Women for Women connects talent to Brainport region

“So much untapped talent that it drives you nuts,” says Ed Heerschap, LivingIn program coordinator at the Expat Center in Eindhoven. He and Kavitha Varathan, co-founder of the Expat Spouses Initiative, set up the Women for Women program. Heerschap: “The Brainport region is attracting new talent by making it more attractive for more highly educated expatriate women”. The closing event will take place on Thursday at the TU/e Blue Hall.

A number of influential women who have an exemplary role in the company where they work are participating in the program. Role models for inclusion, Heerschap explains. “They are early adopters,” adds Varathan. “Women who are already committed to more cultural diversity or to more women in the workplace.”

Women for Women links these ambassadors to the internationals who left a good job in their own country for the career of their partner. But that’s not the most important thing, adds Heerschap. The ambassadors are ambassadors of Eindhoven as well. “They not only help the international community in this way, but they also show what inclusion means to the city.”

High potentials

Like Susan ten Haaf, lawyer and partner at HVG Law. “I am a buddy within our organization and a career watcher for female high potentials.” She also set up a network for women entrepreneurs, which meets four times a year. Her goal is for more women to remain active in the business world in the Eindhoven region. “I signed up for the program because I find it very bizarre that talented people especially with a high level of education will at some point vanish. Or stay hidden between four walls.”

Ten Haaf considers it important that she was able to do something for a talent, but that she also meets other women who are working on the same issues as she is. “That inspires me all over again.”

It is Varathans’ and Heerschap’s dream that any international talent will be able to join the business world, that it is considered “normal”. “It is rather strange that a spouse doesn’t have a seat at the table when it comes to discussing a possible future abroad,” Heerschap continues. “We want all internationals to feel welcome and participate in our ecosystem. It really is a huge loss if we let all that talent go to waste.”

Kavitha Varathan, CEO of Expat Spouses Initiative

Varathan knows from personal experience what it is like to build a new life here. In 2008 she left India for her husband’s career, as he was offered a job at Philips Research. She went with him, and quit her job as an architect. She found a job in the legal profession here in The Netherlands. Yet she also noticed that other spouses weren’t able to manage that. With this in mind, she started the Expat Spouses Initiative in 2014. A platform for highly educated internationals that can help them find a job.

The Community

The community, as Varathan calls it, counts about 1800 members after five years. Of these, 97 percent are highly educated and about 11 percent have a PhD, “all motivated and ambitious women.”

During this third edition of Women for Women there will be a total of four meetings where all the talents and ambassadors get to meet each other. This Thursday is the fourth and final meeting where everyone is welcome. Not only to meet the talents, but also to hear the ambassadors’ stories. Varathan: “Two Philips ambassadors reveal how they achieve more inclusion and diversity at Philips. Stories that make you take action too. We want everyone to leave with the idea that they themselves can do something for more inclusion. Right now.”

You can register for the closing event via this link.

IoT and 5G offer the manufacturing industry a way to upgrade services

The Internet of Things, where everything around us is being digitized, offers opportunities. Already you can turn on the thermostat remotely or see who’s at your door at any time – even if you’re far from home. Plants in greenhouses are automatically watered when they need it. Anchors with sensors hold our dikes together and warn if the water tension and pressure changes. No longer does the dike reeve have to visit all the dikes. Much more is possible thanks to the future 5G network and everything will become connected to everything.

Els van de Kar, associate professor of Business Service Innovation at Fontys University of Applied Sciences Venlo, and Etienne Scholl, Domain Sales Manager at Ericsson, explain in a microlecture what the Internet of Things (IoT) and the 5G network can do for e.g. the manufacturing industry. This is where the manufacturing industry is going to make a difference. Not because of the products, but because of the service that they will be able to provide, says Van de Kar.

Smart Servitization

“That’s what you call a difficult word: servitization.” The Business Service Innovation research group is exploring how new technologies such as IoT, Big Data and 5G can provide a competitive advantage so that manufacturing companies can remain profitable. Fontys is not alone in this: The Netherlands has set itself the goal of having the most flexible and best digitally connected production network in Europe by 2021. This can be read in the Implementation Agenda 2018-2021, drawn up by the Smart Industry platform, FME, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy, the Dutch Chamber of Commerce, the Koninklijke Metaalunie and TNO.

Smart Servitization © Fontys Hogescholen

Together with LIOF, Vodafone, Ericsson, Zuyd University of Applied Sciences and Regitel, the lectorate forms a project group that is examining how far Limburg’s small and medium-sized enterprises and the manufacturing industry have come in terms of IoT. Van de Kar: “In other words, what about their level of IoT maturity? That’s a slow process in Limburg.” Students came by for an interview after companies had responded to a digital survey. While a company had responded digitally that it was well on its way when it came to IoT, it became clear from the interviews that most companies are only in the early stages of their implementation of IoT. “These trajectories take time and I assume that this will take a few steps at a time.”

“Consumers are already wireless, but factories have only just started”, Scholl continues. “The industry still uses a lot of machines that are connected by cable, regardless of how wireless technologies make factories more flexible. This is also down to the fact that this technology is completely new. It is unclear how it is going to progress. You have to run production in industry, and if your factory is shut down as a result of a malfunction, it will just cost you money. It is important that the technology is stable. They know that cables are stable.”

Speed vs latency

Aside from stability, speed is also important. “If we look at 4G, that’s not fast enough for all industries. 5G will be 20 times faster.” 5G also has an advantage for robotics. As there is always a delay in data that you send via the network, Scholl explains. “We call that ‘latency’. The delay is twenty-five to thirty milliseconds with 4G, whereas 5G reduces it to one millisecond. Which is necessary for self-driving cars, for one thing.”

The level of accuracy of 5G is greater. Scholl: “This is good when it comes to aircraft maintenance, for instance. Lots of tools are needed for that. With a single push of a button, the system checks whether all the material and tools that have been used are back in the right place. It’s terrible to think that a screwdriver might have gotten stuck in one of the engines.”

Many companies are already using wifi on the path to 5G, says Scholl. “Wifi works when there are only a few users. Compare it to a space where more and more people are coming. You start talking louder and louder and at some point you have to talk so loudly that you can no longer hear each other.” Scholl cites an example from the Rotterdam port where automated cranes load and unload container ships from China. “That went well using wifi until boats passed by that also had wifi networks, then the system kept dropping out.”


Plenty of options and advantages, yet the story behind the data is rooted in all these smart applications, Van de Kar goes on to say. Who owns the data, where is the data, what to do with all that data? When Van de Kar asks who would like to be connected to the rest of the world through their bicycle, house and car, one German student responds: “Not me! They’ ll be able to see into my brain in a second. And I enjoy taking care of my car and bike myself.”

There are more reservations. Afterwards, a Dutch fourth-year commercial economics student admits that he is skeptical. “I see it as a great gift, at least that’s also how companies present IoT and 5G. But there is no way back, I think. It seems as if companies will be able to offer cheaper services because of digitization, but I don’t see that happening quite yet. And you are missing out on the social aspect, I’m afraid that it will make society even more individualistic.”

Andreas Zosholl, a German international business student who is currently completing his studies at Groba, sees mostly opportunities. ” This introduction was very interesting for me personally. Not so much for my graduation thesis. With that, I’m mainly concerned with sensors and internet connections for the machines. 5G is still a step too far for Groba.”

Swim Skills Track: discover swim talent at a young age

A good swimming performance is not just about being able to swim very fast. It requires strength, technique, flexibility, stamina and mental skills. Factors that can be evaluated per swimmer, although how someone “coordinates” through the water is still an unknown factor. And that while this so-called “motor coordination” is such a good indicator for talent, says Jeroen Houtepen, student motion technology at The Hague University of Applied Sciences. He and Lisa de Koning graduated with their model of a circuit – the Swim Skills Track (SST). This provides insight into the coordination skills of children between 9 and 12 years of age.

The SST is part of one of the ‘talent development’ projects at the InnoSportLab De Tongelreep (a sports innovation and research center in Eindhoven, The Netherlands). Supervising these two were Aylin Post, PhD student, movement researcher and Embedded Scientist at the InnoSportLab De Tongelreep, and Peter Beek, Professor of Behavioral and Movement Sciences at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

Motor skills

There are five basic motor skills: speed, coordination, strength, agility and stamina. Children learn these skills by playing (outside). They then jump, run and throw. Which is important, because the more you practice, the better you get. Seeing what a child is capable of at a young age will help them in their subsequent sports career, De Koning explains.

As early as 1995, René Wormhoudt collaborated with Professor Geert Savelsbergh from VU Amsterdam on the design of the Athletic Skills Model (ASM) at Ajax. This talent development model was originally intended for sports, but may now be used for assessing the talent of anyone’s motor skills. The ASM can also be used to encourage children to exercise more.

Joris Hoeboer developed the Athletic Skills Track (AST) as part of the ASM, a motor skills test for physical education. Which formed the basis for the circuit in the water, says De Koning. “You can also use the AST to test a child’s motor skills, except that this is then done on land. It looks a bit like a monkey cage.”

They came up with seven different exercises that young swimmers have to do as efficiently as possible. “Efficiency is a good indicator of how well a child moves in water,” explains Houtepen. “We use the same style as an IQ test. Furthermore, there are have several other tasks. All of it says something about the overall motor skills involved in swimming,” says Houtepen.

Swim Skills Track: Tiger crawl © InnoSportLab De Tongelreep

Swim like a dolphin and crawl like a tiger

The start immediately launches the first test too: as in, a child is only allowed to start when they hear the buzzer. Then they dive off the starting block, swim underwater through a circle using a dolphin-style kick and crawl across a mat like a tiger (they are only allowed to use their arms). They swim to different points within an area of two by two meters in order to test their reaction speed and orientation. Then they turn around, swim fast for six meters and then four meters backwards, climb back on a mat, dive into the water and tap the pool wall.

Not boring

“The most important thing for us was that children should really enjoy it,” says De Koning. “In order to be able to say something about motor skills, a child has to complete the circuit several times. So it shouldn’t start to get boring.”

The very first test at the beginning of October showed that the children had a good time. Houtepen: “The children were initially allowed to do a practice lap, then do it three times as fast as possible. They all wanted to have another go after that just because they enjoyed it so much.”

Puberty changes everything (maybe)

As a swimming coach at PSV (football club), Pim van Hedel sees that so much can change due when puberty hits and kids start to grow. He mainly trains the juniors, 12 to 15 year olds. “Not only do they change physically, but their motivation and mentality might also change. It is good to discover talent at a young age. Then you will be able to give that child the right attention which could really benefit them later in life.”

Now talent is mainly selected well in advance. You are also able to see whether someone has got great technique. But it is still a bit of a gamble. Someone who is fast at a young age will not necessarily be fast when they’re older. Through using more of these tests you can look at other factors that can’t be measured or observed. That adds more depth.”

