The innovation journey of Samsonite

For over a century, Samsonite has been a byword for exceptional luggage. From the simple wooden trunk designed by company founder Jesse Shwayder in 1910, to modern cases like Cosmolite and NeoPulse, which combine bold design with cutting-edge technology, Samsonite has been by the traveler’s side, meeting their needs, exceeding their expectations, and anticipating their demands. The global travel industry never stands still, but, through its 108-year lifespan, Samsonite has maintained its focus on quality, functionality and durability to meet the changing lifestyle needs of people on the move. Along the way, there have been many notable “firsts” – first plastic case, first suitcase on wheels, first upright case, first four-wheeled “spinner” case – that have not only helped take the strain out of travelling, but have also been in the vanguard of transforming the industry through innovation.

These innovations also resulted in a success story for the Samsonite site in Oudenaarde. The development of the process to thermoform Curv material, a reinforced polypropylene material, resulted in the suitcase Cosmolite, the lightest suitcase available on the market at that time. Weighing only 3.4 kg, outperforming the competition which weighed about 5kg at the time. Through continuous innovations the weight has further dropped to as low as 2.5 kg. The success of this innovation guaranteed the future of the Samsonite site at Oudenaarde and resulted in a strong R&D department.

Currently Samsonite employs 34 people in R&D in Belgium. Together with R&D centers in the US and Asia, these teams enable the development of products that cater to the nuances in consumer requirements in each market. Our regional focus on innovation and product development not only allows Samsonite to react quickly to changing demand and evolving consumer tastes, but also sets it apart from other companies operating in the global consumer space and keeps it at the forefront of the industry.

The network provided by Catalisti allows Samsonite to find the required expertise and partner up with the most adequate industrial or knowledge partners for initiating open innovation projects. The innovation goals within Samsonite also correspond perfectly within the innovation program of Catalisti regarding sustainable chemistry. For example designing advanced sustainable products with lightweight properties, Suitcases are made for transport of goods, the lighter they are the less fuel consumption in the car/the plane. Samsonite is setting the standards for lightweight luggage. It is in the genes of the Samsonite organization to look for innovation opportunities outside of its own walls. That is why Samsonite was one of the founders of Flanders Plasticvision, that later became integrated in the Catalisti cluster.

Today, the transition to a circular economy is a crucial next step in whichthe recycling of plastic materials will become increasingly important. Samsonite is already actively working on minimizing waste on production level and incorporating recycling to a certain degree. This year already, Samsonite will bring an ecoline onto the market. It is a line based on the successful S’Cure line, where the shells will consist of 100% regrind material coming from own production waste. Until last year, this material was sold as waste.

In the future Samsonite will continue to invest in innovation projects. Together with the help of Catalisti, innovation opportunities can be identified, the required expertise of industrial partners or research institutes can be located and the appropriate funding can be requested to cooperate in these R&D projects.



Innovation plan Industry 4.0: towards a digitized chemical and plastics sector in Flanders


Industry 4.0 is the general term used to describe the technological revolution driven by digitization of products, processes and services. Also known as the ‘fourth industrial revolution’ or simply ‘industry 4.0’.
Industry 4.0 offers interesting possibilities, but for many companies this revolution is a big challenge. The DIGICHEM project was established to help (both large and small) companies in the chemicals and plastics sector to find their way in the complex world of industry 4.0.


The concrete aim of this study is to develop a collective innovation plan on i4.0 for the Flemish sector of chemistry, plastics and life sciences. This innovation plan must outline the actions that can accelerate the integration of i4.0 technology into the sector.
More specifically, the following actions will be taken in the project:

  • Determine the scope and meaning of i4.0 for the target group
  • Mapping the questions, needs and challenges of companies from the target group regarding i4.0
  • Identification of barriers (internal to companies, legal framework, liability, etc.) regarding i4.0
  • Mapping the supply of services and products with respect to i4.0 with evaluation of the possible added value for the process industry in Flanders
  • Converting acquired insights into a concrete innovation plan i4.0
  • Making the innovation plan i4.0 known to the various stakeholders
Expected results and impact

By drawing up an innovation plan i4.0 in collaboration with actors across the entire value chain, collective business opportunities (= new value chains) and the possible ways to achieve them can be identified and realized. All opportunities that allow growth in the chemical sector in Flanders by implementing i4.0 technologies will be identified and an estimate can be made of where the best return-on-investment lies.
In the long term, the objective is to enable as many companies as possible to integrate the digital possibilities into their business processes, according to their own needs. This project will contribute to the awareness of companies that a transition is needed. It will also identify the different options and provide companies with a knowledge basis for starting the transition in their own company. The project will also offer the companies the opportunity to find the most suitable partners to assist them.

