Events, New Materials, Rond BlueCity

Recap SYMBIOSIS Festival 2020 – how can we live in harmony with nature again?

Schermafbeelding 2020-10-27 om 11.16.28

I think, I search, so I am: a human. As West-Europeans, we tend to look at nature as an external concept, while as homo sapiens, we are part of that same nature. Symbiosis means living together, and comes from the Greek: sym (together) and bios (to live). We stand at the beginning of the fourth industrial revolution in which we cooperate with nature instead of work against it: the biorevolution.

During the first edition of SYMBIOSIS Festival on November 27th 2020, BlueCity Lab opened its doors for biodesigners, scientists, biotech companies, other biolabs, social organizations and curious visitors to share their experience, expertise and vision on how we shape collaborations with nature in the fourth industrial revolution. Over the course of two days, we explored different ways to live, work, play and produce in symbiosis with the ecosystems around us. Together with inspiring speakers, artists and scientists we discussed the question: how can we live in harmony with nature again?

Why biolabs are essential for the bio circular economy

On the first day of the festival, we explored how designing with living organisms can be the change we need in the context of today’s current environmental and ecological challenges. And why we need biolabs as a safe space for experimenting to enhance the endless possibilities for sustainable change. Professionals virtually gathered to share their knowledge and experience in private workshops, talks and matchmaking sessions.

In an opening panel session, Jasper Bloemen of Glimps.Bio, Yasmine Ostendorf of Green Art Lab Alliance and the Future Materials Bank and Nienke Binnendijk, director of BlueCity Lab, discussed what role biolabs play in sustainable development and how we can work with nature as a partner, rather than a resource.

In the live session ‘Biomaterials to the test‘, Pascal Leboucq, head designer of The Exploded View, Eva Aarts, founder of Waterweg and Marjanne Cuypers, founder of BlueBlocks, talked about biomaterials, the economics of scale, and local scaling up based on The Exploded View: a maquette of a biocircular home built from various materials, production techniques and waste flows. Before being exhibited during SYMBIOSIS Festival, this collaborative project of more than 60 partners was first presented at Dutch Design Week in October 2020. The installation gave our guests the opportunity to talk about structural questions raised by this ambitious project.

Fund your bio circular solution

In another live session, ‘Fund your Bio Circular Solution’, independent creative consultant Roy Cremers, founder and former managing director of creative crowdfunding platform, explained how crowdfunding can be an interesting way to (kick)start your business. He was accompanied by bioneer Eduarda Bastian who shared her own experience with crowdfunding. She raised 6000 euros for investigating upcycling hop fibres in The Hop Project.

In the third live session ‘Complex collaborations: healthy soils for sustainable solutions’, Luuk Braam from Den Ouden Groep and Fernande Pool, social scientist turned farmer and founder of AltVisions, discussed the various options for a more sustainable soil, what a good earnings model can be to realize this and what the most sustainable solutions are.

Lastly we had an amazing closing panel with Cindy Gerhardt, Managing Director of Planet, the biotech campus, Helen Toxopeus of Sustainable Finance Lab,  Mark Slegers, one of the founders of BlueCity and rotterzwam and Koert van Mensvoort from Next Nature Network. Together they shared their vision on where to start the upcoming biorevolution.

VR tour BlueCity 2050

In addition to the live sessions, visitors of the festival were the first to experience the BlueCity 2050 VR experience. BlueCity aims to be a circular example city since we believe the circular economy holds important answers to the climate crisis we are facing. Yet for many people, it is hard to imagine what this implies. Even for someone who’s already working on the circular economy, it is hard to imagine how greener, more social and smarter cities look, feel and smell like in 30 years. VR Artist Micah Westera and biodesigner from BlueCity Lab, Jamie Hornis created a 3D installation that shows an artistic impression of a bio designed future.

The Growcast

The Growcast

We also launched a brand new podcast during the festival: The Growcast. In The Growcast, biodesigner Emma van der Leest and program maker Barbara Vos, interview eight pioneering biodesigners – our so called bioneers – about what the future will look like if we design with nature as our guideline. In 8 episodes we’ll take you on a journey through biodesign: if we designed the new economy with living organisms, could it be the change we need for today’s current and future environmental and ecological challenges?

Guests in the podcast include Ermi van Oers from Nova Innova, designer Anna Alessia Viggiano, Tim van Koolwijk & Dr. Brent Jackson from Spireaux, biodesigner Lisa Jongejans, Laura Luchtman & Ilfa Siebenhaar from Living Colour, textile researcher Eduarda Bastian and biohacker Nico Bouchard.

Official opening BlueCity Lab

And last but not least, the very reason for this festival: BlueCity Lab finally opened its long awaited new labs! We closed of the first day of the festival with a speech by director Nienke Binnendijk and the Rotterdam Alderman for Sustainability, Arno Bonte. Together they opened the first circular biolab in the world during a festive online moment.


SYMBIOSIS Festival was made possible by the support of Stimuleringsfonds Creatieve Industrie.