Do you remember the AKU, Enka or the Akzo? Traditionally producers of synthetic fiber. From those historical grounds emerged Senbis Polymer Innovations. Since 2008, a dozen people have been working on Research & Development of polymers (plastics) in their own laboratory and pilot plant in Emmen. Senbis develops for customers, but also invests in its own products. In recent years it has been working mainly on bioplastics and recycled plastics.
"We are currently starting production of compostable rope for the horticultural sector," explains Senbis director Gerard Nijhoving. "Think of the rope used to secure tomato, bell pepper and cucumber plants. That is normally made of ordinary plastic. As a result, the plants have to be disposed of as gray waste which is much more expensive than composting. So our solution with a compostable rope means sustainability and cost savings for the gardener."
Knowledge then and now
Senbis has a special history, with its roots at the Akzo and the Enka. "We are actually the old R&D department of the Akzo. A lot has happened since the Akzo divested the development and production of fibers in the late 1990s. Knowledge was partly lost, but fortunately a restart could eventually be made under the name API. In 2016, I myself joined the organization, also as a shareholder. We then changed the name to Senbis. Nijhoving did not have to start from scratch, as his team still includes colleagues who also worked under Akzo. "There, more than 50 people worked on R&D, those times have been. But it's nice that we have so much knowledge and experience in house, which we also need for all our ambitions.
Meanwhile, we keep expanding the team, often with young chemists. We see that we are building a very strong combination of different competencies."
Roots in the region
AKU opened a factory in Emmen after World War II. So it is clear that Senbis' roots are inextricably linked to Emmen. The same goes for Gerard Nijhoving, who was born and raised in Emmen. He worked as a business developer in various places, but sought and found in Senbis a great opportunity in his own region.
That importance attached to the region is something Senbis continues to do today. Nijhoving: "NOM is therefore an important partner for us. We have a shared interest. We are now working with other parties on a new innovation cluster: SPIC Emmen. The NOM and the local authorities are supporting this. And through the NOM-facilitated platform Bio Economie in de Non-Food Sector, we are also cooperating in the development of sustainable innovations.
Heart for R&D
Is it really convenient for a company with so much innovative power to perform mainly R&D for third parties instead of just taking on its own developments? " That is precisely an iron strong combination! Our goal is also to continue to combine these two branches in the future. Our heart is in R&D, we learn a lot from it and are constantly working on the latest things. At the same time, we keep capacity for our own development."
Granular issues for soccer players
So who does Senbis perform R&D for? Nijhoving cannot speak freely about that. But for in-house developments that are market-ready, he makes an exception. "For example, we have developed a new grain for artificial turf. There has been a lot of commotion about the current granules, made from old car tire rubber. We are making a biodegradable product. Soon the first test pitch, approved by the KNVB, will be set up. Responsible granules, strong and resilient enough to carry the most exciting soccer matches."