EU wants €20 billion extra for the Horizon innovation fund, but will it happen?

The European Union is entering a new phase with the inauguration of the new European Commission, which was approved by the European Parliament yesterday after a long series of personal interviews. The new President, Ursula von der Leyen, has set a clear course for her commissioners. This is primarily aimed at making Europe climate-neutral. The other major pillar of its intended policy is to increase the competitiveness of the European Union.

President Ursula von der Leyen of the European Commission has set out a strict policy framework.

The key question, of course, is how she and her fellow commissioners want to achieve these objectives. In the main, that means: research into better production methods and innovating the existing ones. Consequently, funding is needed for this.

Dire necessity

Innovation and its investment is a dire necessity, according to the new European governance. In the first place, because the European Union must be completely CO2-neutral by 2050. This means that we will have to live, drive, fly and produce in a CO2 neutral way. So that’s quite a challenge. Secondly, because competing superpowers such as the US (2.8%), South Korea (4.2%) and Japan (3.3%) invest a much higher percentage of their GDP in innovation than the EU does. (2.1% while the target is set at a minimum of 3%). These countries subsequently also score better when it comes to innovating their businesses. Because of this, the EU is lagging behind them, so says Bulgarian Commissioner Mariya Gabriel, She is in charge of the innovation budget for the upcoming period.

As her predecessor Carlos Moedas had already announced last year, Gabriel wants to increase the budget of the research and innovation fund Horizon Europe from almost €100 billion to €120 billion. This amount is to be spread over the 2021 to 2027 budget period. This money should go towards basic research in universities as well as innovation by large companies, start-ups and SMEs.

Not a piece of cake

Which is a noble ambition that no member state should actually be opposed to. You’d think that it was a piece of cake. But it’s not. Life is complicated within the offices of the European institutions. They have to constantly do business with the governments of the 28 – and, if there is a Brexit, 27 – member states. Then those governments have to deal with their constituents in the cities and rural areas of their country. And the constituencies (especially those in the poorer EU regions) may threaten the innovation plans of this new European Commission.

Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Innovation, wants more money for the Horizon Fund

The major battle is being waged via discussions by the heads of state or governments concerning the European Union’s long-term budget. This is something which they will have to hammer out in 2020. Von der Leyen wants more money from the member states to be able to implement her ambitious policy program. But the member states do not want to pay the EU a higher percentage of their GNP, says spokesman Roy Kenkel of The Permanent Representation of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (PV) in Brussels. (As an example, the European Commission wants The Netherlands to contribute 1.11% of their GNP).

“The Netherlands is in favor of a larger innovation budget. We think that’s an excellent idea! But we also believe that this money could come from the resources that the European Commission has at its disposal if we were to continue to contribute the same percentage as we do now. Our GNP is on the rise, so our contribution will in any event deliver more money to the EU with the current, unchanged percentage of our GNP.”

Not mentioned in the budget

It makes more sense for the EU to restructure its budget and adapt it to the demands of our time, says Kenkel. That is what Von der Leyen also said in her speech yesterday. In Von der Leyen’s opinion, the MFF (otherwise known as the EU’s Multiannual Financial Framework) should not be seen as a simple calculation of expenditure, but rather as a policy instrument that will modernize the European Union’s budget.

That might be the case, except up until now the problem has been that you cannot discern this in the document that the European Commission sent to the member states last May and which the member states are currently negotiating. It does not say, for example, that the Horizon Innovation Fund should be increased by €20 billion. Whereas the new European Commission does want to use this extra money to tie into specific industrial policy. Something that is new for the European Union, as the French EU Commissioner for the Internal Market and Industry, Thierry Breton, said to the European Parliament during his hearing last month.

European Commissioner Thierry Breton wants to tie industrial policy to innovation paid for with Horizon money.

Other expenditure areas

One way in which the extra €20 billion could still be included in the budget is for the European Commission to submit a separate additional proposal to the member states. That’s what Kenkel from the PV in Brussels says. Nevertheless, he thinks that this isn’t very likely as this is a cumbersome process and the negotiations are already underway. He believes that it would be more logical to discuss the matter during ongoing negotiations.

Then there is also the question of how important the member states regard the growth of the innovation fund compared to that of other expenditure. Such as for the common agricultural policy and the cohesion fund. Funding for the development of poor regions must be paid from this. The European Commission actually wants to cut 5% off both of these expenditure areas. And that is definitely something that the countries that benefit most from these funds do not want to happen.

Read also: Aviation industry to European Commission: ‘money is needed to develop zero-emission aircraft’

€88 billion on offer

The signs are not very favorable in this respect, says Guillaume Gillet, He is the director of InnoEnergy in Brussels, an investment company that invests money from private investors and the Horizon Fund in promising, innovative start-ups in the energy field. “It is said that the Finnish chairmanship wants to reduce the budget for Horizon to €88 billion. It will only be possible to raise it to €120 billion if the European Parliament fights very hard for that.”

The question is how bad would that be? After all, European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans has already announced that part of the funds for cohesion and agriculture can be used for innovation in the agricultural sector and for the development of rural areas. The intention is that these funds will thereby contribute to making Europe environmentally sustainable.

Read also: European Commissioner Timmermans wants CO2 tax at the EU’s outer border

The difference with financing innovation via these funds, however, is that the funds are distributed by the governments of the member states. Who in turn allocate these to their national constituencies. It now remains to be seen as to what extent this will benefit both European cooperation and European coordination in terms of industrial policy.

Not enough money for scale-ups

According to investor Gillet, the European Commission is also investing directly via Horizon in innovative start-ups who would otherwise be unable to raise money as their profitability is uncertain. That’s going well for now. Although a larger Horizon Fund would make this support more robust, Gillet states. So far, the problem has been that there is not enough money to invest in the further growth of start-ups. This makes it difficult for them to become fully-fledged companies that are able to grow and flourish in Europe. It is precisely these scale-ups that provide employment as well as develop knowledge and bring prosperity. “American and Asian investors are investing money in them. That’s because of their more aggressive culture when it comes to high-risk capital investment. Consequently, Europe is losing a number of successful start-ups.”

Read also: ‘Europe must invest in a hub for collaborative robots in SMEs’

Whereas these are in fact what you would prefer to hold on to. Which is also what Von der Leyen said in her speech yesterday. Whether she will be successful in this respect over the coming period will become clear when the new MFF is mapped out next year.

Start-up of the day: Energy Floors is making smart parking spaces in Rotterdam

Over the coming year, Rotterdam’s Energy Floors wants to sell smart surfaces for public outdoor spaces that generate data, measuring how many cars, pedestrians and cyclists are passing by. These can be used to regulate traffic flows and lighting, for instance. These Smart Energy Floors also generate energy via the solar cells that are integrated in them. At the moment, the Rotterdam municipality is on the lookout for a suitable location for the application of this kind of energy surface in a city parking lot, says Michel Smit, CEO of Energy Floors. A trial of this is planned for 2020 in cooperation with the Engie energy company.

What motivated you to set up Energy Floors and what problem has this resolved?

“Our first idea was to create a Sustainable Dance Floor on which people can dance to generate energy, something that you can actually see because the tiles light up. (By converting the vertical movement of the dancer on the floor into rotational movement through a mechanism underneath the flexible floor tiles so as to generate energy, ed.) That idea originally came from two companies: Enviu and Döll. In 2017, they brought me in as a hands-on expert from the club scene. I had been running a large nightclub in Rotterdam for four years, called Off-Corso. They wanted to bring sustainability to the attention of young people and thought that the Sustainable Dance Floor could help with that.

