Get to know Top Sector Horticulture & Starting Materials and the Fieldlabs North Limburg

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21 June 2022

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A close collaboration between government, knowledge institutions and business is the basis for groundbreaking innovations, projects and startups on the four Brightlands campuses. Meet Topsector Tuinbouw & Uitgangsmaterialen and Fieldlabs Noord-Limburg: how do they collaborate with Brightlands Campus Greenport Venlo and what does it deliver?

Top Sector Horticulture & Starting Materials

In the Netherlands there are nine top sectors, of which Top Sector Horticulture & Uitgangsmaterialen (T&U) is one. These are sectors in which the Netherlands excels worldwide. Companies, research and government work together in these sectors to develop knowledge and innovations to make this position even stronger.

At Top Sector T&U the focus is on the sustainable production of healthy and safe food and the development of a healthy, green living environment. These are also themes that are high on the campus agenda. The top sector therefore collaborates with the Venlo campus in various ways, including through the innovation project 'The Value(s) of Fruit and Vegetables'. Through this project, which is receiving a substantial contribution from the top sector, entrepreneurs and knowledge institutions are investigating together what the effect of vegetables and fruit is on human health.

Unique in the world

"In the Netherlands, we find such collaboration quite normal," explains Michiel Roelse of Top Sector T&U. "But we are unique in the world in this. By making smart use of each other's expertise, the most beautiful things are created. You can also see this in this Top Sector project, where good results are being achieved when it comes to ingredients in tomatoes, for example. This vegetable contains lycopene, a useful substance that may reduce the risk of welfare diseases such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease."

The top sector is also heavily involved in the Greenfood4Health Challenge, which recently took place on campus. During this challenge, students from various programs set to work on concrete cases from companies. "As a top sector we have many companies and researchers in our network, but the students and educational institutions are more difficult for us to reach. We don't reach them with our annual call for research proposals or meetings. Through this challenge, we do reach those groups and bring companies and students into contact with each other."

This is also the strength of Brightlands, according to Michiel. "On the campus, research and education at all levels - from mbo to university - and companies come together. It is a location where cooperation is naturally guaranteed. As a top sector, we are happy to connect to the organizational power and expertise of Brightlands and its residents."

The plans for a next challenge are in the making, according to Michiel. "The challenge tastes like more, so there will definitely be a sequel. Perhaps we'll make the combination with startups more emphatic, because that's also a group that we as Top Sector T&U want to do more with."

Fieldlabs North Limburg

In the Fieldlabs North Limburg, students and companies work on projects in the field of technology and logistics, agriculture and horticulture, food and health, cross-border entrepreneurship and circularity. These Fieldlabs originated from Regio Deal Noord-Limburg: a deal between the region of North Limburg, the province of Limburg and the national government that aims to give an extra impulse to regional cooperation and the joint tackling of activities to strengthen the broad prosperity in the region. The focus in this deal is on five themes including talent.

Within this theme, a unique collaboration has emerged between the educational institutions Yuverta, Gilde Opleidingen, HAS Hogeschool, Fontys Venlo and Maastricht University. They have set up a number of fieldlabs where students and companies work together on current regional issues. There are now five active fieldlabs: Nutrition and Health, Future Farming, Grenzlab, Technological Innovation & Smart Logistics and Circular Transition.

Meeting Places

"These Fieldlabs are meeting places where it is all about developing knowledge, sharing knowledge and recording knowledge," says Josephine Maranus, project manager of the Fieldlab Nutrition and Health. "Students from mbo to university work there together with companies on practical issues. This is good for everyone: a challenging learning environment for students, access to research for companies and connection to practice for educational institutions!"

The Fieldlabs like to stay at Brightlands Campus Greenport Venlo because, according to Josephine, innovation and collaboration are commonplace there. "It's an inspiring learning environment for our students: here companies, startups and research institutions are close together. There is an open atmosphere and it is easy to make contact. The five Fieldlabs also touch on all the themes that Brightlands is working on." 

The Fieldlab Nutrition and Health is involved in the GreenFood4Health Challenge, among other things. "Through this challenge, we link students from different programs together. By having students from different levels and disciplines such as marketing, food innovation, nutrition and communication work together on a concrete question from the field, the most surprising ideas and solutions arise. Another advantage of this challenge is that the students get to know each other and the companies in the region better."

From the Fieldlabs, there is also a project running on campus where students of the HAS University of Applied Sciences are researching the ingredients of corn. "Corn is full of vitamins and minerals. But what other useful substances are there in those yellow grains? That's what the students are trying to find out through this research," says Josephine. Another Fieldlab project is Taste of Insects where students from HAS University of Applied Sciences, Maastricht University, Fontys Venlo and Gilde Opleidingen are working on a question from a company that makes insect burgers. "This company has asked the students if they can create the optimal taste of an insect burger. For this they are working with taste panels, producers and chefs: all the expertise comes together here."

Via Fieldlabs employers in the region also quickly connect with the talent and their employees of the future, according to Josephine. "In the Fieldlabs we research and test ideas and concepts together from which ultimately all of North Limburg benefits: education, business, citizens and the region!"


Source: Brightlands Campus Greenport Venlo