A new beginning for the Centre of Expertise for Plant Compounds

Leon Mur

Email: leon.mur@plantenstoffen.nl

Over four years ago, several parties including Leiden University, Wageningen University, Greenport Oostland Westland and the Province of South Holland joined hands to see whether the horticultural sector could provide an answer to the growing demand for natural ingredients in industries such as pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, fragrances and dyes. This resulted in the establishment of the Centre of Expertise for Plant Compounds (KCP). In the past four years, the KCP has been a matchmaker between the horticultural sector and commercial parties seeking natural and innovative ingredients.

The first term of the KCP ended in December of last year. In this time we have identified market opportunities, conducted feasibility studies and built up knowledge about plant compounds. In addition, we have managed to build an international network and have started various product development processes in the field of packaging, green crop protection and flavourings, amongst others.

In short – it were four productive years in which we have built up substantive knowledge of the market. We have learnt what works, and what does not – and have come to learn what positioning of the horticultural sector best suits with the Biobased Economy. This is not as a supplier of biomass, but as a source and supplier of new plant molecules for high value markets. This positioning does pose a challenge, because realizing high-quality applications requires longer development pathways and access to venture capital. Our most successful projects are aimed at exactly these types of market applications.

One of these projects is the development of Extract Library, which was put into operation on December 14th. It consists of a database composed of more than 2,000 plant compounds. The extracts of these compounds are now finding their way to businesses that are looking for innovative plant molecules for new cosmetics and crop protection products, amongst others. This marks the beginning of new product development projects with the horticultural sector: already companies from the Netherlands and abroad are showing concrete interest in the Extract Library. And that’s no surprise, the first results are indeed promising. Well before the launch, the Library was already awarded with an innovation prize at the Siñal Exhibition 2014 in France.

Looking ahead, there are some interesting developments on the agenda. With various parties we’ve began to re-organize the domain of plant compounds within the province of South Holland. Along with the greenports, the Bio-Based Delta South Holland (BBPZH), Leiden University and Wageningen University are working on a joint program. Joining forces should result in a clear international positioning and increased joint strength in the market.

I am convinced that, together, in 2016 we will achieve many breakthroughs in the field of plant compounds. With more innovations and commercial opportunities for the horticultural sector and greater attention for the potential of plant materials for the bio-based economy!