In Borderless Biobased Education, 14 Flemish and Dutch partners have been collaborating since 2016 to develop cross-border educational programmes at secondary, higher and university level, and to create shared training and research facilities for education and business. Objective: to train the bio-based professionals of the future.
To encourage exchange and cooperation between training courses and companies, the members of the GBO consortium (Biobased Delta, Blender and the Bio Base Europe Training Center) organise matchmaking sessions in turn, such as during the Natural Fibertastic event in Bergen op Zoom in April. Rop Zoetemeyer took the opportunity to provide an overview of the state of affairs and a look ahead to the future of GBO.
New educational modules
An important product of GBO is the dozens of new educational modules that have been developed (and are also still being developed) for all levels of education: from general themes such as Sustainability, System Thinking and Ecodesign, via practical subjects like Natural Fibre-reinforced Plastics, Lignocellulose and Fermentation Technology, to specific modules such as Downstream Processing of Algae and the Postgraduate Bio-Based and Circular Economy. A range of online courses (MOOCs) has also been set up.
The modules were created in response to the results of an extensive market consultation, with the demand for specific competences from the business community at its core. “Among other things this showed a significant need for test locations, continuous learning lines and opportunities for the further training of staff throughout the year.”
What is striking is how little experience there is in shared facility network programmes, both in education and in business: “Companies or schools are absolutely not used to doing research together at all; it’s every man for himself. Expansion and professionalisation of the facilities is desirable.” That’s why educational partners in the project have invested specifically in facilities and equipment. GBO has also developed a digital platform to support the cross-border knowledge network. This includes, for example, finding educational resources, internships, research assignments, bio-based experts in various categories, and facilities for testing and validating processes or materials.
The intention is for the platform to seek links with related initiatives in bio-based education, such as the National Bio-based Knowledge Network of Dutch universities of applied sciences, and international projects, such as BioCanndo, which strives for a broad acceptance of bio-based products, and UrBIOfuture, a new European project that, like GBO, focuses on bio-based education.
Even after the completion of the GBO project, the platform will remain active to prevent the information from becoming obsolete. “It’s a living thing,” says Zoetemeyer. “It’s our lifeline to the future. That’s why we have provided sufficient funding for the years ahead. After that it has to be self-sustainable.”
This article was written in cooperation with Biobased Delta.