The SST is still in its infancy says PhD student and movement scientist Aylin Post who supervised the project. “The next step is to see if the SST also correlates with tests that are considered to be the gold standard on land. Like the KTK-NL test (Body Coordination Test for Children, ed.) The baseline is in place, now we have to see if the SST actually measures the seven coordination capabilities that we want to measure. We will keep up the research on this.”


(not) Desired: an app that saves your life, but also shares your data with commerce

A conversation with your running app: “Alexa, can you help me with my training?”

“Yes, I have just received information about your injury. Your heart rate monitor is on, your foot sensor is connected and you have slept well. It looks like you’re fit. You are ambitious and performance-oriented. You have to take your injury into account. I have put together your training. Are you ready to go?”

Is this real or fake? “This example is fake, but it is a reality as well,” says Professor Steven Vos, lecturer ‘Move to be’ at the Fontys University of Applied Sciences. Together with Colette Cuijpers, lecturer in Law and Digital Technology at the Juridische Hogeschool Avans – Fontys, he gave a public lecture on technology in sport: a curse or a blessing? “We don’t answer that question. For me, it’s both a curse and a blessing.”

Vos and Cuijpers discuss the different aspects of technology in sports. Cuijpers: “Sport is actually a separate world. There is layering in who determines the rules, the sports associations have quite a lot of autonomy. The anti-doping law says that there are forbidden methods and forbidden substances. But what really is allowed is determined by the sports associations.”

Using technology to get the best out of yourself is not new. “Tonny de Jong skated on the klapschaats for the first time in 1996″, says Vos, “Gunda Niemann was the fastest at the time and suddenly this girl skated four seconds faster on the five kilometres. World-shattering. Two years later, the whole skating world has this product.”

“The crazy thing is that about ten years later Speedo had developed a fantastic swimsuit”, Vos continues. “It was used for the first time in competition at the beginning of 2009. In one year, 103 world records were broken in swimming. Then came the World Cup in Rome. It had already been decided that the suit would not be used during the Olympic Games. During this World Cup, another 43 world records would be broken. What determines that the klapschaats can and the swimsuit can’t be used?”

Cuijpers: “It’s actually a game: how to get an advantage within the rules to achieve fair sport.” Cuijpers broadens this discussion to include society as a whole. “We are constantly thinking about how we can improve people. How can we restore functions that have broken down or deteriorated? Glasses or hearing aids are fine. But where is the limit if we are going to use technology to make better people? In sport, there are rules to maintain a certain degree of equality. But what would that look like on a more macro level? What does that mean in terms of equality throughout society? How do we qualify someone who, in part, is no longer made up of organic material but of bionic material? In fact, sport is the ultimate vestibule where you can see this happening. The klapschaats is allowed, the swimsuit is not. What will happen next?”

Individual coaching

In the example with Alexa, an athlete receives an individual training program that takes into account parameters such as sleep and heart rate and injuries. Vos: “You give each athlete a personal coach, that’s not the most exciting thing. The exciting thing is that you combine medical data with non-medical data. One step further: with artificial intelligence, you can create a learning system that calculates your algorithm from all the data. I think we’re only just exploring the possibilities of artificial intelligence today.”

If this is a threat or a development that we must embrace, Vos wonders. Two years ago, Belgian football club Racing Genk decided to monitor its players 24 hours a day. This was done after disappointing results and decreasing ticket sales. Vos: “A whole debate in the media started immediately. Especially because you don’t know what happens with the data. Players feel threatened. In the battle for profit, every percent counts. The coach thinks: If we want to play better, we have to do everything we can. Does the employer have something more to say about your body if players receive an annual salary of three to five tons per year? Especially if you want to make that body stronger with a gadget?”

PSV Eindhoven thinks of something similar, Cuijpers says. “From a legal point of view, our students have reflected on whether PSV is allowed to optimise the sports performances of the players. The students asked whether there was a privacy-sensitive aspect to this. The answer was: ‘No, it’s all covered in their employment contract. Our players have given permission for this’. How would you feel if an employment contract was presented at work, in which the choice of whether or not to work there depends on the fact that you want to provide insight into your activities 24/7”?

More than half of the attendees raise their hands when Cuijpers asks who would find that going too far. A former lecturer at Fontys responds: “I think there’s still a difference between working at PSV and working for Fontys. At PSV, my physical condition determines how much I contribute. A day of bad sleep doesn’t mean that I teach badly that day.”


Cuijpers: “From a legal point of view, it is entirely up to the context and the data involved. You have to be able to prove that the collection of data is important for your goal as an employer. If it concerns medical data, permission is required. But how free is consent in an employment relationship? More so if consent to the processing of that data is a prerequisite for maintaining your employment contract in the first place?”

“I’m not saying that the law is good or bad. There is a discrepancy between what the law requires and the cases before us. There is a grey area there. Is it covered if the players have given their consent?”

Closer to home, the same situation applies, where permission is clear. “Who has a wearable, for example, a Fitbit?” Cuijpers asks the audience. Hands go up. “Are you aware of with whom you all share data? Who has checked the general terms and conditions to see who will retrieve your data? Are there any of you who have changed the settings?”

In this case, too, most people’s hands go in the air. “Very good. The new legislation obliges the providers of these types of products to offer you freedom of choice by which you decide which functionalities you turn off and that you share data with other commercial parties. Often you give them as bulk permission. It is useful to adjust your sharing options if you do not want all those subsidiary companies to have access to your data.”

Saving state interests versus saving people’s lives

Another story is Strava, an app that connects you to your watch or bike computer and keeps track of your distance, speed and location. You can upload it to a platform and share your cycling or walking performance with others. “Strava can do something that no one else can”, says Vos. “Soldiers on a secret mission run around the camp within the fence, with Strava. This data can be collected and at the beginning of last year, there was a photo showing American and Dutch bases. State secret, but thanks to Strava, visible to the world. A week later, the Dutch ministry of defence organised a workshop to make soldiers aware of the danger of sports apps. That’s all well and good, but why did they never think of it before?”

“Then, at the end of 2018. Steven de Jongh, once a talented sprinter cyclist and now sports director at Trek-Segafredo. He is on tour with his team and is going on a bike ride. There is no sign of life for six hours. His wife, in panic, throws it on Twitter. In Strava there appeared to be a functionality that Strava continues to log without you being active. That man is found again, laying half-unconscious alongside the road – his life could be saved. An app of up to four euros a month that saves a life versus the app that threatens the interests of the state.”

Your Sport Pro: the online marketplace where athletes can find their personal trainer or coach

Next weekend the Dutch national men’s hockey team will play a qualifying game for the Olympic Games in Tokyo, against Pakistan. At that level, it is nowadays normal for the players to have a broad staff around them, not only for technical training but also for fitness and strength, nutrition, recovery and mental coaching. In top sport, every percentage improvement counts, a detail can make all the difference.

Not only in the absolute top, by the way: every performance-minded athlete benefits from this. “But for an average athlete, that extensive guidance is often too far away”, says Daan Hullegie. In 2015, he developed Your Sport Pro, an online platform that “makes supply and demand in the sport more transparent and accessible”. The platform has grown into an online marketplace where athletes can find the trainer they need on a daily basis. More than 2,800 trainers joined the platform throughout the Netherlands.

Hullegie: “More and more things are happening online: ordering food, buying clothes, booking holidays. We also orientate ourselves online for a healthy lifestyle and sport. Google receives the search query ‘lose weight’ thousands of times a day. Your Sport Pro responds to this demand for a healthy lifestyle. Whether it’s about losing weight, feeling fit, getting better in the sprint, climbing Alpe d’Huez or getting better as a team, with all your goals you can go there.”

How does it work? “With your objective and sports discipline, the platform will introduce you to a number of trainers in your region. You can contact him or her via the profile of the trainer you like the most. You can search very specifically for what you need.”

In order to be able to respond better to developments and trends in the sport, Hullegie works together with Zeloo, the management and marketing agency behind athletes such as Marianne Vos, Steven Kruijswijk, Gianni Romme and Tom Dumoulin. Together with Zeloo, Hullegie turned his idea into a working platform in 2016. “We have grown organically without using marketing. This has enabled us to monitor what is happening on the platform and to discover its potential.”

Your Sport Pro also brings specialized training methods closer to the average athlete, says Hullegie. “I believe that you have to invest in order to achieve your goal. Top athletes have a whole team of specialists around them, from trainer to physiotherapist, from a nutritionist to a sports psychologist. This is not the case for everyone. With this platform, I want to make it more accessible to find a specialist who will help you achieve your goal.”

At the end of 2017, one of the hockey players from the first team of Were Di in Tilburg knocked on Hullegie’s door for sponsorship. Hullegie wanted to sponsor but not in the form of a sum of money. The ladies had a goal and that was to reach the play-offs to promote to the premier league. Hullegie brought the team in contact with Miel van Berkel, a personal and group trainer with his own gym in Hilvarenbeek that was connected to Your Sport Pro since 2017.

Van Berkel gave the ladies four clinics of functional strength and fitness training focused on hockey. “In the end, the technical staff, the former trainer and the ladies themselves were so enthusiastic that I was able to finish the season as a strength and fitness trainer. This season I am also the strength and fitness trainer of the men’s group.”

According to Van Berkel, the crux is in hockey-related strength and fitness training. “It has to be fun, otherwise the ladies would go for a different sport.” Van Berkel gives his training once a week. This is done in a targeted way, Van Berkel explains: “A defender doesn’t always need the same thing as an attacker. There are also ladies with hamstring or back problems. Yet another has to strengthen her abdominal muscles. Or more explosiveness or manoeuvrability is needed. I don’t play hockey myself, but I do know which exercises are suitable to train that explosiveness and agility.”

Miel van Berkel en Were Di 1 © Your Sport Pro

Van Berkel had the ladies do tests last year after the winter break and at the beginning of this season. “Then you can see that they were fitter than last season before the start of this season. It’s not just your arms that help you drag a ball. You will do that better if you train your thigh muscles and are stronger in your abdominal muscles. You have to know how to use your whole body so that the ball will be hit harder and more exact. And the fitter you are, the less quickly you get tired and you can stay focused longer.” Last season the ladies “just missed” the play-offs towards the premier league.

Through Your Sport Pro, trainers like Van Berkel can be booked by every athlete, says Hullegie. His formula is also interesting for companies. “Friesland Campina, for example, used the platform. Users of the Vifit product were able to win five sessions with a personal trainer as a win action. The prize winners redeemed their prizes via Your Pro Sport by finding a personal trainer that suited them.”

Become a better manager by doing judo? This former top athlete teaches you how

Ever since she was very young, Jennifer Wichers had been in training every day to win an Olympic gold medal in judo. She recently had to let go of that dream. She is still busy with judo, albeit more as a metaphor for entrepreneurship. Her company stems from her graduation thesis which won her the 2016 Sport Innovation Prize at the Hanze University of Applied Sciences in Groningen in the Netherlands.

“My life was dominated by judo. I strove every day to improve as a judoka,” Wichers explains. “You are constantly analyzing yourself. What can I do better? Who do I need around me in order to make progress? – Physical therapists, mental coaches, technique trainers, strength trainers? It’s essentially a never-ending puzzle. Which is also quite nice.”

