Dr G.J.M. Gruter (1963) has been appointed extra-ordinary professor of Industrial Sustainable Chemistry (ISC) at the Van ‘t Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences (HIMS), one of eight research institutes of the Faculty of Science (FNWI) of the University of Amsterdam, effective 20 October 2016. The chair was established on behalf of the Stichting Beta Plus, and sponsored by Avantium.

Gert-Jan Gruter specializes in Catalysis, Bio-based chemistry, (bio-based) polymers and sustainability. At Avantium he is responsible for all R&D programs in the field of Renewable Chemistry. He has initiated groundbreaking sustainable programs such as the YXY technology to produce FDCA monomer and PEF polyester from sugars, Avantium’s biorefinery technology to produce sugars from biomass, ethylene glycol from carbohydrates and the electrochemical conversion of CO2 to syngas, formic acid, oxalic acid and derivatives.

Gruter is working for technology company Avantium since 2000, initially as Vice President Technology and since 2004 as Chief Technology Officer (technisch directeur). In 2014 Gruter was elected ‘European CTO of the year’, an award organized by EIRMA and Spinverse. From 1999 to 2006, Gruter was extraordinary professor of Polymer catalysis at the  Technische Universiteit Eindhoven. Before 2000 was leading a Polyolefins Catalyst Development research group at DSM Research.

Gruter is inventor on more than 200 patents and patent applications. He is author on about 30 scientific papers and book chapters, Gruter is member of the innovation and sustainability policy teams of branch organization VNCI (vereniging van de Nederlandse Chemische Industrie). He is also member of the core team of APC, a working group that brings together leading R&D managers from the agro-, paper- and chemical industries.

Sustainability is one of the flagship themes of the UvA. This area is rapidly expanding and of high societal relevance as a result of global challenges in the area of climate change and related environmental issues, the finite nature of a broad range of fossil resources, as well as public policy issues associated with the exploitation and supply of energy, fuels and materials. Consequently, the extra-ordinary chair of “Industrial Sustainable Chemistry” in the Van ‘t Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences (HIMS) has been established as part of the HIMS research theme Sustainable Chemistry, a Research Priority Area of the University. The chair is focused on the transition to a circular economy and more specifically the transition from a fossil-based to a bio-based economy, connecting sustainable development and production of energy and chemicals.

Gruter’s research will focus on the following critical research questions:

  • Can we design closed cycles for the sustainable production of sustainable materials (“circular economy”)?
  • Catalysis is critical to efficient and large scale chemical processes. Can catalysts be built from earth-abundant, cheap and non-toxic metals?
  • Can we efficiently use electricity to convert cheap feedstock, such as CO2, to produce chemicals?

The main research theme of the ISC chair will be the industrial focus on these questions. Therefore bio-based building blocks, fuel (additives) and bio-based polymers will be at the core of the research. The chair will be closely working with several HIMS research groups and possibly with groups of other FNWI Institutes, UvA Faculties, other Universities, research institutes, NGO’s and with Industry.

Determining polymer properties such as thermal-, mechanical- and rheological performance is a rapidly expanding field of research in Industrial Sustainable Chemistry to better understand the material requirements for performance, recycling and biodegradability.

Also the “non technological” aspects of the transition to a circular economy are of importance. Now that all 193 members of the UN set the 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development in Paris (December 2015), the question is how we can implement the transformation of our society to a circular one. Cross sector collaborations need to be developed (communication, ecology, (environmental) psychology, etc).

Next to research, the chair will also be consulted for HIMS technology valorisation. How can the UvA (and HIMS particularly) strengthen its technology valorisation propositions and going forward, how to select upfront those targets for research with the best valorisation opportunities. In addition the chair will be given guest teaching assignments in the Bachelor and Master programs like Chemistry, Science Business and Innovation, Future Planet Studies.

The Faculty of Science supports excellent research in all basic disciplines of the sciences. It is organized in eight research institutes, one of which is the Van ‘t Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences (HIMS). This institute comprises most of the chemical research in the faculty, focusing on four research themes with strong interactions: is Sustainable Chemistry, Computational Chemistry, Analytical Chemistry and Molecular Photonics. Scientists from the four themes work together in the RPA SusChem.

Within the Netherlands HIMS is the only place where multiple catalysis disciplines such as homogeneous catalysis, supramolecular catalysis, organometallic chemistry and catalysis, biocatalysis, heterogeneous catalysis, organocatalysis and photocatalysis are studied simultaneously. HIMS offers the best and optimal platform for research in Industrial Sustainable Chemistry.

Published by Avantium – UvA Persvoorlichting; persvoorlichting@uva.nl

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