Sil Nevejans (29, Belgian) obtained her European Industrial Doctorate, while working at POLYMAT (Spain), BASF SE (Germany) and as a guest student at the TU Delft (The Netherlands). After that, she was a postdoctoral researcher at AVA Biochem (Switzerland), where she was responsible for the R&D of novel specialty polymers starting from bio-based building blocks produced at the site. During that time, she already worked in close collaboration with B4Plastics for a BBI JU Horizon 2020 project, SMARTBOX. Since July 2021, Sil Nevejans is a Business Developer at B4Plastics with a main focus on Sales and Marketing within the company.
Already quite soon during my PhD, I felt my interest shifted from the R&D lab to the route to market of the material that was developed in the lab. This is why I wanted to perform an Industrial Doctorate in the first place. After having reconnected with Stefaan (as he was my master thesis co-promoter) during my post-doc, it seemed a natural next step to move back to Belgium and use my R&D experience with polymers and biomaterials as a business developer and technical sales at B4Plastics in order to push new eco-plastics to the New Plastics Economy.
In my role in our scale-up, I link marketing to sales and go through the pipeline: starting at lead generation going over sales qualification and discussing new projects together with business partners, often from a very technical point of view. This is where my polymer background comes in very handy. As I work partially remote, home office days are different than the days at B4Plastics. When I work from home, I focus on topics that require more concentration and organization, while when I am at the headquarters in Limburg, I use the time to discuss different topics face-to-face with my colleagues (e.g. R&D projects, upscaling processes, customer relations or just how the weekend has been).
For a business developer in growing new markets, it is key to understand where and what the highest needs of the companies of that market are. More than talking to (potential) customers, you need to listen and ask questions, so you understand what challenges your partners are facing and how you can support them in the best possible way towards a sustainable solution. Combining a technical background with a strategical long-term attitude in terms of product development as well as partnerships is crucial. It is not about the short-term wins, but rather about crossing the chasm and building up a consistent image of B4Plastics as biomaterials R&D excellence center. Finally, passion, motivation, enthusiasm, optimism and especially patience are indispensable to keep on going for the long run.