She came very close. At the age of fourteen she won gold at the Youth Olympic Games. This was the basis for her judo career. She competed for a long time on an international level after that. She won numerous European and international medals. But besides all of that, she also suffered a lot of injuries on both her shoulders, her ankle ligaments and an elbow. In 2016, a spiral fracture in her middle finger threw a spanner in the works for the 2020 Games.

She then spotted opportunities in the field of entrepreneurship during her search for a subject that she could connect judo to. Wichers explains that in the past articles had been published on judo economics. Based in part on using judo as a metaphor for how you can actually use the weight of a larger competitor against themselves. As an example, look at how a large organization is less likely to adapt to changes than a smaller one. “Yet there wasn’t really a connection with entrepreneurship at that time.” That’s where she found her new challenge: judo as a metaphor for entrepreneurship.

“I had to diversify into another branch of sport and that’s where I met quite a few challenges. From time to time my thesis supervisor threw me into the deep end. That was great, it cleared the way for me to delve more deeply in different ways.” Wichers managed to get through this and she succeeded in completing her research which she subsequently won a prize for. She also wrote a scientific article about her research which has since been published.

Workshops and corporate training

After graduating, Wichers started her own company – Judo Your Business. She gives workshops and corporate training. “In my courses, I teach you how to apply the practical language of judo and the philosophy behind it to your own work and your organization. This can vary per organization.  Someone may have a question about cooperation, another about giving feedback to each other, and somebody else wants to know how you can do more within a team or on the job. As I adopt a different approach, which is theoretically substantiated, it can produce very surprising results.” The other approach I use starts out with the judo suit that you put on and ends up on the tatami (the judo mat). “I don’t know how you are with your colleagues, but in a lot of companies you just don’t get into each other’s comfort zone that easily. We do that here, but we build it up very slowly.”

“In judo, you have, amongst other things, leverage techniques that allow you to make certain moves much more efficiently. Which saves you a lot of effort.  The participants can also transfer that to their companies. Because people are going to practice and apply that and see and feel the difference, I get reactions like: ‘Wow, I didn’t expect that.'”

Aniek Ouendag, coordinator of VentureLab North at the University of Groningen, took part in Wichers’ workshop with her team two months ago. Over the past five years, the team has grown from three to fifteen employees. “That is quite a transformation. We wanted something else than just talking to each other during a strategy day. That makes you feel a tad stupid.” Ouendag knows Wichers from the entrepreneurial environment in Groningen and suggested taking a ‘judo workshop’. “You really start thinking differently about your work. You also start talking to each other differently. Because if you’ve done judo with each other, you can talk about it with each other afterwards.”

From judo to management

What Ouendag likes is how Wichers has translated judo into business practice. “The most important thing I’ve learned from this is that by moving with each other, you can get things done. That you don’t always have to compete against someone. That in itself makes sense, but because you actually get to do this in a physical way, I now see it differently.”

Ouendag primarily applies judo techniques in her conversations with entrepreneurs. “Some are mainly specialists when it comes to their products and don’t yet see the point of having an in-depth knowledge of business management. I then tell them that, as experts, they could mislead someone who has no knowledge of their product. But an accountant might do that to them as well. That way I try to get them to understand that they have to deal with more aspects of business management than just product development.”

Wichers is part of a solid tradition. The Japanese Kanō Jigorō brought this new martial art judo to life at the end of the nineteenth century. Kano wanted to introduce more ethics into the sport. He thought winning a match was trivial. According to him, it was only of limited value if you couldn’t apply it in everyday life.

Dutch Design Week’s Hidden Gem # 5: Maatschappelijke Vormgevers MVG, socially engaged designers

The Weeghuisje (Weigh House) is less than four square meters in size and can be found on the Strijp T creative design production site. The platform, on which the trains were weighed originally, and the rails are all still there. The scale is inside the Weeghuis and the name of the ‘weigher’ is still on the window. Like all the other buildings on the site, it no longer served any purpose with the departure of Philips. That is, until the upcoming Dutch Design Week (DDW). This is the first time that the Maatschappelijke Vormgevers collective (MVG, Social Designers) will present their work there.

Initiators Lotte de Haan and Dennis Meulenbroeks explain how they want to bring social design closer to people. Meulenbroeks: “You have to experience what it is. We don’t design a chair that you can put in a showroom to show people what we’re doing.”

During the DDW, MVG are creating a bridge between society and social design. Under the name “Snapje” (“Get it?” in English), the collective organizes guided tours of projects at the DDW in Arabic and for people with modest means. De Haan: “We want to build a bridge this way between people who usually never or don’t easily come into contact with designers and the world of design.”

De Haan graduated in 2018. She won second prize at the Social Design Talent Award 2018 with her graduation project ‘SamSam‘. Samsam is a language café where senior citizens and new Dutch citizens can talk to each other and do something for each other, says De Haan. ” I never would have thought beforehand that this would be the outcome.” The sole theme of her project was a study of the social needs of older people. She visited several residential care centers, talked to carers and learned about how people work together. She also played with scrabble with Tineke every week for two months. “This is the only way to understand what is happening. What everyone finds important. When I came there the first week and asked what it was like, she said ‘it’s okay.’ During the second and third week too. But in the fourth week she opened up and I found out what she really wanted. That she still wants to be able to do something for others. She said, “When you come and see me, I still feel relevant.”

Project SamSam ©

That was the catalyst for the language café. De Haan took a Polish woman along with her who played a game with Tineke. That one woman turned into two and that’s how it steadily grew. De Haan: “The way in which the language café was set up, was also only possible because we went through this process step by step. I included everyone in the process and adapted it so that they, the residents and carers, could carry on with it.”

Swimming against the tide

Meulenbroeks has had experience in the social domain since 2006. He studied product design at the Fontys University of Applied Sciences. After his graduation in 2006, he started at T+HUIS. “I think we were the first designers in Eindhoven to work within the social domain. Terms such as social design or living labs didn’t exist yet back then. Nobody understood what we were. Social workers or designers? We had to swim against the tide for quite some time in order to show that designers are indeed able to work within the social domain.” The T+HUIS has grown into an organization that is active in the Oud-Woensel and Kruidenbuurt districts of Eindhoven, among other places. The T+HUIS designers are working on good residential environments for children. Also as a kind of link between parents, schools and welfare organizations.

After graduating, De Haan struggled with the question of how a social designer would be taken seriously by the business community and the social domain. She talked it over with Meulenbroeks at the end of 2018. Meulenbroeks: ” Newly graduated social designers all have a sense of: ‘we want to -but how?'” De Haan: “You don’t learn that at school.” Meulenbroeks: ” And that’ s how MVG came into being: a collective for social designers. So that we can procure projects together.”

The collective will be presenting itself for the first time during the Dutch Design Week. That was their goal for this year. Meulenbroeks: “I’ve always been taught that you first have to learn how to walk before you can run.” So the foundation was laid and a website was created. MVG is a spin-off from the T+HUIS.  In addition to De Haan, Aline Gerards, Roxane de Jong, Sara Kaiser, Lian Kroes and Cas van Son are also involved. From its roots in the T+HUIS, MVG has many years of experience in the social domain. “I know my way around and know how to address a council member,” Meulenbroeks explains.

In dialogue

MVG also collected municipal questions from Eindhoven residents for DDW. Like: Why are there so many expensive apartments being built in Eindhoven and not social housing? De Haan: “We are looking for the person who can give an answer to those questions. Plus we are designing methods we will use to enter into those dialogues. So that the answer will actually be understood and doesn’t become a one-sided monologue.”

These conversations are at relevant locations. The projects from the various designers are on display in the Weeghuisje. This often happens to by way of a short film, says Meulenbroeks. “You can show a chair. But T+Huis has also designed the T-LAB in Helmond, for example. A building with five floors. It’s hard to put that here in the Weeghuis. What matters is that various welfare organizations work together. I’ll illustrate this in a video.” There are also workshops where MVG talks to visitors about what social design is concerned with.

You can register for the guided tours via the affordable option Social design, what’s that all about?, and for Arabic speakers: Design in Arabic.

Location: The Weeghuisje, Achtseweg Zuid, Strijp T+R, Eindhoven

The Dutch Design Week is the largest design festival in Northern Europe. Each year, we pick out ten designers from a huge selection that we consider to be this year’s Hidden Gems. You can read all about their stories there.

This series was created in collaboration with Dutch Design Daily and curator Katja Lucas from DDW. Would you like to visit the DDW hidden gems yourself? Every day, Brandstore Eindhoven/VVV is organizing a bicycle tour along the selected designers. More info can be found here.




Studio RENS: Dutch Design Week’s Hidden Gem # 3

“‘You see X a lot online, you also use it to point out where you are and X means ten, of course.” Stefanie van Keijsteren has the floor. She and Renee Mennen form the designer duo RENS. And RENS is celebrating its tenth anniversary during the Dutch Design Week (DDW). With their exhibition “RENS Marks the spot” Van Keijsteren and Mennen especially want to show that everything they do together is RENS X: Auping, Pode, Desso, Baars & Bloemhoff, Cor Unum, Best Wool and the Zuiderzee Museum.

“Collaboration is our primary focus. We strongly believe that you really have to work together. We have our expertise and the manufacturers, brands, companies and labels have theirs. By combining all of that, you really reach a whole new level.” RENS staged an exhibition for Auping in 2017. The duo did a color study based on Auping’s sales figures. “You then see Aupings in various colors. What will the customer choose, how many blue beds have been sold? We wanted to use this study to give customers a face.” Auping only works to order and has no stock. As a result, the customer has a lot of influence on the company, Van Keijsteren explains. “That was interesting for us, because the customer actually decides what colors they want.”

“Marketing people – who in the main just look at figures – were really surprised: ‘Has that much blue been sold? Even though it was all in their sales lists, they didn’t have a visual image at all.”

Show your true colors

As a result of that color study, Van Keijsteren saw, among other things, how “anxious we are as individuals to bring color into our interiors.” During the exhibition, she often heard people say: “You’ll soon get sick of it.” “So then you choose gray, for instance, because it fits with everything? Which fascinates us, of course.  Because why do you say you’ve had enough of blue instead of gray? Then Renee said: ‘You’ve probably already had enough of gray.’ Nobody says: I think grey is the most beautiful color there is.”

Mennen and Van Keijsteren explore these kinds of issues. How do we work with color? “It is also a bit sad in a way, making a choice is apparently not that easy. As in show your true colors.”

Zuiderzee Museum © Lisa Klappe


This interest in color just arose out of the blue, Van Keijsteren says. She and Mennen began their exploration into the color red. That was in 2012 and this interest is still reflected in their work at RENS. Van Keijsteren: “It started with the question: What if you paint everything red? What other colors would you get from that? We all have a certain shade of red in our heads, that bright color. The color of love, but also of aggression.” Various shades of red are created when you dip all kinds of materials into red dye. “Sometimes it became almost orange or more earthy. Now and then almost a kind of aubergine. There are so many different shades that Renee and I sometimes thought: Where does the color red end?”