Project information
Project type: VIS Study
Approved on: 05/12/2017
Duration: 01/02/2018 – 31/01/2019
Total project budget: EUR 124.943
Subsidy: EUR 99.955


With view on circular economy, recycling of products after use is key. Currently merely 30% of our plastic and textile waste is being recycled. The vast majority of recyclable products are actually one component materials, circumventing the necessity of a separation step.

Coated and laminated materials are difficult to recycle because of their hybrid nature: the coating layer is difficult to separate from the bulk material or the coating layer can be cured to prevent melting or dissolution in conventional solvents.

The current routes for end-of-life of “complex”-composite products are mainly focusing on burning or converting into RDF pellets (Refuse Driven Fuel). The energy content and presence of a fusible fraction (carrier and possibly also coating) explain why this waste disposal method is widely spread. Another commonly used route is mechanical reduction via shredders and subsequent use as filler material.

The project RECYCOAT aims to investigate various technologies to separate the different layers present in complex coated or laminated (multilayer) materials (in particular textiles and plastics). The focus is on developing a good design (eco-design) of the multi-layered products and/or altering the chemistry of the coating or adhesive layer. The material should be developed in such a way that maximum separation (i.e. recycling) is made possible: the different layers present in the complex material must be completely separable from each other.

An example of such a technology is an adapted adhesive layer of a carpet allowing separation in boiling water. After 30 seconds the secondary backing is split off.

This collective project, funded by Catalisti, started beginning of March and will run for two years. Companies are still welcome to join the user committee of the project. For more information, please contact us.

Ine De Vilder (textile) – ivi@centexbel.be

Isabel De Schrijver (plastic) – ids@centexbel.be


Start of the SPICY project: An intensive four-year collaboration of a unique consortium of Flemish research institutions to develop a technology platform for sugar valorisation

In December 2017, the Flemish Agency for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (VLAIO) approved the cSBO project SPICY, which stands for “Sugar-based chemicals and Polymers through Innovative Chemocatalysis and engineered Yeast”. With a subsidy of over 2.5 million euro from the budget for cluster projects, a consortium consisting of KULeuven, UGent, UHasselt, VITO, VIB and Bio Base Europe Pilot Plant will work on the development of a technology platform for the valorisation of sugar. This cluster SBO project was created within the “Renewable Chemicals” program of Catalisti, the cluster for chemistry and plastics, with an emphasis on the strategic topic “Sugar”. The project is coordinated by Prof. dr. Bert Sels from KULeuven – COK, with support of Catalisti.

Flanders is ideally suited to play a leading role in the shift towards a bio-based economy for a number of reasons. First of all, there is a long-standing tradition of biomass (sugar beets, wheat) conversion into food ingredients (sugars, organic acids, alcoholic beverages). On top of that, Flanders has a high level of education in both chemical and agricultural technology leading to a strong expertise in collecting, sorting and processing of biomass (waste) towards high value products. Finally, Flanders is also ideally located at the middle of the Antwerp-Rotterdam-Rhine-Ruhr Area (ARRRA), Europe’s largest petrochemical cluster, number one in the world when it comes to sales of chemicals and plastics per capita, and the main (production) location of more than half of the world’s top 20 chemical companies.

Cancellation of the EU Sugar quota as off October 1th 2017 will have important consequences for the European sugar producers, such as evolution of sugar prices towards prices on the global market. Together with the disappearance of the export limitations, this will lead to new opportunities for sugar as feedstock for production of chemicals and materials. Market analysts also expect an increase of EU sucrose and glucose syrup production.

