in the Q&A session. Further details about the sessions, as well as the full EFIB programme, can be found here.