“Red is also a difficult color”, Van Keijsteren continues, “It is a color that is the most difficult to maintain. As a result of sun discoloration, red is the first color to fade away.” Some companies carry out extensive research with the aim of preserving the color red in materials. For example, in the car industry or in the textile industry. “In the end, everything fades. But everyone wants to be sure that if they buy a sweater or car now, it will look just the same ten years from now. While I’m thinking: why bother? You’ve got it in your head that if something is faded, it’s old. But often it’s even more beautiful.”

During the DDW, Mennen and Van Keijsteren will be showcasing projects they did with Auping, Pode, Desso, Baars & Bloemhoff, Cor Unum, Best Wool and the Zuiderzee Museum in their studio on Halvemaanstraat. The color research for Auping, the ceramics collection for Cor Unum, where the women developed a new coloring technique to color ceramics red. “Which never really turns red.” It was mainly about the color of history for the Zuiderzee Museum.

There is also an exhibition in Piet Hein Eek’s show room where Mennen and Van Keijsteren visualize Best Wool’s story. “Best Wool makes woolen carpets, its large and extremely well known within the carpet industry. Best Wool manufactures products predominantly for others. We tell the company’s story in a different way. You often see that companies that have been doing the same thing for years no longer see the uniqueness and beauty of the product nor how it is made. As we walk around, we see new opportunities everywhere, we see the most beautiful things. We try to capture these beautiful things in images, text and installations. That’s what we’ll be presenting at the DDW.”

Perhaps color is the ‘common thread’ running through RENS’ work. Even if we didn’t consciously choose to do that, Van Keijsteren explains. “This is the way it came about and we are still very curious about color.” The duo are often asked to provide tips on how to use color. “That’s not what we’re busy with. We’re not that preoccupied whether yellow always combines well with this color or that one. It’s a completely different way of looking at ordinary color anyway. In our opinion, there are no ugly colors. It’s actually how you place something in a particular context.”

Location: Halvemaanstraat 24

The Dutch Design Week is the largest design festival in Northern Europe. Each year, we pick out ten designers from a huge selection that we consider to be this year’s Hidden Gems. You can read all about their stories there.

This series was created in collaboration with Dutch Design Daily and curator Katja Lucas from DDW. Would you like to visit the DDW hidden gems yourself? Every day, Brandstore Eindhoven/VVV is organizing a bicycle tour along the selected designers. More info can be found here.




Research and development subsidies with the help of EY

It’s been in existence for 25 years. The Dutch Research and Development Promotion Act (Wet Bevordering Speur- en Ontwikkelingswerk, WBSO). Thanks to the WBSO entrepreneurs can carry out more research on innovations. This is to enable them to transform ideas into successful products and services more quickly, as can be read on the website of the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (Rijksdienst voor Ondernemend Nederland, RVO). Every entrepreneur, whether small, large or just starting out, can make use of it as long as they have staff in their employ. Ilse Jansen and Gerben Hellinga at EY know all about the scheme and they have come across all kinds of things in their dealings with it.

“Ranging from any boffin who has a brilliant idea and is working on their own, to (family) companies that have been very stable and have had an R&D (Research & Development) department for years, to the major players who have large R&D centers like so many different companies in the Eindhoven region. You really are at the forefront of developments, at the very heart of companies,” says Hellinga. He has had years of experience with the WBSO and works as senior tax manager at EY, a global concern which specializes in accountancy, tax advice and business advice. “EY has been expanding its subsidy activities for a number of years now.”

Read moreResearch and development subsidies with the help of EY

Swimm: Swim anywhere, anytime for everyone

Three start-ups have been nominated for the Dutch Sports Innovation Award. The award ceremony will take place on October the 7th during the Dutch Sport Innovation Congress. Swimm is one of the nominees.

Swimming as if you are swimming in open water, but then at the same time a bit like running on a treadmill. This is made possible with Swimm, a ‘counter-current installation’ that creates a fifty centimeter wide and fifty centimeter deep smooth stream of water in any swimming pool – without any bubbles. It is comparable to swimming in open water, says entrepreneur Mark Smits, who with twenty years of experience in the retail and development of swimming pools is always on the lookout for innovation. He wants to use Swimm to get everyone swimming.

How does it work?

In order for swimming to feel like swimming in open water, a lot of water is needed to provide a human body with buoyancy and resistance, Smits explains. A propeller makes propulsion possible, like how a boat moves through the water. This is not new, there are also some swimming spas that have it. What makes it different, is the power of the Swimm and the way that energy flows through the water. A system of grids and guides ensure that the water generates a smooth stream without turbulence. At the maximum setting, approximately 1.2 million liters of water per hour is pumped around at the same speed as the Olympic level of long distance swimming.

“The Swimm is a counter-current installation that can be purchased in two versions. A wall-mounted model that can be built into any pool, and a compact model: the intelligent pool.”

The stream can be controlled from inside the pool. But you can also program your own training in advance. With specially developed software, you can determine how hard the current flows. A swimmer can create their own program. They will be able to access this program via their account on any Swimm, wherever it is located.

At the moment Smits is still developing and selling the pools primarily to private individuals. He does this through his company Thermostar Swimming Pools. The idea was born eight years ago – that of making smaller swimming pools as a way to broaden the swimming pool market, Smits explains. He discovered that people mainly wanted a current in these types of smaller pools. “One of the conditions I had at the start was that I really wanted to develop something different from existing jet streams, for example. These are nothing more than a jet of water that you can swim against. That doesn’t even work properly. It’s more like a children’s toy.”

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hdsR8TsCtsM]

Smits cites hotels and gyms as other potential customers. And the healthcare sector. He is in talks with health insurers and healthcare organizations active in the care for the elderly and the disabled. “In disability care, people are not interested in strong currents. Parents with multiple disabilities are able to enjoy being in water with a variant that provides gently flowing water across the breadth of the water. This has a relaxing effect. The advantage of the Swimm is that it does not have to be transferred to a large swimming pool. A taxi ride can be quite stressful for someone like that, if for no other reason than that the taxi might be late.” Smits hopes to run a new pilot in healthcare next year. The discussions about this are promising, but the decision-making process takes time, Smits explains.

New developments

“In the north of the country we are conducting a test which involves installing smart cameras in the pool walls. They see where the swimmer is in the pool. The water flow then automatically adjusts to the swimmer’s speed. You actually create the feeling of being able to swim freely this way. If you go faster, the water gets faster. If you swim slower, it will also automatically turn more gentle. We are doing this together with a company that develops medical cameras.”

“We’ve also developed a system that allows us to calibrate every Swimm that we’ve made so far. That way, I’m sure they will all provide exactly the same water current at a set speed. There is resistance inside every pool which influences current, among other things.” This calibration is important for the next step. Smits wants to set up a social media platform. “Where people can share their personal races and training sessions with each other. You can then upload and share your races so that the other will be able to swim a race against you. For example, if the other person swims faster, a green LED will light up in their pool. If they slow down, it turns red.”

Smits thinks in small steps. “That platform isn’t there yet. But we can calibrate our pools and we are working on those cameras. That way we can take a new step every three or four months.”

Customers’ reactions

Smits is most proud of the response from customers. “That gives us so much energy. That’s the best thing out there. Everyone who gets out of a Swimm, no matter how skeptical they might have been beforehand about that ”little pool,” has a huge smile on their face and says: “This is a real workout, it’s so cool’.”

The Dordrecht amateur swimmer Kevin de Koning always had the dream of having his own swimming pool. Six months ago he met Smits. After Smits’ enthusiastic story about the Swimm, De Koning went for a trial swim. “A whole new world opened up for me. It’s not just swimming lengths – it’s really exercising. It has so much more power than a swimming pool with a jet stream.”

A month ago, the Swimm was installed at De Koning’s place. “My whole rhythm has changed. I notice that on a day like today I am already thinking this morning: I’m coming home tonight and then I’m going to jump into the pool for twenty minutes and go for it. Maybe it’s because I only just got it and it’s the adrenaline kicking in. But I have noticed that it does a lot for me. Another advantage is that you can do interval training with it.”

Every day De Koning swims outdoors in his Swimm. Except when there’s a storm like yesterday, he says. “And I still doubt whether I will leave it on during the frost season from November to January. The heat pump is fairly energy efficient until it reaches a temperature around freezing point.”

De Koning is amazed by the reactions, especially from those around him. “People of all ages, I’m 35 myself. Friends think it’s absolutely fantastic. And I notice that elderly people in my area are also very interested. They like to go swimming like this. I think it’s a huge opportunity for the future. Not only for the elderly but also for young people. If you can also compete with others, for instance. That way you can get a certain pleasure out of swimming, plus it’s basically just good for your physical health.”

Smits himself is perhaps one of the most fanatical users, he confesses. “I swim three to four times a week. It’s great when I notice that I can go up a notch again.”

The retail price of the Swimm starts at 29,000 euros. It is currently still 34,000 euros, but due to changes in the purchasing process, a reduction in the price is possible, says Smits. The most luxurious version is 55,000 euros.




“AirBadminton is making the sport way cooler.”

A specially developed shuttlecock with which you can play badminton even when there is wind, should make the sport more accessible around the world. The Badminton World Federation (WCF) introduced AirBadminton in May this year as a new addition to ‘traditional’ indoor sports. “This is an excellent opportunity for us to increase the visibility of badminton,” says Matthijs Deken, Marketing and Research Manager at Badminton Nederland.

The association organized twelve Badminton Festivals where members and visitors were introduced to AirBadminton. Last weekend was the last festival, held in Nijmegen.

It took the WCF five years in order to develop the shuttlecock. Several European countries tested the shuttlecock along with the game. Aside from the Netherlands, France, Spain and Finland are ‘pilot countries’. Finland organized a beach tournament in August. Based on these experiences, the federation is adapting the shuttlecock and the game so that in time it might become part of more extensive sporting events, such as the Olympic Games,” says Ian Wright, WCF Director of Development.

Better than the plastic version at the campsite

Goose feathers are the ideal material for indoor shuttlecocks. The WCF is researching and testing a suitable replacement for these as well. A shuttlecock made of feathers adds dynamism to the game. You can use effects that turn badminton into a more tactical game. Tests for a replacement for the goose feather version are still ongoing. For AirBadminton, the WCF developed a shuttlecock with a slightly heavier tip so that the weather has less of an impact on the shuttlecock. The AirShuttle’s material is also different. Every single hole in the shuttlecock has been placed at the right dimensions and distances as a result after a lot of testing. Deken: “It is not a replacement for the goose feather version, but rather a huge improvement compared to the usual plastic version we all know from the campsite.”

AirShuttle © Badminton the Netherlands

AirBadminton may have a cooler image because you can play it on the beach or in a park. We want to let badminton be seen,” says Deken. The association, who has seen its membership decline, also sees the potential for the sport. There are more people who play badminton, about 285,000, according to research by the NOC*NSF.  “The Dutch play badminton mainly on the campsite and that’s fine. But with AirBadminton, you could also play on the beach, in the park or on a square.”

