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The Green Protein Excellence Center (GPEC) supports companies in the vegetable protein transition

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  4. The Green Protein Excellence Center (GPEC) supports companies in the vegetable protein transition

Since last autumn, HAS University of Applied Sciences has been a cooperation partner of the Green Protein Excellence Center (GPEC). The GPEC, which is located in West Brabant, is an open innovation platform designed to facilitate the vegetable protein transition. Royal Cosun is the driving force behind the platform. The other partners are The Protein Brewery, BioscienZ, and Rabobank. Over the past few months, two Food Technology and Food Innovation students from the GPEC have been conducting research into the fermentation of vegetable raw materials.

"The inspiration behind the GPEC was the desire to continue to feed the world’s population in the future with the right nutrition, including vegetable proteins, in a way that allows companies to make a profit,” says Petra Koenders, alderperson at the municipality of Bergen op Zoom. She also works for the GPEC on behalf of Royal Cosun. “In this context, the GPEC is looking specifically at which plants or residual flows can supply proteins, how we can extract these proteins, and how this technology can be scaled up.”

A tool to accelerate the protein transition

The GPEC isn’t a physical centre. Petra: “The GPEC is a tool to accelerate the protein transition, stimulated by the Central and West Brabant Region Deal, and with Royal Cosun as the driving force. SMEs in particular contact the GPEC with questions about scaling up. The GPEC helps them with practice-orientated research, and gives access to its partners’ labs. The GPEC itself has no financing possibilities, but it does have a large network thanks to its various partners that it actively uses to achieve concrete results and acquire new insights.”

Strategic relationship

HAS University of Applied Sciences considers it important to participate in a partnership such as the GPEC. The Protein Transition in Food research group led by Fred van de Velde is one of those involved. “The HAS has been in a strategic relationship with Royal Cosun, among others, for some years. It represents part of a desire of the business community in the Dutch Southwest Delta region to involve higher vocational education students in regional developments,” says Fred van de Velde. “The GPEC offers businesses and students the opportunity to work together on all kinds of projects in vegetable protein sources.”

Future professionals

“If we really want the protein transition to advance, it’s essential to develop human capital,” Petra adds. “Educational institutions such as HAS University of Applied Sciences have an important role to play as suppliers of future professionals in the field of cultivating and marketing vegetable proteins. Educational institutions also provide expertise, with which they take practical research to a higher level.”

Charlotte Scheer and Linda van Hooft have been studying the fermentation of vegetable raw materials for a few months.

Fermentation of plant proteins

One example of a project in which students and professionals work together is the graduation research conducted by Charlotte Scheer and Linda van Hooft. These two Food Technology and Food Innovation students have been studying the fermentation of vegetable raw materials over the past few months.  On behalf of Royal Cosun, they investigated the use of lactic acid bacteria (LAB) in fermented plant proteins, such as yoghurt-like products, and the positive effects of fermentation on texture, taste, and stability. A new graduation research project will start in the autumn; The Protein Brewery, which will focus on product development. The GPEC is also deployed as a client in one of the third-year minors at HAS University of Applied Sciences.