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Innovating with education: Cosun does it!

For both education and research, the connection with the business community is essential. Cosun is one of those businesses and works actively with the Biobased Technology & Chemistry major at Avans University of Applied Sciences. As a producer of vegetable ingredients and foodstuffs, they also offer green, biobased solutions and energy. It is an innovative environment where students can be found every day. Cooperation with education is high on their list. Why? We asked them ourselves.


Richard Bakx, HR Cosun R&D and Innovation: ‘We consider it our social responsibility to give the new generation the chance to contribute to various innovative projects. They are also our employees of the future and we must invest in them. And it works both ways; although there is no guarantee that something useful will always come out of it, we can already cite many examples where students have made an important contribution.”

Innovation together with students

Sugar beet is synonymous with Cosun. Cosun R&D is chiefly concerned with the total value added of these and other agricultural raw materials. Wouter Huijgen, Cosun R&D, knows all about it: “We want to get the most value out of our raw materials, for example by developing different applications with our residual flows. The packaging of our sugar, for example, is made partly from sugar beet pulp. This kind of application demands new ideas and knowledge and students certainly have a role to play here. “Every year, Cosun R&D employs an average of 20 trainees from different colleges and universities. With them, Cosun is working on new, sustainable products and on improving its production processes, including CO2 savings.

Connection with education

In addition to offering traineeships, Cosun is doing much more with education. Examples include company assignments in which a group of students tackles an issue. Cosun also collaborates with the education sector in the Work Field Advisory Council, organises company excursions, takes part in the Avans Career Event and even organises job application training for students by Cosun HR. Huijgen: ‘I recently gave a guest lecture at Avans on biorefinery. We can pass on our know-how to students, explain what we do and raise the company’s profile. A great way to connect young talent to our company.”


What kind of projects does Cosun R&D work on? Huijgen gives an example: ‘We extract ingredients from sugar beet pulp, the material that remains after we extract sugar from sugar beet. It contains many useful ingredients, such as cellulose. In this case, we reprocessed the cellulose into a material that can be used in the production of detergents, among other things. In the meantime, this has developed into a commercial product. This is the result of a process that has taken years and to which several students have contributed. This includes research into the composition of components, testing new equipment and measuring the effects of this on the properties of the product.
As far as Richard Bakx is concerned, cooperation with education is only going to intensify and improve. “We have a lot to offer students in terms of content and personal development. Our focus on sustainability appeals to them and they get a lot of responsibility at the same time. On the other hand, the students contribute to our innovations with their view of the current world and their creativity. It’s win-win.”

Setting up joint research projects with Centre of Expertise Biobased Economy (CoE BBE) would be a next step, according to Wouter Huijgen. CoE BBE recently rented space at the Delta Agrifood Business lab in Bergen op Zoom, where Cosun is also active. Alongside the Cosun Innovation Centre, this is an ideal place to initiate and carry out new research projects together. We look forward to it!



Do you want to know more about Cosun R&D and Innovation? Or are you curious about the internship opportunities? Then please contact:

  • Wouter Huijgen:
  • Richard Bakx:
  • This article is part of the BIOBASED update February 2022 of the Centre of Expertise Biobased Economy.