People were able to get acquainted with the new sport during the Badminton Festivals. The heavier shuttlecock has been in use since the 10th of May. “Even though the WCF only introduced the shuttlecock to the world at the end of May. So we had a very special time at the first Badminton Festival in Middelburg.” The official AirShuttle and the fields were not yet up and running at that time, says Deken. Wright says that the shuttlecock will be released at the end of this year, after all the pilots and tests have been completed.

Fast-paced sport

Badminton is one of the fastest racquet sports out there, says Dick Breeuwer. He is a fanatic badminton player and, in addition to his job as a facilitator, he also coaches at four different clubs. He was tournament leader during the festivals in Zandvoort and Nieuwegein and arranged the matches. ” It was actually completely full in Nieuwegein.” According to Breeuwer, AirBadminton could “be a thing.” “The speed of indoor badminton is regaining its momentum. People often think that badminton is an easy sport – not much more than hitting a shuttlecock back and forth on a small field. But once you’re busy with it, you notice how fast it is. You really need to be in good shape, you hardly have time to catch your breath.”

Aside from the shuttlecock, there is an important difference between indoor and outdoor badminton. There’s a two meter ‘dead zone’ at the net. No points can be scored there, so you can’t hit the shuttlecock just over the net. Deken: “That’s to keep the speed up.”

At winds higher than force four, AirBadminton isn’t fun to play either, Breeuwer continues. “In any case, when there is more wind, there is more technique involved.” But he thinks it’s a good alternative to indoor badminton. With AirBadminton, indoor badminton players are able to go outdoors and extend their season, says Deken. “Why should you stop during the summer? And new badminton players will be able to keep on playing indoors during the winter.”

Video AirBadminton:

Video Badminton Festival



Stronger foot muscles provide more stability for runners

Unfortunately it will not be in time for the World Athletics Championships in Doha that starts on Monday, but recent research carried out by the University of Leuven (KU Leuven) offers new insights for athletes with injuries to their foot muscles. And that is especially good news for runners who have pronation issues.

When you run, your foot tilts slightly so as to cushion the shock of the landing. That’s called pronation. Runners with overpronation tilt their foot inward, which may lead to injuries. At least that’s the prevalent idea. There are shoes available that give more stability to the foot so as to avoid straining the foot. Research conducted by the University of Leuven shows that it is not so much the movement of the foot that leads to injuries, but rather the strength of the foot muscles that is a factor. In that case, a corrective shoe of this type is not necessary.

Pronatie © KU Leuven

Overpronation affects one in five people. It is often associated with stress injuries common in knee, tibia and ankle problems. Not all runners with overpronation suffer from injuries. The research group Biomechanics of the Human Movement, led by Professor Benedicte Vanwanseele, studied this difference. Thirty regular runners who run at least fifteen kilometers per week were examined. Only half of the participants were injured in the last six months even though they all presented with overpronation. In the movement analysis laboratory at KU Leuven, the participants had stickers applied to their joints, including their feet. They walked over a pressure plate and an ultrasound was made of the muscles in their feet. “This is how we measured the thickness of the foot muscle.”

“What was noticeable in our research is that the injury-free runners had larger foot muscles. This may explain why they are able to better control the tilting movement of the foot, or in other words, pronation. And consequently, suffer fewer injuries,” says Vanwanseele. “Overpronation is actually caused by a combination of factors. The tilt of your foot, but also the position of your forefoot. Are you standing more inwards or outwards?” The research also shows that for runners experiencing stress symptoms, their forefoot is more outward facing. “However, a lot of research into stress focuses on the rear of the foot. Yet this was the case in our two research populations. The difference between people with and those without stress injuries is attributable to the movement of the forefoot.”

Remedial shoes with an anti-pronation block under the back of the foot are not necessary, says Vanwanseele in conclusion. ” These kinds of shoes do something. But the problem is that this does not need to be corrected. In a previous study, we showed that people who wear those types of shoes actually develop smaller muscles. Because you tend to fix those muscles and not put too much strain on them. So they have very little to do. People who walk on minimalist shoes develop those larger muscles. They actively train those foot muscles.”

Kari Rein, owner of the Rønnør runner’s store, has noticed that many issues runners experience can be traced back to how stable and strong their feet are. “What I often do when people come in with issues, I ask them to take off their shoes and socks and stand on one leg. Some people then have trouble keeping their balance. It all starts with the fact that people are unstable.” In order to be able to give good advice, Rein always asks about the background of a runner: how much do you train, what is your goal, how long have you been running, do you have any complaints while you are running, do you have a trainer or do you train alone, or do you use support insoles? “You do need a full picture of that runner.”

Rein also says that in the past a lot was done in order to provide that stability in the shoe. ” In actual fact, remove the entire pronating dynamic and fix everything in place. You straighten everything out. That was normal back then. But attitudes have since changed. Fewer remedial shoes are sold nowadays and shoes are less heavy. But it’s not easy to say whether something is right or wrong. That varies from person to person.”

“Today, for example, there was a runner in the shop who runs long distances with support insoles. She is going to do her interval training on a very flexible shoe, without those support insoles. Shorter interval training means a higher stress level, but it does take less time. She can handle that and that will make her stronger.”

With the aid of further research, the Vanwanseele research team wants to find out how runners who have overpronation might be able to reduce the risk of stress injuries. “We are going to see how we can strengthen the foot muscles and improve control of the tilting movement. An interesting route we would like to explore, is the use of forefoot soles to train the muscles and hopefully prevent injuries caused by overpronation.”


From boring tongue exercises to an exciting app: how Mouth Game can help the speech therapist

Speech therapy student Melissa Verdel wants to help people. That’s why she chose to study at the Fontys Paramedical School, because “communicating is something you do every day and if you can’t do it well enough, your life is going to be incredibly difficult”. Verdel wants to ‘cure’ people with innovation. At the beginning of her fourth year at Fontys, her Mouth Game won the Think Bigger Prize. It’s a game that makes speech therapy less boring.

“I didn’t expect it at all, I never win anything”, Verdel confesses. The Fontys Think Bigger jury also praised her entrepreneurship. As she puts it herself: “If I want something, I will always just go for it. I don’t mind going to strangers if I need information, or to use my network.” That’s exactly what she did while trying to build her game. “I got the tip to talk to someone from the engineering department. That’s where my first prototype came from.”  

During the second year of her studies, she and a number of others were involved in a project in which they had to come up with an innovation for speech therapy, says Verdel. “Then we came up with this idea and in a week’s time we worked it out.” That idea makes boring speech therapy treatments more fun for children. And that’s important, because about 75 percent of children develop incorrect teeth, partly due to abnormal oral habits such as keeping the tongue low in the mouth, explains Verdel. “You want to get that tongue against the palate, hence our Mouth Game.” 

Making a puppet jump with your tongue

A mouth bit with a sensor at the bottom registers when you hit your palate with your tongue. This sensor is in Bluetooth connection with an app. “On this app, children can see that a puppet, for example, jumps when they hit that sensor with their tongue. This way they play a game, which makes it more fun to practice. Now, for example, children have to ‘click’ their tongues a hundred times a day. Of course, when you’re six, seven or eight years old, that’s incredibly boring.”

If you keep your tongue low in your mouth, you get a narrow palate and your jaw stays narrow. Later on, you may require medical intervention to make the jaw wider, says Verdel. “If you hold your tongue high against your palate, the jaw will form ovally around your tongue. Then you automatically get a wider jaw.” 

Another advantage of the tongue high up in your mouth is that you automatically breathe through your nose. Divide: “When you breathe through your nose, you heat the air, which is better for your throat and lungs. And your nose hairs remove dirt. With your tongue low in your mouth, you’ll breathe through your mouth sooner.”


Also for your speech, it is better to learn to keep your tongue high. “When you swallow with your tongue between your teeth, you get a gap between your teeth. Those teeth don’t grow any further because the tongue is between them. Then you get a different set of teeth, with which the sounds of the s, z, d, t, l, n can’t be made well enough. Children can then start lisping.”

The idea remained on the shelf for a year. Until Verdel, in her third year of study, thought: I really want to get on with it. She consulted her fellow students. “Due to circumstances, they could not participate in the further development. So I started working on it myself. A lot has happened since then.” She made contact with the Centre for Entrepreneurship, with lectorates and with teachers. And so, together with Fontys Engineering, she made the first prototype. When she saw on the Fontys website that you could apply for the Think Bigger prize, she thought: Why not? There were 22 entries: 13 students and 9 employees. She won the students’ prize.

“The prototype works, but it’s not yet safe enough to put it in someone’s mouth. There is also no app yet.” These are her next steps. “I noticed that things can go very quickly. As with that prize. I won it on Monday and a few days later I already had connections that offered their help. My idea is out in the open now and that’s very nice.”

Verdel finds it exciting and she is looking forward to further developments. Especially the contact with the professional field. “The contacts with speech therapists who give this treatment are crucial. What do they run into? What can I help them with? They have to start using it. To offer an addition to your profession, that’s really cool.”

Award winning ShoQR: focus on the patient or the therapist?

In the train from his hometown Den Hoorn to his work in Eindhoven at the Fontys Paramedische Hogescholen, Tim Gerbrands scrambled together an excel file, hoping his students could take it further. In his lab, he has all the equipment he needs to examine joint loads in people with knee osteoarthritis. Equipment that is unaffordable for a physiotherapist or podiatrist. Gerbrands, a Fontys lecturer and a movement scientist who is researching knee osteoarthritis for his PhD, was convinced that this situation should be improved. His idea grew into ShoQR, an idea with which he won the ‘Fontys Think Bigger Prize‘ on 2 September.

“I ended every article during my PhD research with the sentence: ‘But you can’t do this in practice, someone should look for a solution for that’.” Gerbrands turned out to be exactly that ‘someone’. In his lab, a relatively empty space of about eight by fourteen metres, Gerbrands has all the equipment to follow every movement and to measure the forces that people use to do so. People walk back and forth across a rectangular surface. Right in the middle is “a kind of scale” that not only measures the forces vertically but also horizontally. “So we can not only see how big the force is, but also in which direction that force is relative to the joints. Two high-speed cameras register every movement from every angle and there is a tripod with three infrared cameras, which register the movements three-dimensionally. “We stick infrared lights on our test persons and those cameras follow those lights. The data that come from it are visualised in a ‘point cloud’ on your computer; we use it to represent a patient in our analysis.”

Knee joints

Gerbrands uses the equipment in his lab to investigate the forces on the knee joints of these patients. Because, he says, people who can’t put the same amount of strain on their joints have to find another way to prevent them from collapsing. “That’s what we call compensation strategies. Everyone applies them, for example if you have a small stone in your shoe, you immediately start walking differently to relieve that foot.”

