It is still a thing of the future, however, the ambitious plans for an innovative industrial park in the municipality of Cranendonck, the Netherlands, are more than likely going to be realised. This is the conviction of Philips de Goey, professor at the Technical University of Eindhoven and one of the ‘architects’ of the concept for the so-called Metalot (on and around the site of zinc factory Nyrstar in Budel-Dorplein, a village in the municipality of Cranendonck). He, together with Jan Vlassak, ex-colleague and initiator from a social perspective (both gentlemen are living in Cranendonck), researched the 20-year-old plans for the expansion of the Nyrstar site. “To make sure such an industrial park is distinctive, interesting from an international point of view and accepted by the surrounding area, a progressive vision was needed, a point on the horizon”, de Goey explains. “That is why we want to develop Metalot into a fully sustainable, synergetic hotspot for metals and energy.” A textbook example of open innovation and area development.
The most remarkable part of the Metalot plans is the paradox in respect of sustainability and the heavy industry metallurgy normally entails. “Partly for this reason there has been a lot of discussion about the idea to establish a cluster of relevant companies around the zinc factory. The neighbours were afraid this cluster would be the cause for too many chemical, polluting activities. That is why Jan and I were looking for ways to make the expansion more appealing. By not just developing another industrial area, but by giving it an innovative character. To not only garner public support, but to also give it added value from an economical point of view.” One of the guiding principles was the fact that Nyrstar, being the largest and one of the cleanest zinc factories in the world, still consumes as much energy as the city of Eindhoven. “Which is 1% of the total consumption in the Netherlands. We are very much aware nowadays that we must generate energy in a more economical and cleaner way. That is why we came up with the idea to research the possibilities for a fully circular and sustainable industrial park. Only with parties that can contribute to this idea.”
Innovation should be the main motivation for the selection procedure of these parties. De Goey emphasizes that the overall picture is ‘only still a dream’, but gives some examples of what he has in mind: “The zinc production process supplies a lot of heat, which is not being used. A clever solution could solve this. The same applies to the raw materials that come with the ores from which the zinc is being extracted. Those raw materials are extracted and sold to other companies, but why not use them ourselves? Germanium and Indium for example, are rare materials, which might of interest to companies in the Brainport region. Furthermore, I also envision Meta mobiles; special cars on site powered by hydrogen and at a later stage maybe also by zinc dust.”
To research if De Goey and Vlassak can make their vision come true, an innovation center has been established: Metalot 3C. The center is being described as ‘a research & development center which focusses on the revolutionary developments in sustainable energy and circular use of metals’. Approximately ten people (from research and educational institutes and from the industry) must staff Metalot 3C on short notice. Its objective is to map the possibilities and the parties that match these possibilities. The Goey calls it ‘the seed’ that must grow into a long-term plan for the industrial park. He deliberately calls it a park instead of a site, because he certainly does not envision a grey cluster of factory buildings. Therefore, the park should have a lot of greenery (400 hectare of land and moor, including the area of Heilig Hartpark, all called ‘Metalot Nature’). One concrete objective certainly fits with this picture: Metalot must accommodate the largest solar park of the Benelux. Next summer a decision will be taken about this objective.