Unlike today, it was difficult to get young people interested in sustainable energy at that time. It had a bit of a stuffy image. We initially tried out that first version of that dance floor at the Rotterdam pop stage Watt (which went bankrupt in 2010, ed.) – that made it the first sustainable club in the world. We started building our business around that first Sustainable Dance Floor.”

What has been the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome?

“That we had customers for the Sustainable Dance Floor before we had the actual product. At first, we only had a drawing of the floor, an artist’s impression. We worked out the concept and technology with TU Delft and TU/e in Eindhoven. And together with Daan Roosegaarde, we were able to further develop the interaction between the public and the technology. This is where our Sustainable Dance Floor is unique: the interaction between people and sustainably-generated energy. When they dance harder, they generate more energy.

This is what we want to offer people when it comes to our business proposition. That they themselves have an influence on improving the sustainability of energy. We want commitment. This is what we are specifically focusing on. The second obstacle was how we could go about expanding the scale for things that this product can be used for. So that it has a real impact. That’s why we wanted a surface that was suitable for large permanent fixtures in outdoor areas. We had to drop our initial unique selling point – as in ‘human energy’ – for this type of surface. Instead, we came up with our Smart Energy Floor. We use solar energy rather than kinetic energy. Otherwise, the project would be impossible to complete. The system has to be cost-effective, robust and resistant to wear and tear.”

What has been the biggest breakthrough so far?

“That we sold 25 of those Smart Energy Floors to schools last year. Three of them in Germany and the rest in The Netherlands. As a company, we have three business propositions: the Dancer for clubs and discotheques, for example, the Gamer for schoolyards and the Walker for large outdoor facilities. The first Walker in the Netherlands is located near Croeselaan in Utrecht on a crossing opposite Rabobank’s head office. Rabo has partly financed this floor. There is also one in the palace garden of the President of Malta. He found us via Google. It is a public garden with a Gamer and a Walker. A Gamer costs 13,000 euros including the installation. While a Walker is available from 25,000 euros.

The fact that we appeal to people all over the world doesn’t surprise us at all. Our first signed contract was with the producer of Absolute Vodka. He wanted to make a road show around New York with our dance floor in 2009. So, that’s what we did. We get two to three requests a day. Our challenge is to be able to deal with these properly. Because we want to keep on innovating too. As an example, you could also use the Smart Energy Floor on motorways if you developed the software for that.”

 What can we expect from Energy Floors over the coming year?

“We want to start selling more Walkers. This is a new market for us that has a lot of potential. Smart city projects that you can use it in are much larger projects than what we have done so far. You could equip bike paths with our technology so that you can turn them into walkways. We are going to do a smart parking trial next year together with Engie and the municipality of Rotterdam. We will be installing  a Walker for that reason. The energy generated by the solar cells in the surface goes to the electricity grid and can subsequently be used to charge cars. Currently, we’re looking around for a suitable location.

We are also planning to enter the German market. This fits in well with our product and company. There is plenty of capital there and focus on sustainability. And the German way of doing business isn’t that different from the Dutch way of doing business.”

What is your ultimate goal?

“Ultimately, we want our Smart Energy Floors to be used in all the world’ s major cities and have their data connected to each other. You can learn a lot from each other’s experiences. You could monitor and influence the behaviour of the users of our surfaces on city roads. For example, in order to regulate busy situations at certain locations. You can apply the technology in a smart way. If there are very few people driving or walking on the road, you could turn the lights off in the evening.”

EU Commissioner Vestager to present new AI law at the start of 2020

Over the next three months, European Commissioner Margrethe Vestager will draft a new European law for AI. As of December, she will be responsible for the digitization of the European market. She plans to present her new AI law in March. After that, the European Parliament and the governments and parliaments of the Member States will have to approve her new AI law.

The new AI law is to lay out the rules regarding the collection and sharing of data by, among others, the large American tech companies such as Facebook, Amazon and Google whose internet platforms are being used on a massive scale by European citizens. At the moment there is only a guideline for e-privacy and one set of regulations for data protection (GDPR). The new law must include rules that make the collectors and distributors of data liable for any abuse use of this data.

Nightmare for the US

The greatest nightmare for the high profile big tech companies in the US is her intention to adopt new tax regulations following on from the new AI law. This should apply to internet platforms all over the world which make money from consumers in European countries. In recent years, Vestager has already taken Apple to court for tax evasion. She imposed a fine of 13 billion euros on them for this.

As far as she is concerned, the new tax regulations that she has in mind should be applicable worldwide. If she cannot do this because, for example, some countries do not want to cooperate, she said that the European Commission will continue to impose fines on non-European companies on an individual basis if they pay insufficient tax in the EU.

Breaking up Google and Facebook

She may also impose fines if American big tech companies abuse their dominant market position. She has done so in the past few years while she was European Commissioner for Competition. If these fines do not lead to an improvement in their behaviour on the European market, she wants to break up the American business conglomerates. That is what she said in response to questions from Paul Tang, a Dutch Member of the European Parliament. Tang is also member of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats on behalf of this PvdA party (the Dutch Labor Party). Vestager then told Tang that she had the means to do this. She did not specify what kind of means she has at her disposal.

Member of the European Parliament Paul Tang wants Commissioner Margrethe Vestager to break open American ‘big tech’ companies.

Gaining citizen’s trust

With its new European AI law, Vestager said they want to allay the fears of European citizens. In particular those who currently lack faith in the digitization of society. She says this is necessary as she believes there are two types of companies. The type that is digital – and the type that will soon become digital. In other words, sooner or later all citizens will have to participate in the digitization of everyday life, so she wants to make sure that the Internet is not intimidating to them.

In the second place, she wants AI to be used to make the citizens’ lives easier rather than more difficult. She wants to prevent digital platforms from collecting data via AI in order to influence the choice of consumers and businesses so that they can earn money from them. It was precisely for this reason that during her previous term as European Commissioner for Competition, she imposed a fine of 4.3 billion euros on the search engine Google.

More rules, less innovation?

The question is whether the new rules for AI will not stand in the way of innovation. Nicola Beer, an MEP from the Renew Group in the European Parliament, wanted to know whether Vestager had thought about how she intended to preserve Europe’s leading role in AI innovation. Vestager replied that she was looking for a more balanced situation. According to her, European citizens should benefit from the innovations that AI brings. Yet at the same time also be protected against their eventual misuse.

Europarliamentarian Nicola Beer wants to know how Vestager will ensure that the EU will remain a leader in the AI field.

Meanwhile, the initial reactions from the AI group of professionals to Vestager’s plans for new legislation have been quite reserved. “I find it a bit vague that Vestager says that AI sometimes makes life more difficult.” That’s what Buster Franken says, AI entrepreneur and developer from TU/e. “It is true that AI influences your choices via Google. But that can also make your life a lot easier.”

‘Small-scale AI companies in the EU are the victims’

Franken believes that there is a danger that a new law will burden smaller AI companies with far too many rules. “We already have a hard time finding capital to invest in our innovations. If new rules are added now, that will adversely affect us. It also means that you have extra work in order to comply with them. Maybe we don’t have the money for this. While this new law is supposed to combat abuse by large companies such as Google and Facebook.”

Read also: ‘Europe must invest in a hub for collaborative robots in SMEs’

“The point is namely that companies like Google can abuse data because they have loads of money. If there is a new law, they will undoubtedly be able to comply with it. Then they will simply look for another route. They have enough money to hire an army of elite lawyers. Small AI companies don’t have that.”

