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.


Industry 4.0: Towards a Digitized Chemical and Plastics Sector in Flanders

In 2017, Catalisti initiated the DIGICHEM study to obtain an overview of the level of implementation of Industry 4.0 in the chemical and plastics sector in Flanders, the related challenges, and required collective actions that must be taken to increase the level of implementation to maintain competitiveness of the sector on a European and global level.

The DIGICHEM study was executed by Centexbel, sirris and Catalisti in a joint effort in the period February 2018 – January 2019. Within the study, Catalisti, Centexbel and sirris interviewed more than 40 individual companies, analyzed the relevant pre-existing studies and collected information from more than 70 different organizations through collective workshops.

The DIGICHEM study confirmed the importance and great potential impact on following overarching key features:
  • An increased operational excellence, productivity and flexibility within production, supported by a vertical integration within a smart and digitized factory;
  • A horizontal integration, leading to the development of new products and associated services from collaboration in a digitized supply chain.
Depending on their size, their position in the value chain or the products they produce, the route towards Industry 4.0 is different for every business. Adoption barriers are related to building a vision and strategy, digitization of all resources, the coupling with information systems, the organization structure and culture. Understanding the challenges and the barriers allows the development of a dedicated action plan for the Flemish chemical and plastics industry, focusing on the (collective) actions and trajectories that are needed to put more companies on the I4.0 road.

The actions in the action plan will be carried out in the coming years through collaboration of all triple helix partners in Flanders: government, research institutions and industry. The action plan exists of 4 major action lines: ‘Technology scouting and watch’, ‘Experimentation labs’, ‘Learning network’ and ‘Skills, education and legal framework’. The action plan describes both actions to be taken over the coming years and actions that are already ongoing in Flanders.

Catalisti will take the necessary steps and coordinate with all relevant stakeholders in Flanders to implement the various action lines of the plan through strong collaborations.

Download the DIGICHEM end report

Project Details
Project type: VIS Study
Approved on: 05/12/2017
Duration: 01/02/2018 – 31/01/2019
Total budget: €124.943
Subsidy: €99.955
Project Partners


Recycling of Coated Materials

In a 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 one-component materials. 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 RECYCOAT project 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.

Project Details
Project type: VIS
Approved on: 04/12/2017
Duration: 31/01/2018 – 29/02/2020
Total budget: €422.311
Subsidy: €337.849
Project Partners

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 (

All call documents are published on our Call 2018 website: Detailed information on participating countries and regions including funding rules are provided at:

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:

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:

View the essenscia vlaanderen event aftermovie and photos:

View the video reports and sector testimonies:

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

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).

The SweetEst project seeks to 1) 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) investigate how to produce (and purify) the most relevant sugar esters efficiently and uniquely, 3) formulate and emulsify them for the desired end applications, and 4) 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.

Project Details
Project type: ICON
Approved on: 13/12/2017
Duration: 01/03/2018 – 28/02/2021
Total budget: €1.267.196
Subsidy: €1.039.558
Project Partners


Upgrading Steel Mill Off Gas to Caproic Acid and Derivatives Using Anaerobic Technology

One of the greatest challenges of the 21st century is the drastic reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to the atmosphere to minimize/mitigate the impact of global climate change. The European Union is taking up a leading role by imposing stringent emission regulations to all member states and industries. The European Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) forms the basis of the EU’s policy to combat climate change, and requires industries in Europe to decrease their GHG emissions year by year, to reach a 43% lower emission level in 2030, compared to 2005. A crucial aspect to achieve the emission reduction is the transition to a carbon-neutral economy, in which the emission of CO2 to the atmosphere is avoided.

In this context, the possibility to capture CO2 at point sources, which account for 45% of the emissions in Europe, and transforming it into added-value products, is gaining attention. The steel industry sector is one of the largest GHG contributors. In their strive for GHG emission reduction, strategies such as improvements in energy efficiency, resource recycling, utilization and recovery have already been implemented, but further emission reduction can only be achieved by capturing CO2 emissions. Valorisation of CO2 into chemical building blocks is possible through biological or chemical processes. Biotechnology is in particular a very interesting way to valorise these waste gases due to their low energy requirements and mild reaction conditions. Traditional disadvantages of biotechnology, such as low yields, low substrate affinity and low selectivity have been overcome in recent years.

ArcelorMittal is exploring the use of syngas fermentation technology as part of the CO2 emission reduction strategy, with pilot projects at the plant in Gent. New fermentation technologies of industrial gases have been tested at pilot scale and are ready for scale up. Many of them are focussing on the fuel market to take off their fermentation products, and are facing a low revenue from the end products, which sometimes require an energy-intensive distillation process to meet the quality standards. The CAPRA technology is offering an alternative to avoid this expensive distillation, and turns the fermentation products into a high value chemical.

The composition of syngas fermentation broth, a dilute mixture of ethanol and acetic acid, with a high ethanol/acetic acid ratio, makes it an ideal substrate for further biological upgrading through anaerobic conversions. Ethanol/acetic acid mixtures can be transformed to medium-chain carboxylic acids by biological chain elongation, resulting in a bio-oil with higher value (more than double) compared to fuel. This bio-oil, composed mainly of caproic and caprylic acid, readily phase-separates, circumventing energy-intensive distillation, and facilitating downstream processing of the final product. The bio-oil can be further processed in the chemical industry, where sources of caproic and caprylic acid are rare, while interest is growing.

As of today, the feasibility of converting syngas effluents to C6-C8-rich oils has been proven through a limited number of studies and solely at lab-scale. To pave the road for the development of a process to upgrade syngas fermentation effluent via biological chain elongation, a number of research questions and challenges need to be addressed. Also, little is known about the chemical conversion routes to produce high-value, marketable products from the generated bio-oil. Furthermore, the optimal approach to assess the sustainability and profitability of new processes in the bio-economy is lacking.

The CAPRA project brings together industrial and academic partners with the required expertise to solve these research challenges. The CAPRA project will:
  • Assess the critical operational parameters of the biological chain elongation process to determine 1) the best product recovery system; 2) the required nutrient additions for the chain elongation process; and 3) the optimal operational conditions (CMET, OWS);
  • Scale-up the chain elongation process to lab-pilot level, to upgrade real syngas fermentation effluent to a medium-chain carboxylic acid bio-oil at the kilogram scale, in a continuous process (OWS, CMET, ArcelorMittal);
  • Transform the produced bio-oil into high-quality added-value products for different applications such as plasticisers (Proviron);
  • Evaluate the process value chain based on its sustainability and profitability, using newly developed tools (EnVOC, VITO, OWS; with input from ArcelorMittal, CMET, Proviron).
The research carried out within CAPRA will bring the valorisation of syngas fermentation products well beyond the state-of-the-art, delivering to the steel industry a technology to capture CO2 into added-value products. For instance, the coupling of the CAPRA process to a syngas fermenter converting the off-gas of AM Gent would result in the production of 35,000 tonne caproic acid oil per year, showing the high potential of the CAPRA value chain. Also, CAPRA develops a new biotechnological platform that can be translated to other industrial sectors, such as waste management. This has the potential to generate employment and strengthen the role of Flanders as a leading region in the bio-economy.

Project Details
Project type: ICON
Approved on: 26/10/2017
Duration: 01/01/2018 – 31/12/2020
Total budget: €1.544.413
Subsidy: €990.344
Project Partners