Dutch chemical industry
The Royal Association of the Dutch Chemical Industry (VNCI) promotes the collective interests of the chemical industry in the Netherlands by means of consultations, information meetings and recommendations. The VNCI acts on behalf of the entire sector as a central contact point and undertakes activities that have a positive impact on the image of the chemical industry.
100 years, a milestone for the sector. In 2018 we celebrated 100 years of innovation, 100 years of chemistry, 100 years of VNCI:
Chemical industry in the Netherlands
For several decades now, the chemical industry and the Netherlands have been a profitable combination. Due in part to the Rotterdam harbour, the infrastructure, top universities and the availability of qualified personnel, the chemical industry has found a good home base in the Netherlands. Many of the world's largest chemical industries have opened production facilities in the Netherlands - to the benefit of both the companies and to the Dutch economy.
Sector turnover in 2018 was a respectable € 50 billion. With this, the Netherlands is the fourth largest chemical producer in Europe and tenth worldwide. It provides work for 44,000 people, distributed among more than 400 companies. With the exception of the food, beverages and tobacco industry, the chemical industry is the largest business sector in the Netherlands.
Chemistry plays a key role: because chemical companies produce substances and materials for many industries, innovation and sustainability in chemistry are good for the Dutch economy.
An industry entirely without fossil resources and energy will not be possible. But the chemical industry thinks it is necessary to fully commit to the transition to a CO2-poor industry. This requires that the industry, together with the government and science, must focus and concentrate on the climate transition in which innovation is central. As a small country, thanks to our location, education and the right mentality, we have the right starting position for the climate transition and a healthy and safe future for our chemical industry.
Roadmap 2050 'Chemistry for Climate'
During the Paris climate conference, it was agreed to limit the temperature rise to a maximum of 2 degrees, with the target being 1,5 degrees. The Royal VNCI translates this into reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the chemical industry by 80-95 percent in 2050 compared to 1990. The Roadmap 2050 shows how: VNCI presents, in collaboration with consultancies Ecofys and Berenschot, the report Roadmap 2050 'Chemistry for Climate' - acting on the need for speed.
View the English video about the Roadmap 2050 here:
The Royal VNCI and business consultancy Deloitte published a study of future opportunities for the chemical industry in the Netherlands and Northwest Europe. The results of that study were positive. Until 2030/2050, the sector should experience substantial growth regardless of global, social, political and economic developments. This all depends on the sector's continued building on its strengths. The existing collaboration with the cross-border chemical industry played an important role in this growth prognosis. The VNCI has since ordered an update of this study.
- The Chemical Industry in the Netherlands: World leading today and in 2030–2050
- The shale gas revolution and its impact on the chemical industry in the Netherlands. Addendum to VNCI Vision 2030-2050
The researchers believe that the chemical industry will undergo large transformations. Raw materials will be used more efficiently and a shift will take place from fossil resources to biomass, (bio)waste and other resources that are less burdensome to the environment or which even result in a positive CO2 balance. Increasingly, the chemical sector will be seen as innovative, clean and safe and as an essential industry producing clever products that limit the negative impacts of economic activities on health and the environment.
To achieve this vision of the future, the investment climate in the Netherlands must remain attractive. The encouragement of free trade remains important. To produce more energy efficiently and to achieve diversification in raw materials, focused R&D, sustainable innovation and facilitating legislation are important.
Top sector Chemical industry
The government endorses the Dutch chemical industry's important role. The first cabinet under Rutte (October 2010 to April 2012) developed the top sector policy aimed at strengthening business sectors in which the Netherlands excels globally. To achieve this, the government, business community, universities and research centres work together in the area of knowledge and innovation, among others. This collaboration comprises the entire chain of innovation - from fundamental research to application - and is expressed in such forms as public-private collaboration, innovation labs and centres for open chemical innovation. The second Rutte cabinet (October 2012 to date) continued the top sector policy. The chemical industry is one of those top sectors.
The Netherlands has a favorable business climate for the chemical industry because the right preconditions are present. For example, important raw materials are available or can be supplied via the port of Rotterdam or via pipelines. In addition, there are direct lines between the most important chemical centers in the Netherlands and those of Belgium, Germany and Northern France.
The Netherlands has six chemical clusters: Delfzijl (in and around the Eemsdeltal), Chemelot (Geleen), Zeeland (Terneuzen), Rotterdam (Pernis, Botlek, Europoort, Maasvlakte, Dodrecht en Moerdijk), Amsterdam and Emmen.
Rotterdam, Zeeland and Chemelot are also part of the so-called ARRRA cluster, the collaboration between the chemical industry with Antwerp and the Rhine-Ruhr area.
Chemistry clusters have always been the backbone of the Dutch chemical industry. But no matter how strong the clusters are, downtime is never an option. Fortunately, it is very busy, partly through the so-called cluster reinforcement. This policy of the Dutch government is intended to help the clusters where necessary and possible. Moreover, the chemical companies themselves are constantly trying to reinvent themselves and thus take on the global battle.
Strengths and weaknesses
One important strength of the chemical industry in the Netherlands is its embedding in a Northwest European cluster that comprises three countries. Furthermore, the Netherlands is a country with a stable political and social climate. From a physical point of view, the Rotterdam harbour - one of the largest in the world - is an important advantage.
The Netherlands used to have a reputation as a high-wage country. However, in recent years, labour productivity has increased in the Netherlands, while developments in wage increases were moderate. As a result of this, labour costs per unit of product decreased.
Just as in all other countries in the EU, industry in the Netherlands is faced with relatively high energy costs. However, in the summer of 2013, the government, stakeholders in the area of energy and social organisations (including the environmental movement) agreed to a comprehensive energy agreement containing commitments concerning energy savings, clean technologies and climate policy. Execution of the commitments must result in an affordable and clean energy supply, employment and opportunity for the Netherlands in the clean-technology markets.
In addition to the use of sustainable energy, the chemical industry is also striving for greater energy efficiency. Further energy savings can be achieved through improved process integration. Entirely new technological concepts must also be developed in order to arrive at more efficient processes (process intensification). This issue is at play throughout the entire industry, from the petrochemical installations in the Rotterdam region to the smaller installations at Chemelot in Limburg.
The chemical industry in the Netherlands includes several larger chemical companies. In the context of the top sectors policy, extra attention is paid to the development of small and medium enterprises.
The Netherlands has a good educational system, from elementary school to high-value (technical) universities. Increasingly, education, science, knowledge institutes and chemistry look to each other for educational solutions that better align with the business community. Cross-pollination is taking place in research, allowing innovation to occur more rapidly.
The loss of technical personnel due to an ageing workforce must be compensated by the inflow of young employees. Government, education and the business community are well aware of this and cooperate closely to prevent any possible shortage so that companies' development will not be hindered.