Knee osteoarthritis is damage to the cartilage in the knee. With his PhD research, Gerbrands wants to reduce the knee load of people with osteoarthritis in order to inhibit its progression. “This is a major problem because in people with knee osteoarthritis, the degree to which they experience pain does not have a strong relationship with the level of that load. Some people do not even show signs of osteoarthritis on an X-ray, but they do have pain. Others have real damage but experience much less pain.” One explanation for this may be that there are no nerve endings in your cartilage. “You don’t feel your cartilage.”

By moving, you maintain your cartilage, Gerbrands continues: “Because there are no blood vessels in it, you have to get nutrients to the cells in a different way. You do this by pumping over and over again. By pressing it down and releasing it again, currents are created. If you don’t use it, you lose it’, is very applicable to cartilage. An opposite idea of what people often understand by osteoarthritis, which is wear and tear due to overuse.”

Bad reaction

A common reaction of someone who has knee pain is to start moving less. “That is a bad reaction because you have to keep moving. But it is a difficult dilemma because people do not feel what the state of their cartilage is.” So you have to measure it. The Fontys lab is very accurate, but this system is expensive and complicated to use, such a measurement takes a long time, Gerbrands knows. “There is no physiotherapist who can do that to a patient in half an hour.”

Gerbrands thought that the problem could perhaps be solved with wearables. “Now it becomes a bit dangerous, because I have the short story that is not entirely accurate, but it is easy to understand.” As a scientist, he, of course, has an extensive story about how ShoQR works, but in short, it means that the system measures acceleration and determines how well the joints ‘cushion’. “Newton once found out that force is mass times acceleration. There is a direct relationship between forces and accelerations. The harder you pound, the greater the force is and that is expressed in that acceleration. These accelerations can be measured very well with sensors. These sensors are simply for sale in the shop; every smartphone has them as well.” The problem with the data, measured by these sensors, is that there is no algorithm behind them to understand the data. So Gerbrands wrote those algorithms.

Sitting in the train, he put them roughly in his excel file. He had his students put all the data in the first tab, the algorithms in the second tab translated those data into results that the students should be able to interpret. “That’s how it started as a rudimentary thing. I just asked my students, ‘See what you can do with it.’” At the end of the week it turned out to work and it was user-friendly enough for the students to be able to handle it. “This first version was called ShoQD (pronounced: shocked), ‘quick and dirty’. A second version worked a little less dirty, and a third refined version became ShoQR.”

Formula for success

With a big smile, Gerbrands talks about his idea that actually became a working and therefore award-winning prototype. “Yes, I’m happy and surprised at the same time. A year ago I only had an idea, at that time ShoQR didn’t even exist.” He also attributes the success to the formula in which he can carry out his PhD research. As a lecturer, he works at the Fontys University of Applied Sciences while doing his PhD at the University of Leuven. “A PhD student in higher vocational education is not very common.” What makes his position unique is that everything he does for his research has to be integrated in education and vice versa, he explains. “It really is a formula for success. That is, if you know how to set it up.” Gerbrands responds to practical problems and his students work on solutions that matter in real life. “This is also how it appeals to the students, who are working on a current problem, and to the industry.”

Tim Gerbrands © ShoQR

The workplace is also interesting, because “from practice, you literally walk into the lab”. In an adjoining ’empty space’, the Explorelab, everything can be reconstructed: the physio’s treatment room or an operating room. “It is a kind of hub, a simulated practice, where we can test very quickly. We don’t have to go to a physio practice. In fact, the therapist comes here to watch what we are doing.” Within the lab, all disciplines of physiotherapy, speech therapy, podiatry, orthopaedic technology and medical imaging (including ultrasound and X-rays) come together.

Sport or Health Care

Gerbrands is cautious about the possible social impact of ShoQR. “That’s exactly what we’re thinking about right now. We know that it works and are now at a moment of choice. Are we going to focus entirely on sport, or on health care? Who will be our target group? Is that the patient or the physiotherapist? Is it the coach or the athlete himself? Does the patient have to take the sensors home with him so his phone starts to vibrate when he does not follow the training prescribed by the therapist? We are now faced with the question of where it will have the most impact.”

The jury of the Fontys Think Bigger Awards said that Gerbrands “has a jewel in his hands”. He himself sees it as a ‘potential jewel’. “I only see it as a piece of jewellery if it turns out to work in practice. To do this, we now need someone else with different skills who can supplement what we did and who, next to me, can really put ShoQR into practice.”

Learn flips, kicks and boardslides in real time

A new phenomenon: qualification rounds for the Olympic Games in skateboarding. The best skaters in the Netherlands are competing for qualification points for the 2020 Games on 13, 14 and 15 September. It is the Olympic debut for the sport.

Skateboarding is a sport where everything counts. For example, how to get your board off the ground by putting your feet in the right place, applying pressure and sliding the toes of one foot over the board so that it goes up and you are able to jump over obstacles. This basic trick is called the Ollie, an introduction to tricks like the flipkick, heelkicks, bigspin and boardslide. You mainly master the tricks by trial and error. The Urban Sport Performance Centre (USPC) in Eindhoven would like to support this in cooperation with imec Netherlands. As part of the interreg project Nano4Sports, imec Nederland has developed sensors for use on skateboards.

Nano4Sports uses sensor technology for the development of innovative solutions that allow people to partake in more sports more safely. “In football, it is standard to keep track of passes, gauge ball contact or see where the players are on the pitch,” says Maxime Verdijk, embedded scientist at the USPC. “This is not the case at all with urban sports. As part of the Nano4Sports project, we asked urban athletes what could help them further in their sport.” For skateboarders, that was about gaining more insight into how they do a trick, Verdijk continues. “Skaters have come a long way with their own video analyses. Just have a look on your phone afterwards: what did I do and how else could I do it? But for the minor details, it’s obviously super cool to know how I place my feet, how fast I go and how long I’m in the air.”

‘Better off breaking your leg’

Early 2019 it became a graduation project for Jesse Kling, who studied mechatronics at Fontys University of Applied Sciences. He completed this assignment in June; at the same time he could work as an engineer at the research office. “No, I’m not a skateboarder myself. I always have played volleyball,” Kling says. In order to better understand the skateboarding world, he interviewed coaches and all kinds of skateboarders, professionals as well as amateurs. “If you start talking about training, you’re almost immediately kicked out of the room. They don’t see it as training – it’s a lifestyle. This cultural aspect is very important. In fact, the idea is: you’re better off breaking your leg than having someone teach you how to skate.’ This view is especially prevalent among “mainstream skaters”, Kling discovered. “I also spoke to the Dutch delegation for the Tokyo Games. Candy Jacobs for example. She is a lot more open and sees room for improvement with new technologies.”

In addition to these cultural restrictions, Kling also faced a number of physical ones. “Just look at the skateboard itself. It’s not the done thing to drill a hole in the board and certainly not to put a cable through it and bolt that with a screw. The skateboarder notices everything that changes on a board. If the board gets a little heavier or is no longer level. Every change has an effect. I would prefer to use the sensors in the trucks (the wheel mounts, ed.), but it hasn’t been developed as far as that yet.”

Also, the sensors themselves must not be damaged, which would quickly happen anyway what with all those turns and tricks in the air and on railings. “It can’t be too small.” Eventually, the sensors were mounted behind the trucks as a concession to the board. “Sensors that measure the placement of the feet and weight distribution are located on the side of the board and are covered with a rubber covering. You can see whether you are leaning forward or more backward with these sensors. This is very relevant when it comes to taking off or landing. You can’t see that kind of data on a video.”

Making every movement visible

The reaction from the skating scene was the best thing that both Kling and Verdijk noticed. That initially reserved and somewhat skeptical attitude changed as soon as Kling showed what the sensors are cabpable of. Kling: “It can be really mesmerizing for people who have never come into contact with this before.” Kling and Verdijk went to various skate parks to test the prototype with skateboarders. ” When they see how their board moves, they can keep watching it for several minutes.” According to Kling, the biggest challenge is to make this tangible: “How do you make this data visual so that people who don’t know any technology or mathematics are able to understand it?”

Every movement of a board can be viewed in real time in a 3D image on the computer: airtime, rotation, acceleration. The 18-year-old skater Theo van den Berg was allowed to test Kling’s prototype. “That was cool. I had never seen how hard my board flips (turns, ed.) are or where I apply pressure.” He did notice that it was a prototype: in a number of tricks, the box under the board fell off. It wasn’t his board either and that skates differently, says Van den Berg. “I think that if you can put it under my board, it would be easier to measure everything. With a different board, tricks work five times out of ten. Whereas with my board, nine times out of ten.” Van den Berg likes the idea of using the data obtained from the sensors on the board so that he can become a better skateboarder. He takes part in competitions and is keen to improve. Some days he dreams of the Games in 2024. “I have not been selected for 2020. But if you get better, it will be easier to make the selection.”

The skate project for Nano4Sports has now been completed. Kling would like to develop it further, but he is no longer involved with this at imec Netherlands. If there is a partner that imec can work with on the further development of the prototype, Kling hopes to have a role to play in this as well.

Goose feather badminton shuttle dynamics are difficult to translate into a synthetic variant

Most Dutch people know badminton from playing it at the campsite. The goal is to keep the shuttlecock up in the air for as long as possible. This is very different from competitive badminton, where the aim is to hit the shuttlecock to the ground inside the opponent’s court as fast as you can. The trick in a sports hall is to react as quickly as you can, without the interference of wind, on an area of about 13.4 by 6.1 meters (5.18 meters for a single). A shuttlecock made of goose feathers is best suited for this. There have been experiments to replace the sixteen feathers with synthetic ones, but so far without the desired result.

Compared to tennis, badminton is a lot faster and more tactical. “The whole field is used to play on and most of your base is in the middle of the field”, says Ruud Bosch, multiple Dutch champion, former national team, trainer and national coach of the Dutch badminton team. “In tennis, the main focus is on the baseline, where they tend to move sideways much more than in all directions.” A badminton match lasts on average one hour and fifteen minutes, a tennis match more than three hours. Badminton players hardly stand still, there are constant smashes, lobbying, dashing and diving, turning and jumping. With doubles, it is even a bit faster and more dynamic than with singles, Bosch continues: “If you play doubles in badminton, you don’t just play on your own. The difference is just too much. Doubles are more tactical. You need a lot more sensitivity in the singles. Your movements take a little longer, you also run a bit more. Ankles instantly bear the brunt of any mistake you make. In doubles, someone else can pick up the play. Doubles entails more jumping too. To me, the doubles are more dynamic and spectacular.”

Slice through the air

Badminton is a sport in which there is a lot of innovation when it comes to materials, Bosch states. “Look at the Japanese company Yonex, market leader in badminton when it comes to innovation. This manufacturer always comes up with the latest shoes and racquets. They started eight years ago by modifying the frame so that the outer edges are more pointed. This makes it easier to slice through the air. Using this racquet, they broke the world record of the fastest speed for a smash to almost five hundred kilometers per hour.”

All the material has been updated, except for the goose feather skirt. How this looks today is almost the same as those of fifty years ago. Despite ten years of research, no alternative has yet been found. “Although there are versions that are satisfactory, but they do not reach the same quality as the goose feather type, ” says Bosch, who also tests shuttles for the national badminton association.