The main goal of SPICY is to provide chemical industry with new or optimized processes to convert sugars into added value compounds, i.e. both drop-ins and novel biobased chemicals. Two complementary lines are hereto developed in parallel, one focusing on biotechnology based on improved yeast-strains and one based on chemocatalytic routes. Both will aspire to meet industrial standards of productivity, titer, yield and selectivity, to safeguard potential economic benefit and future industrial valorisation. Most of the targeted platform chemicals are (potential) monomers for biobased plastics, hence, a second aim of SPICY is to deliver proof-of-concept of their usefulness by targeting novel and functional polymeric materials, typically not found in the current oil-based value chain.

This project has the ambition to strengthen the position of Flanders in terms of research into biobased processes and materials. The relevance of this cluster SBO project is further emphasized by an industrial advisory board, who are eager to implement the results and create economic valorisation. Current members of the advisory board include: 3M, Allnex, Beaulieu, Cargill, Eastman, EOC, Galactic, GF Biochemicals, GlobalYeast, INEOS Styrolution, Proviron, Solvay, Tereos and Tiense Suiker.


Bert Lagrain – KU Leuven
+32 16 32 16 27

Johan De Houwer – Catalisti
+32 468 32 25 57





M-ERA.NET Transnational Call 2018 is open

The M-ERA.NET Transnational Call 2018 opened on 13 March 2018. More than 33 funding agencies from more than 24 European and non-European countries participate with a total budget of around 23 million €.

Funding will be offered to innovative projects focusing on:

  • Multiscale modeling for materials engineering and processing (M3EP)
  • Innovative surfaces, coatings and interfaces
  • High performance composites
  • Functional materials
  • New strategies for advanced material-based technologies health applications
  • Materials for additive manufacturing

Deadline for mandatory pre-proposals: 12 June 2018, 12:00 noon (Brussels time).

Catalisti offers guidance and support for Catalisti members, please contact Tine Schaerlaekens (tschaerlaekens@catalisti.be)

All call documents are published on our Call 2018 website: https://m-era.net/joint-calls/joint-call-2018 Detailed information on participating countries and regions including funding rules are provided at: https://m-era.net/joint-calls/joint-call-2018/participating-countries-regions-call-2018

All applicants are requested to contact their national/regional funding organisations for national/regional programme details. You are kindly invited to take this opportunity for realising transnational R&D projects in materials research & innovation. Please disseminate this information to related parties in your networks.

The NMPTeAm4 offers a partner search tool for the M-ERA.NET Call 2018: https://www.nmp-partnersearch.eu/index.php


Persbericht: Catalisti annual event and results 2017

Catalisti, de speerpuntcluster voor chemie en kunststoffen, viert eerste verjaardag

Antwerpen – 19 december 2017 – Exact 1 jaar geleden was de officiële start van de eerste speerpuntcluster chemie en kunststoffen een feit onder de naam Catalisti. Vlaams minister van Innovatie Philippe Muyters heeft in 2016 een nieuw innovatie- en clusterbeleid vormgegeven om zo de strategische samenwerking tussen bedrijven, sectoren en onderzoekers te stimuleren. De tijd van ‘vivons heureux, vivons cachés’ ligt achter ons. Wie succesvol wil innoveren, moet over het muurtje kijken en samenwerken met andere partners. Het doel? De economische impact van innovatie de komende jaren gevoelig doen stijgen.

Philippe Muyters, Vlaams minister van Economie en Innovatie: “Een jaar geleden heb ik jullie uitgedaagd als Catalisti om ervoor te zorgen dat bedrijven gaan samenwerken aan de toekomst. Geen eenvoudige zaak, maar jullie hebben de handschoen opgenomen vanaf dag 1. Jullie zijn gaan zoeken naar bedrijven die mee wilden investeren en mee wilden instappen in een open innovatie principe. De stap die Catalisti heeft gezet is de juiste stap. Op deze manier zal Catalisti, niet alleen voor zichzelf, maar voor alle bedrijven die aangesloten zijn een enorme toegevoegde waarde creëren.”

Jan Van Havenbergh, managing director Catalisti: “Catalisti speelt in op maatschappelijke uitdagingen zoals circulaire economie, klimaat en bio-economie. Dit jaar hebben we 17 nieuwe innovatieprojecten opgestart, samen met onze partners, die zowel oplossingen bieden voor deze maatschappelijke uitdagingen als economische meerwaarde creëren voor Vlaanderen. Voor de Vlaamse chemie en kunststoffen industrie is dit een groot succes.”