European Commissioner Timmermans wants CO2 tax at the EU’s outer border

CO2 uitstoot schoorstenen

Dutch European Commissioner Frans Timmermans (who will be responsible for climate issues) wants to introduce a CO2 tax at the outer border of the European Union. This is in order to avoid products that have not been manufactured in a climate-neutral way. He announced this measure during his approval hearing at the European Parliament. There they are appointing the new European Commission which will take up office next month. According to Timmermans, this is the only way to get the European climate law passed which he is to present this spring. The exact date on which this border tax is to come into effect should be revealed in this climate law. It will apply to all Member States.

A 55% reduction by 2030

This climate law ought to include information on how the Member States will make their economies climate-neutral. CO2 emissions must be reduced by 55% by 2030, Timmermans announced. That is 10% more than what was originally agreed to. By 2050, CO2 emissions need to zero out on balance. With that commitment, in two weeks’ time he will start his mandate as European Commissioner for Climate Change. His most important task will be to deliver a so-called ‘Green Deal’. The new climate law is an important part of this. Along with that, he wants to overhaul legislation on greenhouse gas emissions and energy.

European Commissioner Frans Timmermans announces the CO2 border tax in the European Parliament Image: still live streaming

The problem is not that achieving CO2-neutral production is not technically possible, says Erik Klooster. He is managing director of VNPI, a Dutch association which brings together the major petrochemical companies (together with the chemical and metal industries, who are the main producers of CO2), such as Shell and Esso. “It is,” he states. The problem is that making the industry CO2-neutral makes manufacturing much more expensive. This makes the industry less competitive compared to industry in countries that are not implementing any climate measures. If there is no such border tax, European industry will be forced out of business. “Esso has been calling for this kind of carbon adjustment or carbon border tax for years,” says Klooster. “It is the only way to make Europe climate-neutral.”

A leading role

That is also what Commissioner Timmermans told the European Parliament, who will have to approve his new climate legislation next year. “We shouldn’t want to bring in products that are cheaper because they have not taken the environment into account. I think that such a CO2 border tax will be subject to an assessment from the WTO. If, for example, a country such as China or India also starts to produce in a CO2-neutral way, we will drop that tax on their products.”

Also read: Former Secretary of State of the United States: Quadruple the CO2 price and let the polluter pay

Empty gas fields

That’s also the purpose of such a levy, says Klooster. “The EU’s share in global CO2 emissions is relatively small. So we don’t have to do it for that sake.” The EU, and the Netherlands in particular, can play an important pioneering role by involving other countries in the world such (as India and China) in the production of clean energy. “Industry in the Netherlands is geographically close to each other. There are enough empty gas fields available in the next few decades for storing CO2 that has been emitted and captured. It is therefore cheaper to build a pipeline for CO2 transport to an empty gas field than it is in England, for example. Industry is scattered all over the country there.

Extracting CO2 from air

Another method of achieving CO2-neutral production is to capture the greenhouse gas and bind it to hydrogen via a chemical process. This creates a synthetic fuel that can be reused. This is also a way to ensure that aircraft that don’t fly electrically and therefore continue to emit CO2 will still be able to operate in a climate-neutral way, says Klooster. “You can extract the amount of CO2 that an aircraft produces out of the air, and then store or process it.”

Also read: Aviation industry to European Commission: ‘money is needed to develop zero-emission aircraft’

National Parliaments

The question is whether national parliaments are prepared to sign the climate legislation that Timmermans will be proposing. For example, the Polish Member of the European Parliament Anna Zalewska ( from the Conservatives and Reformists faction) said at the Timmermans hearing prior to his appointment as European Commissioner for Climate last month, that she feared it would destroy Polish industry. Much of it runs on coal. “Hundreds of billions of euros are needed to make the transition possible. We just don’t have that.”

Euro-parliamentarian Anna Zalewska, from the Conservatives and Reformists faction, says that Poland does not have enough money to abandon coal.

Money for Poland en Greece

Timmermans replied that money had to be sent to countries such as Poland and Greece because they are unable to pay for the energy transition themselves. “My grandparents were miners in Heerlen. When the mines were still open, Heerlen was the second richest city in the Netherlands. After the closure of the mines, Heerlen changed into one of the poorest municipalities in the Netherlands. We must make sure that we prevent this from happening in the European regions that are currently dependent on coal.”

Also read: BMW Director: ‘Make recharging electric cars as easy as recharging smartphones’

Timmermans stressed that there is absolutely no future for the coal industry. He wants to work together with national and local authorities, the European Investment Bank and make use of existing EU funds for this transition by diverting them towards making the EU climate-neutral.

Cost: 200 billion euros per year

An important part of the money needed to make poor, coal-dependent regions climate-neutral should come from richer EU countries such as The Netherlands and Germany. Their national parliaments must approve the new climate law, including the redistribution of financial resources. Commissioner Timmermans predicted that it would take in total €200 billion a year over the next five years to make the EU climate-neutral. “But the Member States are almost as stingy as the Dutch,” he said. “They have to open their wallets.”

Start-up of the day: Carefree electric travel with EP Tender battery trailer

The EP Tender looks like a camper’s tiny pod caravan that’s towed behind an ordinary car – but it isn’t! It is actually a mobile battery that will someday make it possible to travel hundreds of kilometers with an electric car. At present, most EVs usually don’t go further than 150 kilometers, so says the founder of EP Tender, Jean-Baptiste Segard. The battery is then empty and needs to be recharged. Segard hopes that the masses will switch to buying an electric car as soon as EP Tender’s battery trailer comes onto the market.

What motivated you to set up EP Tender and what problem did it resolve?

“I first came up with the idea of a trailer with extra capacity for the electric car like our current EP Tender when I wanted to buy an electric car myself. That was back in 2012. I couldn’t find a suitable electric car at that time. The range was not great enough for the few times a year when I wanted to travel much further. I thought it was a pity that there wasn’t a modular system around that would supplement the electric car’s battery so that I could occasionally travel longer distances with it.

At first I thought of a trailer with an internal combustion engine which might run on petrol. But in 2018, we switched to a trailer with an auxiliary battery, because then we would be better able to meet the needs of the electric car manufacturers. We will have to halve our CO2 emissions by 2030. And that is something that car manufacturers must also work towards.

150 kms of extra range

The rationale behind the battery is that you only hire it when you need extra range. Generally speaking, I think this would only be about six times a year for me. You can lengthen the range of your electric car from about 150 kilometers to 250 to 300 kilometers. You could also place a larger battery permanently in your car so that you can keep on driving. But that is far too expensive for most people. This remains an obstacle for them as far as switching to electric-powered transport is concerned.

Installing a larger battery is generally not an efficient solution for increasing the car’s range either, as most people drive just a few times a year further than an average car battery can handle. Otherwise you would be driving around with that heavy battery for no reason. You can compare the weight with that of a cow or a donkey. You’ll have these on your back seat during every short trip. Why would you want to do that if you don’t need to?”

The EP Tender team: Frederic Joint, Jean-Baptiste Segard (second from left), Hugo Basset, Fabrice Viot, Dingjie Ma, Hancheng Yang

What is the main obstacle you will need to overcome?

“It is very difficult to be taken on board in the development plans of car manufacturers. The automotive industry has been around for 120 years. And the planning cycle is lengthy when it comes to developing a new car. That said, we are in talks with a number of car manufacturers. However, a contract with any of them is yet to materialize. It is important that this happens. After all, the car manufacturers must apply for approval from the statutory regulators for use of the EP Tender system with their electric cars. They will only do that once they have our technology fitted to their cars. We cannot do that for them. As long as they haven’t got that done, there won’t be a market for us.”