Dutch national team badminton doubles training © Innovation Origins

Bird flu

The quest for an alternative started during the bird flu crisis in Asia back in 2004. Then there was a near shortage of shuttlecocks, says Ian Wright, director of development at the Badminton World Federation (BWF). Until then, the federation had not interfered in the manufacturing process of the shuttles. “That’s still up to the manufacturer. But since then it has become an important issue for us. Partly because the number of badminton players is growing. More than 338 million people worldwide play badminton at least once a week. Just for that reason, it’s important to find an alternative.” And that is a tough thing to do, according to Wright. “Real feathers are great. A natural product with thousands of years of evolution behind it, which for instance allows a goose to fly as efficiently as possible.”

Players at the highest level only play with goose feather shuttles. Since the beginning of this year, the WCF along with several manufacturers have been experimenting with various alternatives to the goose feather shuttlecock. During three international tournaments, synthetic shuttles were used. These were matches just below the highest level of the World Tour championships. “The results are positive. But we find it unfair for those players competing in the qualifying rounds who are playing with a different quality of shuttlecock.” The synthetic type flies and spins through the air in other ways, says Wright. “We’ve noticed that players adapt to it quickly. Yet they do have to adapt.” That’s why the experiments have stopped and are to resume after the 2020 Games.

Feather shuttles can be used to great effect. Bosch: “The way in which the feathers are inserted into the cork determines whether the shuttlecock flies steadily through the air or not. If you hit the shuttle on the side or if you graze the shuttle, it slows down the flight or the shuttle flies in a direction. The extent of the effect is many times greater than that of a nylon shuttlecock. A synthetic ‘feather’ type is somewhere in between.” The feather shuttlecock’s features fit in with the game dynamics,” says Bosch. “It’s not an easy game. You have to be able to see and read patterns, remember tactics and execute them under pressure.”

Manufacturing process

Aside from the scarcity of the feathers, there are major costs involved with these shuttlecocks. The manufacturing process is precision work, which also means a lot of manual work. The factories are in Asia. Various videos on YouTube show how this process works. First hand-pick the feathers, as only a few are suitable. Then wash, dry, run through them again, customize the feathers: the right size and the right angle and then fit them into the cork. Before a shuttlecock is put into a case to be sold, factory workers test its flight capabilities, its spin. If something is wrong, the shuttlecock goes in the rubbish bin. There are different gradations: A = international, A, B, C, D. Only the very best are labelled ‘A international’ and are suited for competitions at the highest level.

Dutch national team badminton doubles training © Innovation Origins

“Shuttles are our main expense. They cost us between thirty and forty thousand euros a year,” says Bosch. That’ s why a replacement for the feather shuttlecock is more than welcome, says Bosch. “One that is more sustainable, lasts longer, and will be cheaper in the long run. We would be very happy about that as an association.” An average training requires three to four cases of twelve shuttlecocks. A case costs an average of thirty euros. Even more shuttlecocks are gone through during a tournament, the national coach explains. ” That’ s when you want the shuttlecock to be perfect.”

Cruelty to animals

Regarding potential cruelty to animals, Bosch says: “Yes, I’ve sometimes wondered about that. But I try to keep that to a minimum. Otherwise it becomes very difficult to play the game. It really doesn’t cheer you up when you use an animal’s feathers for people’s entertainment.” The WCF also has some insight into the distress that animals face. “Feathers are a by-product and therefore a part of the bird industry. The WCF stands for a socially responsible organization, nevertheless it has no say in the manufacturing process.”

Last week the Dutch badminton team participated in the World Championships in Basel, Switzerland. And last June, the women’s doubles won gold at the European Games and the men’s doubles won bronze. The team played in Basel chiefly for qualification points for the Olympic Games of 2020. The pair Robin Tabeling and Selena Piek won the fourth round and thereby the quarter final, which puts them in the top eight of the world.

Indoor preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics heat

The 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo will be the warmest Games ever. The Olympic Organising Committee is already preparing for these extreme weather conditions by arranging test events, providing sufficient water access points and shelter from the sun, among other things.

Back home in the Netherlands, the NOC*NSF is also busy preparing for these extremely hot Games. As part of the Thermo Tokyo Project, six parties are working together in order to be prepared on all fronts for the battle against the heat. Inside the climate chamber at Papendal, for instance, where athletes can prepare themselves for sports in 33 degree heat with a humidity of about 75 percent, while still being close to their homes.

In the run-up to the 2008 Games, the Papendal Sports Center had already set up a climate chamber. This is a room where you can get used to the heat and humidity, but where you can train ‘at altitude’ as well. It was hot in Beijing too, but the temperatures in Tokyo could be even higher, says Sam Ballak, embedded physiology scientist at the Papendal Sports Center. “Two weeks ago it was even hotter than we all thought would be possible. We are also able to simulate those temperatures in our room. It’s now set to 33 degrees, but we can increase that to 42, maybe 43 degrees ourselves.” It’s not just the temperature, it’s the high humidity that gives an oppressive feeling, Ballak explains. “It is going to be especially hot in Tokyo, and this in combination with a very high humidity. This combination will make it very difficult for athletes and even for spectators. It’s going to be tough.”

Klimaatkamer © Sportcentrum Papendal

Ballak sees it as a challenge when it comes to preparing athletes for these conditions as well as possible. “We look at how each individual reacts to heat. We are able to see how the body temperature rises in real-time with the help of a pill taken by the athlete. We use an inactive pill which only becomes active when you wear a strap. The copper in the strap activates a small coil in the pill. That coil transmits the data. This way you can observe in real-time how warm someone is and how the body temperature is rising.” The amount of fluid that an athlete loses is also measured. “How much does someone sweat and what is that sweat made up of? Does someone lose a lot of salt or not so much and how do you make up for that? Or how does an athlete react to cool drinks for instance? Incidentally, we use ‘Slushies’, that ultra-sweet drink that you can get in the cafeteria. It cools you down inside and is made from an isotonic sports drink. We examine the effectiveness of that drink per person in the room. Some people can handle it well, others can’t. And what concentration is advisable? We all want to answer these questions for the athletes. That’s where the individual benefits really are.”

There are two aspects involved in the preparation for the weather conditions. Athletes need to acclimatize, get used to the heat and then cool down on the spot, says Ballak. “Acclimatizing is done by raising the body temperature to 38.5 degrees at least one hour each day. If you do this for ten to fourteen days, you will be acclimatized and accustomed to the new conditions or the heat. This has been measured with people who are not top athletes. A top athlete will, in my opinion, be more likely to take around ten days. Acclimatizing does not necessarily have to be done in the climate chamber. This is also possible during training sessions in similar weather conditions, or in the days prior to the race. However, nothing is as changeable as the weather. You don’t have the certainty that it will get really hot or humid at a preparatory location. In a climate chamber, you do have that assurance.”

Knowing how your body reacts to the heat and high humidity is just a matter of finding it out. You can do this in the room, but the athletes also do it on a training course. Ballak went to South Africa with the Athletics Union. “It was mostly athletes who practised the short and explosive elements there, like the sprint. For them, it’s all about making sure they don’t get tired from the heat. That they are able to calmly keep on training before the race. They don’t need to be cooled down during a hundred meter sprint.” Cooling down during a race is especially important for endurance sports such as marathons, cycling and triathlons. “The approach to team sports is also different. With hockey it’s five minutes of intensive play and then some respite. In football, the playing time is longer.”

Together with the NOC*NSF, four knowledge organisations (Radboud University Nijmegen, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, de HAN and TU Delft) and the sports associations, the Papendal Sports Center is now preparing the athletes in the most optimal way possible for the those who are going to have to pull through for the Netherlands in the upcoming Olympics. “We are more facilitative in this respect. For example, TU Delft is looking into what kind of material a ventilator jacket should be made of and how much light passes through it. Or when you can perspire properly and what kind of T-shirt to wear. We offer the opportunity to assess, monitor and advise each person individually.” It is up to the sports associations themselves as to how they want to prepare their athletes. A sports association can make use of the climate chamber, among other facilities.

As an example, for pole vaulter and Dutch record holder Menno Vloon, the room is also important for testing the grip of his pole. Ballak explains: “You can imagine that quite a lot of force is applied to your hands once you push off. If your hands are sweaty, there is a chance that the pole will slip through your them.” Vloon finds it “very tough, but great to be able to test it in a climate similar to that of my important competitions.”


Sports Innovation Congress inspires urban sports & entrepreneurship & much more

Urban sports, a collective term for sports and exercise in built-up environments: running through the city, base jumping from buildings, but also street soccer and basketball. Skateboarding, also an urban sport, will be an Olympic sport next year. Urban sports radiates innovation, is tough and offers opportunities for getting more people moving. These sports are one of the topics that should inspire innovation and cooperation during the 16th Sports Innovation Congress on October the 7th. The overarching theme is “connecting sport, vitality & business,”.

More than with previous editions, the focus this time is on the connection with the business community: knowing what is going on within the sports world, responding to it and learning from best practices.

Sportinnovator and the Eindhoven-based Cluster Sports & Technology are organising this 16th edition of the sports innovation congress together for the second time. René Wijlens, manager of the Sports & Technology Cluster, was at the inception of the first congress in 2004. It is quite logical to Eric van der Veen, responsible for strategic communication and stakeholder management at Sportinnovator, that these two groups are now back working together again. The goal for both organizations is to create a sustainable ecosystem around sport and innovation whereby the business community, educational institutions, municipalities and provinces all work together. “We want to join forces. We have the same target groups and it is definitely useful for all of them that there is one conference where knowledge, expertise and resources are being bundled together. That way you can build on an even stronger congress.”

The Cluster Sports & Technology is an open network of companies, knowledge institutes, sports-field labs, governments and social organizations. This network is committed to a vital and sports-based society by using innovation to createeconomic and social value. At the heart of the project is the technology from the Brainport Eindhoven region, although it also extends across the rest of the country. Sportinnovator is a national incentive scheme from the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, managed by Topteam Sport. The aim of Topteam Sport is not only to increase the value of sports innovation, but also to combine technology, data and knowledge so that the Netherlands can become a leader in this field. There are various Sportinnovator centers in the Netherlands. The scheme supports the further development of the activities of these labs through subsidies, knowledge sharing and coaching.

Just as with past editions, High Tech Campus Eindhoven was chosen as the stage for the conference. The smartest square kilometer in Europe and a hotspot for smart technology and innovation, says Wijlens. “A congress like this is changing along with the changes in the environment and in the domain of sport and vitality. For example, the first congress in 2004 was meant to provide a national platform for sport and innovation with which we wanted to inspire people to get involved. Many more parties have now joined on a national level and everyone is doing their bit. The relevance of sport for a healthy and active lifestyle is steadily increasing. In the coming years, a conference such as this will continue to adapt to what is happening in the ever-expanding area of sport and vitality. I hope that the landscape of sport and innovation will become brighter and that everyone will know where to find each other. A successful innovation climate benefits from this openness in order to be able to make the right connections.”