Samenwerking als sleutel tot succes

De Speerpuntcluster Chemie en Kunststoffen is een triple helix partnerschap tussen de Vlaamse industrie, de Vlaamse overheid en de Vlaamse onderzoeksinstellingen. Binnen Catalisti is samenwerking de sleutel tot succes. Niet enkel samenwerking tussen de triple helix partners, maar ook samenwerking tussen de verschillende subsectoren zoals (basis)chemie, kunststoffen, biotechnologie, en tenslotte ook samenwerking tussen bedrijven onderling. Uit ervaring is gebleken dat werken volgens het principe van open innovatie resultaten oplevert en een hefboomeffect creëert.  En dat bewijst Catalisti nogmaals met de resultaten van haar eerste werkingsjaar: Niet minder dan 17 innovatieprojecten zijn opgestart. Overheid en bedrijven investeerden gezamenlijk 13,5 miljoen euro in Catalisti. Hiervan ging 12,7 miljoen euroals subsidies naar de Vlaamse kennisinstellingen (9,8 miljoen euro) en Vlaamse industrie (2,9 miljoen euro). Catalisti zet hierbij ook sterk in op het betrekken van KMO’s. Maar liefst 46% van de bedrijfssubsidies ging naar KMO’s.

Deze investering van 13,5 miljoen euro leverde een geschatte economische meerwaarde op van meer dan 319 miljoen euro, waaronder 643 bijkomende jobcreatie en 247 miljoen euro aan nieuwe investeringen in Vlaanderen. Dit wil zeggen dat Catalisti met zijn werking een economisch hefboomeffect van 30 realiseert. Een trend die Catalisti de komende jaren wil verderzetten en zelfs nog wil versterken.





Chemicals, plastics and life sciences are the essential sector for the Flemish economy

The industry of chemicals, plastics and pharmaceuticals has a growth rate that is twice as high as that of other industries. In this way, our sector not only creates a large direct employment but also a leverage for employment in other sectors. The challenge for the future, however, is to attract young talent with a technical and scientific education. This is the conclusion of economist Geert Noels from Econopolis on the basis of an analysis presented on Tuesday evening during the annual event of essenscia vlaanderen in Antwerp.

The theme of the essenscia vlaanderen event was Connecting industries for a better quality of life. During the panel discussion with Luc Delagaye (Agfa Materials), Marina Fernhout-Mollemans (3M Benelux), Stef Heylen (Janssen Pharmaceutica), Luc Van den hove (imec) and Vlaams minister Philippe Muyters, the importance of innovation and cooperation was emphasized. Also the importance of clusters, like Catalisti, that enable these local and international collaborations and that create an environment for open innovation, was highlighted.

Read the press release and analysis of Geert Noels: http://www.essenscia.be/nl/PressRelease/Detail/16870

View the essenscia vlaanderen event aftermovie and photos: http://www.essenscia.be/nl/galerij

View the video reports and sector testimonies: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCYneeidb7uwrjGhnAISwFFA


Catalisti projects PIF, SuMEMS and CAPRA approved!

On October 26th 2017 Hermes Committee approved 3 new Catalisti projects: PIF, SuMEMS and CAPRA.

PIF – Particles In Flow

Organic nano- and microparticles are very important in all kinds of industries, products and applications. Three examples of particles with a high added value for Flemish companies are: organic micron sized crystals of active pharmaceutical ingredients, nano dispersions of coating resins and microcapsules with active ingredients. Four Flemish companies: Omnichem, Janssen Pharmaceutica, Allnex and Devan Chemicals have combined forces with three academic groups, with a proven track record in this field, to tackle problems associated with the production of these particles. Currently, batch reactors are used to produce the particles, but limitations in heat and mass transfer result in little control over the average particle size and particle size distribution and batch to batch variations. Higher standards maintained by the companies and their customers necessitate the industrial researchers to explore new and more robust technologies of particle synthesis. Upon executing this project, a large step in the direction of implementation of continuous processing technology in the Flemish nano- and microparticle production industry is taken
Read more about the PIF project.