What has been the biggest breakthrough so far?

“In 2018, when we switched to a battery in the EP Tender instead of a combustion engine. That way you can rely even more on sustainable energy.”

The EP Tender mobile battery Photo: EP Tender

What can we expect from EP Tender in the coming year?

“Our business model must be in place by then. We are now completing a survey using data from 350,000 consumers which should show what most people would be willing to pay when hiring the EP Tender. As well as how often, where and when they could use the EP Tender. We are now putting the finishing touches to the robotics of the trailer so that it can connect itself to the car. The idea is that every 50 kilometers along the road there will be a service station where there will always be twenty EP Tenders ready to be connected. We are currently discussing the location of these service stations with energy companies. But also with private motorway operators in various European countries who have a state concession for these. They have an interest in electric cars being able to add energy in time so that they don’t end up stuck on the roadside.”

Where would you like to be with EP Tender in five years’ time?

“Then we would like to be profitable. Or at least break even. The outlook is that 40% of cars will be electric by 2030. So the demand for the EP Tender should have increased by then. By 2025, we want our trailer to be available for hire in the major European countries such as France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland. But also in Austria, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Denmark. And we want to have a foothold in the US, China and India.”

What does EP Tender’s innovation improve upon compared to products in your segment of the market?

“That drivers of electric cars can drive a long distance without having to constantly worry about their battery’s energy reserves.”

Start-up of the day: Heat Power generates extra energy when there is no sun or wind

During his mechanical engineering studies at the TU in Eindhoven, Henk Ouwerkerk came up with a system that allows combined gas and steam turbines to generate supplemental electricity ‘on demand’. And now, fifteen years later, his idea has evolved into a product that he plans to sell through his company Heat Power. It will be on the market for the first time next year.

What motivated you to set up Heat Power and what problem does it resolve?

“I always wanted to become an entrepreneur and I always have all sorts of ideas too. I had written down a few of them and I thought they could turn out to be something. I have been lucky enough to have been given the freedom to design a prototype at the TU/e during my Masters and subsequently as part of my PhD in Mechanical Engineering.

My idea was to enhance electric generation from existing combined gas and steam turbines so that they can meet market demands more quickly. So turbine can generate more electricity when there is more demand, and less when there is less demand. This innovation is particularly interesting for smaller factories that use steam, for example to heat raw materials during their manufacturing process.

Electricity on demand

A combined gas and steam turbine which is capable of generating electricity is already a reality in large power plants. But these turbines run continuously and on the basis of a consistent air flow. You can’t turn them on or off from one moment to the next. This is possible with our system, the Rankine Compression Gas Turbine (RCG). How? We let the steam turbine drive the gas turbine’s compressor. We then use a special valve in order to gauge how much air can or cannot pass through the steam turbine. The more air you let in, the more electricity is produced by the generator connected to the turbine. This allows you to generate as much electricity as you need at any time. That way you save on costs as a company. Because then you don’t have to buy energy from an external supplier.

If you generate more power than you need for your own manufacturing process, you can also sell it if there is a demand for it. You could earn money from that. Our Rankine Compression Gas Turbine generates electricity on demand. That’s very useful. Because when a great deal of sustainable solar and wind energy is already being produced, you don’t want to add to the electricity supply. That’s of no use to anyone. In that case, the electricity grid might become overloaded.”

Henk Ouwerkerk (right), project engineer Jeroen Schot and project leader Marc van Erp Photo: Heat Power

What has been the biggest obstacle that you have had to overcome?

“Our turbine is an industrial hardware product. You have to finance the transition from an idea to a working system in a factory. Before you get that far, you are already talking about an investment of $1 million. And then you haven’t even done anything over the top. The steam turbine that we had to buy was the most expensive component for us. I found a used one in Germany. The new price is €150,000. But I bought this one for €10,000.

I attracted investors and issued shares for each stage of the design of Heat Power. At first, these were business angels from my own network, and then investment companies later on. I also applied for an energy innovation grant from the Netherlands Enterprise Agency. Looking for funding was half the work. I also spent many years investing my own unpaid time and money in it. We did energy consultancy work for third parties through the company. That’s how we earned money. We put that back into the company. We have made steady progress thanks to this diverse mix of income.

In the early days, I was also a truck driver in the evening hours for one of my business angels who is in the meat industry. I also drove trucks full of beer crates to supermarkets’ distribution centers for a beer brewery at night. I am a night person, so that wasn’t a problem. Then at 10 a.m. the next morning, I started tinkering with the prototype for my own company again.

What has been the biggest breakthrough so far?

“That was the pilot at the Hout Industrie Schijndel factory towards the end of last year. Our Rankine Compression Gas Turbine is actually integrated into the manufacturing process there. We were able to demonstrate that our turbine is capable of a quick change of gear without hampering the manufacturing process.”

What can we expect from Heat Power in the coming year?

“Then we will bring our first full-scale commercial model onto the market. The model used in the pilot is made up of just one module. You need several in order to be profitable because you can then generate more electricity that way. We currently have three potential customers. But we are hoping for more.”

Where do you want Heat Power to be within five years? What is your ultimate goal?

“That purchasers of steam turbines will be able to choose the Rankine Compression Gas Turbine as an extra option via the established suppliers. The market in Europe, where there are 25,000 companies that use steam, is large enough for us.  Although it continues to be a niche market. After all, these are exclusively companies that use steam in their manufacturing process and that want to generate flexible electricity.”

What does Heat Power’s innovation improve in comparison to products in your segment of the market?

“That you only need to generate extra electricity with this turbine when there is a demand for it. In order to supplement the supply of renewable energy from the sun and wind, which is very difficult to regulate.”



Read moreStart-up of the day: Heat Power generates extra energy when there is no sun or wind

Start-up of the day: Solar panels for DIY-ers – plug it in and you’re good to go!

The Supersola plug-in solar panel may be a nightmare for the installation industry. But this new gadget on the market is not that at all for the consumer who prefers to do as many chores around the home as possible by themselves. It will be up for sale next year. “Then anyone who can connect a plug to a wall socket can install a solar panel on their own,” says Julius Smith, founder of Supersola in Delft.

What was it that motivated you to set up Supersola and what problem did it resolve?

“About 10 years ago I first started working and began in the renewable energy sector. In other words, sustainable energy. Then I found out that the sales of solar panels were slower than we had expected at the company which I was working for back then. The question was why. That’s what I then looked into. It turned out that the majority of the Dutch population really wanted to generate their own solar energy. However, lots of people decided against buying panels in the end. It was often the case that when people did buy solar panels, they only did so a year after having decided that they wanted them.

The reason for this long period of reflection turned out to be that consumers aren’t able to easily find all the information they need in order to find a suitable installer. They also often don’t know which solar panels to buy, and what other products they need to connect them to. Not all components of all brands are compatible, and not all systems are the same. That makes the choice difficult. I then realized that I wanted to design a ready-made panel that consumers could buy with all the necessary parts already on it. So that you get a panel where you only have to plug the attached cord into a socket.”

What has been the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome?

“When I told the suppliers of all those various parts that I wanted to make and sell a plug-in solar panel with everything on it, they would always say: ‘it can’t be done’. The entire solar panel supply chain is geared towards the installation sector. Whereas I want to bring this product to the consumer electronics market ready-to-use. That sometimes made it difficult when it came to getting cooperation.”


What has been the biggest breakthrough so far?

