Algal production needs to develop from a craft to a major industrial process. Major challenges are to reduce production costs and energy requirements and increase production scale. Although microalgae are not yet produced at large-scale for bulk applications, recent advances – particularly in the methods of systems biology, genetic engineering, process control, and biorefinery – present opportunities to develop this process in a sustainable and economical way within the next 10 to 15 years. AlgaePARC, a new applied research centre on microalgae has been set up at Wageningen UR to compare present technology, and to develop new reactor concepts and process control strategies to achieve lower production costs and energy requirements and to gain knowledge for the design and process control of large-scale microalgae facilities. The goal of AlgaePARC is to fill the gap between fundamental research on algae and full-scale algae production facilities. This is done in flexible pilot scale facilities in order to perform applied research and obtain direct practical experience. The set-up is fully automated and allows for fast changes between photobioreactor types, layout, and process control strategies. The initial systems chosen for reflect the present development of several reactor concepts at laboratory scale, by different research groups and companies, and will enable a rigorous comparison between systems, selection and, ultimately, the development of a more efficient system and optimized operational concepts. A five year research program started at AlgaePARC in 2011 and is presently supported by 17 companies in the food, oil, chemical and technology development sectors.