SuMEMS – Sustainable membrane technology-based solutions for solvent-rich wastewater treatment

Today, huge amounts of waste water from chemical/pharmaceutical companies is transported for incineration at specialised facilities, even though these companies have large on-site waste water treatment plants. Companies as Janssen and Omnichem thus have to treat in this way several 1000s of tons per year per factory. Currently, biodegradation of these streams via conventional waste water treatment is excluded, since these waste water contain (1) Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API’s), (2) other ecotoxic substances, (3) too large volumes of solvent and/or salts, and/or (4) traces of metals such, as Zinc or Palladium as remainders of homogeneous catalysts.
This project aims at realising a breakthrough in this field by developing innovative, efficient and economic membrane-based technology solutions for the sustainable treatment of these very complex solvent-rich waste waters in a holistic approach. The partners envision that the most optimal processes will be hybrid processes combining appropriate, robust membranes in synergy with powerful pre- or post-treatment (e.g. adsorption, advanced oxidation or others), allowing a (semi)-continuous on-site treatment of large volumes of waste with minimal effort.
Read more about the SuMEMS project.

CAPRA – Upgrading steel mill off gas to caproic acid and derivatives using anaerobic technology

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from steel mills, mainly in the form of syngas, can be converted to ethanol and acetic acid via gas fermentation. Ethanol has a relatively low market value and its distillation from diluted broths is an energy intense and costly process. Diluted ethanol can be upgraded to higher value products caproic and caprylic acid by a secondary fermentation (biological chain elongation). These products can be also more easily recovered due to their low water solubility. The proposed approach has the potential to broaden the applicability of carbon capture and utilization, creating added value from GHG and decreasing these emissions.

This project aims at developing a mixed culture reactor technology (TRL5) to valorize syngas fermentation effluent. It will define the best product extraction method, operational conditions and the required nutrient additions. It will allow ArcelorMittal to upgrade effluents from the Steelanol project, OWS to develop a new anaerobic reactor technology and Proviron to obtain and test syngas-based chemicals. A successful project will result in a new value chain from syngas to product that can be embedded in the chemical industry in Flanders.
Read more about the CAPRA project.



Innovative production and use of sugar esters

This project focuses on the production and use of sugar esters. Sugar (fatty acid) esters are esters obtained by reacting a sugar with an (fatty) acid. Sugar esters are non-ionic surfactants which generally have very good emulsifying, stabilising or conditioning effects. Moreover, they are readily biodegradable, non-toxic, non-skin irritant, odorless, tasteless and give normal food products after digestion. For these reasons, they are used in many different applications and products, such as pharmaceuticals, detergents, cosmetics, and in the agri-food industry. There are roughly two methods to synthesize sugar esters. On the one hand, sugar esters can be obtained by chemical esterification, generally at high(er) temperatures in the presence of an alkaline catalyst. On the other hand, sugar esters can also be produced enzymatically at more moderate conditions in an organic solvent using lipases or proteases (and subtilisin).

Innovation goal
The main goals and challenges of this project are 1) to identify which chemical identities (sugar composition, fatty acid chain length and degree of saturation, hydrophobicity, degree of esterification, etc.) give the desired and most performant biological functionality/activity, 2) how to produce (and purify) the most relevant sugar esters efficiently and uniquely, 3) how to formulate and emulsify them for the desired end applications, and 4) to test the biological activity of most relevant sugar esters ‘in vitro’ and ‘in vivo’. In first instance, lab-scale production will be pursued, after which (in second instance) production on kg-scale can be pursued if lab-scale production turns out to be technically (and economically) feasible. In the first two years of the project, lab-scale production and ‘in vitro’ testing of relevant sugar esters is targeted.



Alternatives to chemical treatment techniques for cooling towers

In general, there are three major issues an industrial cooling water system may encounter: corrosion, deposition/scaling, and microbial growth. Because these problems can have a direct, negative impact on the value of the entire process, a wide range of cooling water chemicals is used to provide protection against these cooling system challenges. These cooling water chemicals, however, might pose an environmental burden when the cooling water is discharged in surface water. Catalisti is initiating a collective research project on alternatives to chemical treatment techniques for cooling towers to demonstrate and benchmark available technologies for biocide-free treatment of cooling water (as a direct alternative of liquid sodium hypochorite, i.e. bleach). In addition, apart from biocide-free treatment, alternative corrosion chemicals can also be investigated (depending of the interest that is expressed by the participating companies).

If your company is interested in this project, please send an email to Luc Van Ginneken (lvanginneken@catalisti.be).