“That was at the beginning of 2018 when we sold a hundred ready-to-use plug-in solar panels as part of a pilot project. They cost €700 each. Some of them were sold via our own website following a campaign on Facebook. While others were sold via Sungevity, a supplier of solar panels. Only one of those hundred had problems. The power cord was damaged when a windstorm blew through the village of that particular customer. We then sent them a new cable. That fixed the problem.”

What can we expect from Supersola in the coming year?

“That’s when we start selling the first commercial version of the plug-in solar panel. Initially through our own web shop. And we are also working on contracting other parties who are willing to sell our product. That’s not quite finalized as yet. Next year we want to focus on the Dutch market. After that, we plan to go abroad.”

Where do you want Supersola to be in the next five years? What is your ultimate goal?

“We want to be available in Europe and the United States by then.”

What does Supersola’s innovation do better when compared to other products on this segment of the market?

“If all consumers could buy our product, then there’s no longer a hitch when it comes to buying solar panels. You can start with one panel. You don’t have to spend more than €600 or €700. At the moment, installing solar panels costs so much more because you have to bring in an installer. Plus, you have to have more than one panel installed in order to recoup those costs. You’ll end up paying €5000. This would not be the case with our system. You can do it all yourself.”

‘Ordinary person will never be able to afford their own, fully self-driving car’


If in a few decades’ time fully self-driving cars are allowed on public roads on a grand scale, they will almost exclusively be shared cars. This is what Gijs Dubbelman expects will happen. He is head of the research group on mobile perception systems at TU Eindhoven. “The equipment that you will need to install in your car is so expensive that an ordinary citizen won’t be able to afford it.”

People who are able to afford one, are probably the same people who can pay for their own plane or helicopter. Everyone else will have to share a car and request one when they need it. ‘Mobility as a service’, is how Dubbelman terms it.

Expensive equipment

The most expensive parts of the fully self-driving car are the special sensors. The lidar in particular (a laser detection system also known as LADAR). Along with the AI and the computer that has to process all the data. “The cost of a lidar alone can be as much as €50,000,” says Dubbelman. “That’s very expensive. And then you don’t even have a car, you just have a lidar. Lidars are likely to become cheaper in the future. Yet one lidar is not enough, as you need to be able to cover the entire area around a vehicle. More sensors are required in order to be safe in all situations and circumstances.” So that’s why it will stay expensive.

At the ‘AI in engineering’ symposium held by TU/e, Gijs Dubbelman shows an image of what the autonomous test car sees while driving. Photo: Lucette Mascini.

In the future, navigational maps for autonomous cars will also have to drop in price. At present, the production of such maps is still too limited and is usually only intended for relatively small test areas. “You can imagine that this is not cheap.”

The navigation equipment aims to pinpoint the exact location of the car, the roads on which it is driving and the stationary objects in the vicinity. The AI focuses on predicting the behaviour of the people who walk there, as well as animals and other moving objects in the area.

Traffic chaos caused by a snowflake

The British Law Commission announced last week that its research has shown that autonomous vehicles suffer from so-called ‘frozen robot syndrome‘. This means that they are not yet able to discern haphazard, moving objects on the road, such as leaves, plastic bags and even birds and snowflakes. As then they instantly apply the brakes and ‘freeze.’ This can cause chaos on the road. The main concern is when the car already comes to halt because of a snowflake, for example. That the car stops when it doesn’t recognize what’s moving in front of its bumper or windscreen is logical, says Dubbelman. “But you don’t want it to start up again and then run over a child.”

Read more‘Ordinary person will never be able to afford their own, fully self-driving car’

Self-driving cars will never be possible in Amsterdam city center

Anyone who thinks that the self-driving car is the future is wrong. At least when it comes to the chaotic mess in city centers like Amsterdam. These are so cluttered and unpredictable that it would be impossible for autonomous vehicles to anticipate traffic conditions. Which is what Carlo van de Weijer has predicted at the opening of the AI in Engineering symposium. He is director  of the new Eindhoven Artificial Intelligence Systems Institute (EAISI, pronounced ‘easy’ in English) at TU Eindhoven in the Netherlands.

Traffic chaos in the Amsterdam city center is too much for self-driving cars. Photo: Lucette Mascini

Experiment in the US

Van de Weijer worked in the automobile industry for a long time and wanted to answer the question as to why we are still not driving through the country in self-driving cars. The reason is that it is very difficult to make automated vehicles function like a human being. Van de Weijer gave an example of an experiment in the US where a robotic car kept driving on the right lane while a very slow truck was driving on it’s left. A tailgater behind the autonomous car wanted to pass but wasn’t able to.

Read other Innovation Origins columns by Carlo van de Weijer here.

Read moreSelf-driving cars will never be possible in Amsterdam city center

Hardt rules the hyperloop market with their lane switching technology

Optimism is putting a smile on the faces of Hardt‘s founders in Delft. This week they announced that they had once again managed to attract major investors. Including the renowned Tukker, technician and investor from the very outset in As well as Kees Koolen, one of the original investors in Uber. They are investing millions in the construction of a new, longer test track at an as yet undisclosed location in the Netherlands for the high speed suspended metro system – the Hyperloop. Within ten years, it should connect all the major European cities to each other. That means you could, for example, travel from Rotterdam to Milan in the blink of an eye.

But why Hardt instead of the competition?

The question is – why are they buying shares in Hardt’s hyperloop? And not in any of the other four hyperloop system developers that are currently out there? There is Zeleros in Spain (in Valencia) and Hyper Poland in Poland. You have HTT (Hyperloop Transportation Technologies) in the US, and Transpod, a Canadian-French company. Then there is Hyperloop One, a company that is also designing a hyperloop and has built a test track in the desert near Las Vegas with capital from the British Virgin entrepreneur Richard Branson. Not that it matters at all, but Branson is rather more well-known than Kees Koolen from Hengelo. Though Hardt has the former professional football player Gregory Van der Wiel as an angel investor. He is world famous as well, albeit that Van der Wiel would rather stay in the background when it comes to this kind of thing, or so it seems. The key question is what distinguishes Hardt from these four hyperloop companies which all seem to be making good progress too. And are they rivals?

‘Lane Switching’ is the magic word

If you ask the investors in Hardt why, you always get the same answer: “Lane switching,” Anne Koolen says. In other words: the possibility to change the route of these magnetically-suspended capsules.

Koolen has a technical qualification and is spokesperson for her father Kees’s company Koolen Industries. The two of them assessed the potential for an investment in Hardt. “Hardt has been the only one of all those hyperloop developers who has shown that they have the technological know-how to do this.”

That’s what marketing manager Martijn Koerts at InnoEnergy (an investment company that invests money from the European Commission and from private investors in innovative, sustainable start-ups) says. “The most important thing about the lane switching technology is that you are able to plan several routes in a single tube which the hyperloop moves through.” You can use it to divert a hyperloop to a stop in a city between, say, Amsterdam and Frankfurt. If you didn’t have that lane-switching technology, you could only go from Amsterdam to Frankfurt. Therefore, a stop in for instance Cologne, a city of 1 million residents, wouldn’t be possible. “Because all the hyperloops that come afterwards will then have to wait until that one moves on. That takes too much time and is not what the intention is.”

‘Lots of carriages makes the Hyperloop affordable’

Without lane switching a hyperloop network would just not be affordable, says Jelte Altena, marketing manager at Hardt. “Then you would have to build separate tubes for the various stops and routes. This isn’t feasible because it takes up too much space on land. What’s more, it’s far too expensive. Those costs can’t be recouped. You have to make sure that enough carriages can glide through one tube, so that the construction costs for those carriages can be repaid.”