The way in which the sports innovation landscape is fleshed out and mutual cooperation is also important to Van der Veen. “If you look at the Eindhoven region, it is mainly technology-oriented. Limburg also has that focus, with an innovation center which DSM as well as others are part of. TU Delft is also working on technology. Amsterdam and Groningen focus on knowledge. For its part, the University of Groningen conducts research into talent development. Wageningen and Papendal are mainly concerned with nutrition. You have to be able to find each other, one does not rule out the other. It’s all about creating synergy.”

According to Van der Veen, the Sports Innovation Congress is in line with the Sportinnovator’s ambition of putting a sustainable ecosystem in place. Sportinnovator focuses on three themes: nutrition, exercise and material. Sportinnovator works together with Papendal and Wageningen University on the theme of nutrition. TU Delft has an innovation center which focuses on exercise and materials. Innovations that Olympic athletes will be able to use during the Olympic Games in Tokyo, which are “expected to be the most innovative Games ever”.

The conference in October will focus on business and entrepreneurship. Frank van der Vloed (member of Topteam Sport and president of Signify Europe), Frans Lefeber (founder of start-up Smart Floors), John Baekelmans (Managing Director imec Netherlands and Vice President) and Robert Jan Koens (Director Corporate Strategy at Jumbo) will have a discussion with each other during an entrepreneurial forum. There is a start square, where start-ups get to present themselves and make a pitch. An inspiration square introduces visitors to, for example, the latest sensor applications.

In order to know what is going on in the world of sports, there are a number of inspirational platforms where participants can discuss current themes. Like skateboarding, Van der Veen says: “A new sport that will be an Olympic sport from 2020 onwards. This sport is already innovative, but will it be able to use innovations from other sports as well, so that athletes can further improve and enhance their performance? We also try to do things like that. So that businesses know what’s going on and possibly act on that.”

Sports Innovation Award 2018 © Sport & Technology

The Dutch Sports Innovation Award will be presented in keeping with the previous ten editions. This award is an incentive prize for innovative and promising products or services in the field of sports and exercise. In the past, this prize of € 15,000 was won by Smart Goals, IPOS and Open RTLS. Start-ups may register until 6 September.

More information about the congress, the programme, the speakers, the award and registration can be found at http://sport-innovatiecongres.nl/


Personalize team sports via 24-hour monitoring

This week, the European Hockey Championships will be held in Antwerp. Hockey is a sport in which the Netherlands traditionally does well. However, competition has grown over the years and that means that The Netherlands has to become smarter both on and off the field. Research institutes are being called upon to help optimize the individual qualities of the players.

After all, although hockey is a team sport, each player has his or her own personal playbook. This concerns both the apparent talents and more hidden factors such as recovery time and mental stress outside of training sessions. These variables require individualized training says biomedical R&D engineer Heleen Boers from Imec Nederland. But how do you get a clear picture of these variables? Along with other projects, Imec is working on a 24-hour monitoring system with Nano4Sports, supported by funds from Interreg Europe. They accomplish this by using a watch that continually displays each individual’s reaction to mental stress.

Heleen Boers (© imec)

Nano4Sports aims tot bring innovative technology to both recreational and professional sports, Boers explains. “The great thing about it is that every case is based on a practical question. This is also one of the pillars of the project, we do not develop something just because, as researchers, we think it’s great, it’s about the athletes who think it is needed. There was a demand for 24/7 monitoring across hockey and football.”

Nowadays, measuring heart rate, speed and distances covered during training is normal. This allows a coach to assess the impact of a training session on an individual. “Outside the training, little else is measured. For example, one person can have a very high heart rate during training and someone else can have a lower heart rate. Afterwards, the high heart rate may drop quickly and the lower heart rate might remain relatively high. In the latter case, the body does not go into recovery mode. You want the muscles to recover and the body to be ready for the next workout.” Currently, applications from brands like Fitbit, Garmin and Suunto measure heart rate, sleep and sometimes temperature throughout the day. This provides a lot of information, although it says nothing about cause and effect.

Skin conductivity says a lot about stress levels

Excessive exertion can be the cause behind a slower recovery. “You keep going and your heart rate doesn’t slow down. That’s why you don’t respond well to training anymore, you’re kind of leveling out.” Yet there are also external factors that influence your recovery, according to Boers. “Like stress. Which has nothing to do with your training but does affect your rest. Do you have a lot to do outside of your training? Do you have time to switch to recovery mode? – That part of your mental state.” The research institute explored whether the newly developed watch measures physical parameters associated with the amount of stress experienced using hundreds of their own employees. The watch measures the conductivity of your skin, the level of perspiration. ” The conductivity of your skin is very sensitive to changes in your level of alertness, your stress system. For example, if you are shocked by a car racing by, the conductivity of your skin will increase and you will sweat more.

Watch (© imec)

The research revealed that the level of stress experienced by a person and how the body reacts to it is very personal. “What we want to examine now is how this mental component plays a role. If athletes say they are experiencing stress, the watch measures how the body reacts to that.” Last summer, ten rowers monitored their recovery time and their perceived stress. They wore the watch day and night, except during training, as they have their own heart rate monitors then. They also filled out a standard questionnaire and an app would ask them several times a day how much stress they were experiencing. “If you are able to monitor this fully, you are able to recognize patterns. For example, if someone experiences stress each time before a competition. Both athlete and coach are then able to personalize the training schedule.”

Daphne van der Velden welcomes this personalized approach. Van der Velden is a physiotherapist and hockey player in the Oranje-Rood team, winners of the 2019 Dutch premier league. “It bolsters a trainer when they can decide that it is better for an athlete to train a little less intensively. Especially with young athletes who, for whatever reason, suffer from mental stress, such as exam stress or stress in their private lives. Young people are still growing and such mental pressure affects the capacity of the player or athlete. Further training at the same level can lead to overexertion. This is not sufficiently taken into account at the moment.”

She herself experienced a reaction to mental stress during the last season. “I was working  thirty hours a week, had to study twenty hours for my Master’s in Sports Physiotherapy, train seven times and compete in a match. I got all kinds of issues, it was all too much. Something had to change. Get the peace and quiet to be able to study. That’ s when I started working six hours less. The issues disappeared.”

Better insight into how the body reacts to stress is also important for the athlete themselves, says Van der Velden. “In this sense, I’ m a bit more educated now and I am aware that everything has to be in balance. I imagine that some other athletes can’t make that link, but with a watch like that they probably could.”

Imec Nederland will be presenting the results of its research during the sports and innovation congress on October the 7th.


Mixed team relay makes for a spectacular triathlon

Hours of sweat and struggle (mainly against yourself) – that is the image of the triathlon. In this increasingly popular sport, there are several alternatives nowadays to the original distances of 3.8 km for swimming, 180 km for cycling and 42.2 km for running. Last weekend in Maastricht, for example. That particular marathon length is not on the program. Nonetheless, the Olympic distance (1.5 km for swimming, 40 km for cycling, 10 km for walking) as well as an even shorter distance are on the agenda. Next year, a new event is planned for the Olympic Games in Tokyo: the mixed team relay. Shorter still and therefore even more spectacular to watch.

The mixed team relay is quite different from the original triathlon, namely 250 to 300 meters of swimming, 6 to 10 kilometers of bike pedaling and 1.5 to 2 kilometers of full-on running. The triathletes alternate between women, men, women and men. Every mistake, no matter how small, is penalized immediately. Adrie Berk, technical director of the Dutch National Triathlon Association (NTB): “For instance, you can’t afford a mistake during the changeover. You miss the connection if you lose a second or two. When that happens, you’re bound to miss out on a top result for the mixed team relay. As a team, you have to keep up with the best teams so that you are able to benefit from swimming as long as possible in succession, and benefit from being able to stick together in the peloton.

You also experience the sport differently as a spectator, says Berk. “If you watch a triathlon, you can see that what they do is very clever. There is tension when a fellow countrywoman or countryman is in the front group, or during the changeovers between the sections, or during the final sprint. And those buoy turns (which the triathletes swim around, ed.) can also provoke a war. These are the great sections to watch. It’s these sections that have been quadrupled in the mixed team relay. The changeovers follow up each other quickly, that’s why teams fall behind or come back into the race. Some teams even work together at times. As a spectator, you experience the battle more intensely.”

Within the relatively young sport whereby the first Iron Man was held in 1979, the mixed team relay is not new. Previously in the German Bundesliga and the French Grand Prix team competitions, team races were held every year, however always with women and men in separate contests. As of 2009, the mixed team relay became part of the World Championships. Mixed teams were able to compete for a medal during the Youth Olympic Games five years ago. Now it is also an official Olympic event in Tokyo for the first time.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) seems to have a preference for mixed teams in the first place. In the upcoming games there will be several sports in which they will be active: basketball, cycling, swimming, table tennis and athletics. This gender neutrality has always been the case within the triathlon, says Berk. “Not just when it comes to mixing women and men, but also when it comes to equal pay. The prize money for women is the same as for men. In that respect, triathlon is perhaps more innovative than any other sport.”

Driving each other to the next level

The team element is also of added value to the individual athlete, says Robin den Oudsten, co-founder and owner of the commercial triathlon team Squadra: “The mutual commitment and working together towards a greater goal, that all contributes to both team performance and individual performance. With this in mind, he and Koen de Haan founded Squadra in 2012, which is the Italian word for ‘team’. For his Master’s degree in Sports and Movement Innovation, Den Oudsten researched how the willingness to work together could be enhanced. “It is important not just to focus on the final performance, but also to evaluate a contest and watch together what went well and what went wrong. You learn from each other and are able to raise each other to a higher level. You can really benefit a lot from that if you have a well-balanced team. Men can learn a lot from women and vice versa. A fanatical sportswoman, for example, can occasionally be a little too fanatical. Some men are able to put that into perspective. It also works the other way around: a man who is just a little too lax will in return benefit from this fanaticism.” Den Oudsten believes that cooperation is the key to getting better when it comes to traditionally individual sports where athletes do a lot on their own.

Marco van der Stel hopes to qualify for the Olympic Games in the mixed team relay. A top six position during a World Cup series applies for an individual qualification. “That is not realistic for me. I have a better chance with the mixed team relay. The first seven teams go through automatically and I have enough points as an individual.” Together with Rachel Klamer, Maya Kingsma and Jorik van Egdom, he makes up the Dutch team which won bronze during the European Championship in Weert last June. The team is now seventh on the world ranking list.

Ver der Stel has noticed that a group performance is different from an individual performance: “Actually, you all have your very own mini triathlon. But you can work a bit harder because you know someone is waiting for you. Or when someone makes a small mistake and someone else solves it, then that’s nice too.”

Triathlon figures:

Number of NTB 2009 members (both regular members and athletes who participated in a competition via a day license): 16.000

Number of NTB 2018 members (both regular members and athletes who participated in a competition via a day license): 36.000

(source the Dutch National Triathlon Association)