Regardless of how you look at it, if the European Commission, in consultation with the individual member states, decides to build a network of pipelines for the hyperloop, then Hardt’s lane switching technology will be indispensable. After all, what can’t be paid, can’t be built. It is that simple.

It’s not that the other hyperloop companies should pack up and dump everything just because they lack this lane-switching technology, according tto Altena. Hardt is currently discussing the standardization of hyperloop technology with the other four developers – including the American and Canadian developers – as part of a workgroup led by officials from the European Commission. Hardt took the initiative for this with the support of the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management. Altena expects that at some point there will be a tender from the European Commission which the various companies can respond to. “It is conceivable that we might work on specific points in cooperation with each other. That we will form a consortium of companies where we would combine the necessary technologies together.”

Magnet in tube that diverts route can be switched on and off

The Hyperloop technology used by Hardt is based on a tube which is 3 meters in diameter. The carriage that glides through it is pulled by a magnet located at the top segment which it almost but not quite touches. There is therefore no contact at all with the tube walls. The tube itself uses vacuum pressure to move. This means that there is no resistance from air. As a result, the suspended metro can reach a speed of up to 1000 kilometers per hour using less energy than a train. The motor will be electric so there aren’t any CO2 emissions.

Switching lanes can be done at the junction by switching on the magnet in the segment of the tube that curves towards the other route and by switching off the magnet on the main route. This way the magnetic field draws the suspended metro into the other tube going in a different direction. “It sounds so simple,” says Altena. “But someone had to come up with that bright idea.”

Will we soon be living in Rotterdam and working in Paris?

According to Altena, passengers should be able to board the Hyperloop in 2028. He can’t say how much a ticket will cost. “If it turns out that the tube needs to have a larger diameter, this will affect the price. But we are already looking into what passengers are willing to pay for their daily commute using the various modes of transport that are currently available, such as airplanes or trains.

If the Hyperloop really does get going in 2028, that will drastically change work-related commutes. You will then be able to commute between Paris and Rotterdam, for example, in the time it now takes you to travel from Amsterdam to Rotterdam by train. You won’t have to move. “That’s exactly what we predict,” says Altena. And when seen from this perspective, the suspended metro should be packed.

Start-up of the day: ‘Happy to get rid of gas thanks to Woon Duurzaam’

Rense van Dijk worked in the energy sector for many years yet always felt uneasy about the amount of CO2 that is emitted. That’s one of the reasons why he eventually he went on to do something else. Last year he launched a company which is dedicated to making homes more sustainable. In the past month he has signed several agreements with investors that will enable the company to expand into this new market, including, amongst other things, the installation sector.

What motivated you to set up Woon Duurzaam and what problem does this resolve?

“When my own central heating had to be replaced three years ago, I wanted to find out what the alternatives were. I wanted to stop using a gas boiler so I asked several installation companies tocome up with a solution and give me a quote for it. Most of them said they couldn’t, so they wouldn’t give me a quote. Others did give me a quote with a solution that didn’t suit my house. That was because they hadn’t looked into my living situation. Then I started to find out for myself how I could make my house more sustainable. I installed a heat pump which draws in heat from the outside air. It heats the water in my radiators. I replaced the radiators with a type that, thanks to an improved technology which uses less hot water, still generates a lot of heat. This also saves a substantial amount of energy. I also installed a heat pump in the attic. This works as an airco during summer and provides heating in winter. And I had insulation material installed in the cavity walls. Chips that were blown into these walls through little holes. These holes were then cemented up again. I haven’t done certain things because they didn’t really offer much energy savings compared to what they cost. You could also insulate the floor and I could have replaced double glazing that isn’t HR++. But the return on those kind of investments was outweighed by the costs. All in all, the whole process cost me about €20,000. I borrowed this at a low interest rate through a government scheme. This loan can be deducted from your income tax, just like your mortgage. On balance, I am saving money, despite the loan that has to be paid off in 15 years. While I was doing all this in my own house – which was built in 1938 – I came to realize that a lot of people must have been asking the same questions. And that there was a need for advice on how to make homes more sustainable. That’s how I came up with the idea to start Woon Duurzaam.”

The founder, Rense van Dijk van Woon Duurzaam (second from left), with new business partners Els Hoenkamp from Greenchoice, Wouter van Westenbrugge from Stichting DOEN, Jaap Willems from Mijndomein and Alexander Goos from InnoEnergy. Photo: InnoEnergy

What has been the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome?

“We still haven’t completely overcome the biggest obstacle yet. We have to get rid of gas over the next 30 years. What has been difficult so far is that politicians and the media are giving out mixed signals about this. In the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf, you read about how none of this is affordable. Former leader of the Dutch Labor Party, Diederik Samsom, was at the head of the negotiating table on the built-up environment at the climate conference in Paris. He told the media that he himself hadn’t done anything to eliminate gas from his own home either. He said: ‘I’m not going to do anything yet. I’ll wait a little bit longer.’ Because the Netherlands was so shocked by biased articles in the media and he just wanted to reassure people. I get that. But they just fail to understand that there is a real need to get rid of gas in houses and make these buildings more sustainable.”

What has been the biggest breakthrough so far?

“When we realized that in order to make 80 percent of the homes that were built after 1930 more sustainable, a financially attractive deal could be made. We are talking about around 5 million homes across every category: terraced houses, detached houses and apartments. That was in November 2018, half a year after its foundation. A second breakthrough happened this year when we entered into agreements with large market players who want to work with us. This month, we signed an agreement with the energy supplier Greenchoice to run pilot projects next year in order to make their customers’ homes more CO2 neutral. Various manufacturers of heat pumps such as Vaillant and Panasonic as well as Nathan, a representative for Alpha Innotec pumps, have asked us to do their installations for them. That’s because the regular installation companies are not able to do this. Generally, they are only specialized in the installation of gas boilers.”

 What can we expect from Woon Duurzaam in the coming year?

“Next year we want to remove the gas systems from a hundred homes and offer a deal that will help consumers make their homes more sustainable step by step. You don’t have to do everything at once. But it’s important that you do all the right things properly and not do anything that’s unnecessary.”

Where do you want Woon Duurzaam to be within 5 years? What is your ultimate goal?

“We would like to have made 10,000 houses more sustainable by then. We are working in the Netherlands at present. Through our relationship with InnoEnergy, one of our investors, we see that markets in other countries differ from those in the Netherlands. But we also see that there is also a need there for a reliable party who is prepared to make homes more sustainable. So we want to work on that as well.”

What does Woon Duurzaam’s innovation do better compared to other products in your segment of the market?

“Our sole aim is to offer solutions when it comes to making homes more sustainable. These must be geared to the situation of the people we work for. We don’t work with standard quotes. We offer well thought-out plans that are carried out properly. Such a service wasn’t available in the past. It is now.”

Operate using live, 3D image-guided navigation of the inner body

Philips in Best, the Netherlands, has completed a test of its new ‘Fiber Optic Real Shape’ (FORS) technology at the academic UMC hospital in Utrecht. So, there is no longer any reason to push a catheter through a vein or blood vessel needlessly (because otherwise it wasn’t possible to see how these wind their way through the body). There is also no need for more exposure to X-rays. Innovation Origins asked radiologist and Image Guided Therapy Chief Medical Officer at Philips, Dr. Atul Gupta, how the technology works. “This is a major breakthrough for medicine. Doctors are going to use this technology for all kinds of treatments.”

You are currently testing a new surgical technique using Philips’ ‘Fiber Optic Real Shape’ technology. Can you explain what that is?

You need X-rays for the conventional way of looking inside a body. In Fiber Optic Real Shape technology, we use a catheter the size of a piece of spaghetti which contains technology [sensors, ed.] that works on the basis of light. The information that this provides is sent straight to our image processing system which is connected to screens in the operating theater. We then see the location of the catheter in the body and the shape of that location [a vein or blood vessel, ed.] on the images, without the need for X-rays. The image that the catheter sends through is three-dimensional. This means that I am able to navigate through your body without the need for an X-ray machine. This offers a significant advantage, as it reduces the exposure of radiation to patients, doctors and nurses. It also gives me a much better picture of the internal body which my device is moving through. That works better than the two-dimensional X-rays that we have been using up until now. You can operate much more precisely with a three-dimensional image.”

As a doctor, will you be able to operate faster using this method than you can with X-ray images?

“We have conducted research into this at the UMC in Utrecht. But in previous demonstrations with catheters in veins during medical conferences, doctors who were using X-rays struggled during surgeries to get through veins that were twisted. That didn’t work out very well because they couldn’t see how the vein was shaped. They applied extra pressure to the catheter even though that didn’t help. When we got those three-dimensional images, we realized that there was no point. Because the vein was winding around, for example. Consequently, it would have been better to steer the catheter upwards rather than forwards. When we saw that, we were able to get through the vein with the catheter thread in under a second. So I definitely think that our technology will shorten operating times.”

How many hospitals are already using this system?

“It’s just a research product, so you can’t buy it yet. The UMC in Utrecht is the only location where this technology has been used for trials.”

Can you only use it to move through blood vessels?

“No. It can pass through blood vessels, but also through veins. But in the future its scope could be expanded. At the moment, we only use it to move a catheter through veins and blood vessels.”

When will the product be available on the market?

“We need to do more research in order to prove that it is safe and effective. Then we have to get approval from the medical equipment regulators like the FDA in the US. We have never set a date for when the product will eventually be offered for sale. But we intend to start clinical trials with it on patients soon. Usually, it doesn’t take long before approval can be granted.”

So far, have the results been as you expected? In other words, were there fewer patients harmed after an operation compared to the existing method used to date?

The equipment can be used for all kinds of problems. But we have limited ourselves to the treatment of aneurysms in the stomach area. These types of veins twist and twirl quite a bit. We can now treat them by inserting a stent, a kind of tube to repair the aneurysm. This is a complex procedure. We are now looking at how the use of the catheter and the three-dimensional image on the screen enhances this procedure. Is there less need for X-rays? Can we operate faster? Will the operation be safer than blindly attempting to repair the vein over an extended period of time, which may cause complications because you can only use two-dimensional X-ray images? X-ray images do not allow you to look at the vein from all angles, you just have two-dimensional images. With three-dimensional images, you are able to view the veins from all angles. So then you see exactly where they go and where the problem is. You can compare the new method to a TomTom, or a three-dimensional GPS. But then for the inside of the body.”

So the new method works the way you expected to?


Is it an expensive system for hospitals to purchase?

“We don’t know yet. We are still going through the validation process. If we can demonstrate that this technology significantly shortens the operating procedures and that it works well, allowing you to treat more patients, it will be worth the expense. But at the moment it is too early to say anything about the costs. We don’t have that information as yet.”

Who invented it?

“We have discussed this technology with a lot of doctors. It is in fact a product that came into being through co-creation. We asked doctors what this procedure could be used for, such as heart surgery and surgery on veins in legs, veins that contain aneurysms. On the basis of this information, we started to test the treatment procedures for aneurysms. But as soon as doctors get a hold of this equipment for aneurysms, they automatically start thinking about all kinds of other applications. They soon think: hey, this is a great tool. That’s just how it always goes with tools. Why should I use a hammer just to hit a nail in the wall? Once they have a hold of it, they will use it for other procedures.”

Do you think this is a breakthrough development for medicine?

“I think so. For the first time ever, we can operate in an image-guided manner without the use of X-ray images. We are able to use 3-D images for the first time too. We are able to navigate our way through the body this way – another first! This is a major breakthrough for me. In addition, the X-ray images that we are currently using during operations have not been recorded live. With the new three-dimensional technology which uses this catheter, the images are live. You can decide to change your approach during the surgery if you see that what you were planning to do is not going to work.”

Multi-million-euro injection for large-scale Hardt Hyperloop test track

An international business consortium led by the Dutch green energy conglomerate Koolen Industries has made a multi-million dollar investment in Hardt Hyperloop, which is to set up Europe’s first fully operational and emission-free Hyperloop test facility.

This investment round is supported by the renowned German fund Freigeist Capital, several Dutch and Belgian investors and one of Uber’s first engineers. Several other current investors are also taking part in this investment round. The company has raised more than €10 million so far.

Major projects

“Koolen Industries not only brings in money, it also has phenomenal strategic knowledge about how to build a leading company in a new industry. This partnership will pave the way for several large projects that will guarantee a successful commercial implementation of our hyperloop solution,” says Tim Houter, CEO of Hardt Hyperloop. “Furthermore, it is great to have such a broad and international group of investors who also help us with local projects. As well as the long-term support of our original investors.”

From left to right: Founders of Hardt Hyperloop Marinus van der Meijs, Sascha Lamme, Mars Geuze, Tim Houter and the newest investor Kees Koolen Photo: Hardt Hyperloop


“Hardt Hyperloop fits in well with the family of sustainable energy companies at Koolen Industries,” says Kees Koolen, CEO of Koolen Industries.

Track switching technology

“With its revolutionary hyperloop track switching technology, the Hardt Hyperloop will change the way we travel. Just like Uber did for personal mobility in cities. By using high speed, emission-free hyperloops, everybody will be able to participate in the transition to clean energy without having to quit traveling. As the hyperloop which Hardt has been developing is much further than just an idea, it is already in a position to offer an affordable and sustainable alternative for the heavily-polluting aviation industry,” says Koolen. He is the former CEO of and an early Uber investor.

Test facility

The CTO of Koolen Industries, Gerben Hilboldt, agrees. “The Hardt Hyperloop team has successfully realized Europe’s first operational hyperloop test facility. This is a major step forward for mobility. As a green energy conglomerate, we are proud to be part of this future,” Hilboldt states.

Larger test circuit

This investment round will bring hyperloop technology closer towards becoming a commercial reality. Hardt Hyperloop demonstrated the operation of Europe’s first hyperloop test facility earlier this year. The company is preparing for the next step with this investment: The creation of the European Hyperloop Center, a facility with a length of three kilometers for testing and demonstrating hyperloop technologies at high speeds.

Larger team

“It also allows us to further expand our team with talented people and attract investors for future investment rounds. And to attract even more companies in cooperation with our existing partners, e.g., EIT InnoEnergy, the Dutch and German national railways, Tata Steel, Royal IHC and the Royal BAM Group. We are making this world-changing form of mobility a reality together,” says Lamme.

Example of what the European pipeline network for the Hardt Hyperloop could look like Source: Hardt

European network

In the future, a European hyperloop network will need to connect all major cities. The aim is to be able to travel from one European (capital) city to another under two hours at competitive ticket prices compared to current modes of transport such as aircraft and trains. A study carried out in 2018 showed that this would reduce the travel time from Amsterdam to Frankfurt to less than 50 minutes, compared to the four hours it currently takes.

‘Market value 6 billion euros’

According to an independent study carried out by Verified Market Research, the hyperloop technology market is expected to be worth nearly €6 billion by 2026. The market is driven by growing demand as a result of rapid industrialization, a rising population and the need for shorter travel times. Hyperloop’s lower costs are also driving market growth, partly due to its scaled-down requirements for land areas and infrastructure that is easier to build, plus its resistance to natural disasters.

Climate Ambassador Mary Robinson: ‘Without an ambitious Green Deal, society will break down.’

The former President of Ireland and High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, believes that the European Commission should speed up the transition process of making energy generation more sustainable within the Member States. As a matter of urgency, we should get rid of fossil fuels. Otherwise, we will not be able to produce in a CO2 neutral way by 2050. She founded her own climate foundation, Climate Justice, in 2010, which stands up for the victims of climate change.

Robinson spoke with entrepreneurs who have start-ups in sustainable energy during the congress of the European investor InnoEnergy held last week in Paris.

Afterwards, we asked her three questions which we also submitted to Diego Pavía, the CEO of InnoEnergy. In contrast to investor Pavía, Robinson foresees resistance on the part of a number of member states because they appear to be persisting with coal-burning energy generation for now.

How do you see the roadmap towards 2030 for Europe? With the emission of the greenhouse gases having to be halved by then and completely carbon-free by 2050. What is the least that needs to be done in order to meet these targets?

“The first thing that needs to happen is that countries as well as large industrial companies commit themselves to the target of carbon neutrality by 2050. And that’s where they have to start operating from. We have a coalition of countries that are committed to carbon neutrality. There are about 20 countries and cities around the world that are working towards this. Hopefully this goal will be achieved by 2030. Then we will have to work on specific issues. Which, in the words of the UN Secretary-General, means ‘no new coal from 2020 onward.’ We must phase out the existing coal-fired power stations. We need innovation instead. Scientists told us in their report that limiting the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees can be done if we have the political will.

I am particularly interested in how we can mobilize that political will from the grass roots level to urge governments to act. I see it happening: I see school children, young people, Extinction Rebellion members and female leaders standing up like never before. There are companies that are not based on fossil fuels, investors that no longer want to have anything to do with stranded assets [companies or shares in companies that can quickly decline in value because of the environmental damage they cause, ed.], philanthropic organizations, new trade unions, etc. All these parties together form a loose, wide-ranging movement. Which should now focus on various regions and countries and perhaps approach these from different perspectives. You see a very unusual alliance emerging. You see business leaders and investors joining civil society. You see women leaders standing up and trying to encourage governments and companies to take certain steps.”

What do you expect from the Green Deal from Commissioner Frans Timmermans, the paper on how the EU will achieve its 2030 and 2050 targets?

“I’m not sure if I’m well-informed enough to know about that. I am aware that there is a problem with abandoning coal. I think that the EU Member States have different levels of ambition in this area. So it is very important that the European Commission tries to encourage all countries to be more ambitious about leaving coal behind. On that point, for example, I am impressed by Denmark. At the climate summit, that country promised to emit 77% fewer greenhouse gases by 2030 [instead of the agreed 45%, ed.]. I think this is the most ambitious target so far.”

Do you see any obstacles to the adoption of the Green Deal by the Member States?

“It is very important at the moment for Europe to manifest itself as a leader and to demonstrate ambition. Europe used to be like that in the past. However, they have lost that leadership a little bit. They really need to step up their efforts. I think that requires major momentum within the various countries of the EU. One that will encourage leaders to understand that we are talking about a safe future for our children and grandchildren. Europe must take the lead. We have a historical responsibility for that. We are also in a position to take the lead. We have economies that can lead this energy transition and, in my opinion, should lead it. Otherwise, we will increasingly have to deal with the breakdown of society. People no longer tolerate ‘business as usual’. This breakdown can take many forms. It can manifest itself in an increasing number of lawsuits against companies, pressure from shareholders on companies, movements that rise up like Extinction Rebellion. They can be profit warnings from investors in companies that point out exposure to certain risks. If we don’t get an ambitious Green Deal, we’ll see more destabilization.”

But within the different EU Member States there are also movements and political parties that do not believe that climate change exists and who will oppose such an ambitious Green Deal.

“That’s right. Populism is on the rise. There is a backlash. But young people mainly look at the science. And the science is very clear. So I think this will be decisive. I’ve been asked to be the patroness of the International Science Council. This is a council that was created last year as the result of a merger between the International Council for Science (ICSU) and the International Social Science Council (ISSC). The importance of this is to bring the hard natural sciences and the social sciences together. This is crucial because this council is a body that wants to be the voice of science on a global level. I feel very strongly that we must continue to believe in science. That we have to keep science in mind under all circumstances. Science is the answer to the question of how we should tackle climate change. More and more the reports tell us that the climate problem is more urgent than previously thought and that the climate is changing faster. We must be vigilant in dealing with this situation.”

CEO InnoEnergy Pavía: ‘Timmermans, show some vision and don’t let lobbyists dictate the Green Deal’

Diego Pavía, the CEO of InnoEnergy, (which is a European investor in innovative start-ups), is firmly convinced that we will no longer emit CO2 in 2050 and will all be using green energy. Innovation Origins asked him why and how he views the Green Deal that European Commissioner Frans Timmermans is due to deliver at the end of this year. This outlines how Europe will become CO2-free by 2050. “The most important thing is that Timmermans should have his own vision for the energy transition. He should not be influenced by lobbyists,” Pavía states.

How do you feel about the European member states’ roadmap to 2030. That’s when they should have reduced their greenhouse gas emissions by half. And what about 2050, when they will no longer be allowed to emit any greenhouse gases at all?

“This energy transition will become reality. Why? Nowadays, you can choose between generating energy from windmills or from burning fossil fuels. Generating energy from a wind farm is cheaper. This means that technologies that can meet the targets for the energy transition already exist. And they are ‘in the money, as we like to call it. They are competitive. If this wasn’t the case, the consumer would go for what would yield them the most profit. What is most competitive in this day and age is already based on green technology.

Is that due to subsidies?

“No. That was the case during the early stages of sustainable energy generation. But now the business is able to stand on its own two feet. The innovations and inventors of new technologies have demonstrated that they have what it takes to do this. These innovations are feasible from a business perspective. But there are always two sides to a transition. That of the business to business, and that of the business to consumer, or citizen. The business-to-business side is at the forefront. Companies involved will meet the targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions sooner than agreed. Just because it makes good business sense to use the most competitive technology. As far as the business-to-consumer side of things are concerned, the use of innovative technology and the mindset of consumers will have to change. A lot needs to be done before consumers make the switch and buy a new type of car, or a heat pump for household heating, for example. This transition will be much more difficult.”

Is it because people’s ingrained behaviour has to change?

“Yes, the way they deal with the products they use is in their heads. That’s why we organized a conference [last week, ed.] on humanizing the energy transition. We have to take this transition to the citizens so that they don’t become spectators or sufferers, but instead become actors. This is a problem that you simply can’t solve overnight. We all come from diverse cultures in Europe. There are Germans, Spaniards, French, etc. We all behave in different ways and we all react differently to the stimuli that comes from the energy transition. We have to work together as participants in the system in order for that to happen.”

What do you expect from the Green Deal’s European Commissioner Frans Timmermans? If you could contribute something, what would that be?

“I definitely don’t have the answer to that question. But I would say: hey, Mr. Timmermans, you need a vision! Then he needs to provide the tools for implementing his vision. Since Timmermans has the money he received from the European Commission’s President Ursula von der Leyen for the transition, he has been pulled in all directions by practically every lobbyist conceivable. The danger that this presents, is that if Timmermans does not have his own vision and the accompanying tools, he will allow himself to be influenced by these lobbyists and he will make a hotchpotch of all these influences. That’s a mistake.”

The Member States must approve the Green Deal

“No. The Member States must submit their own national climate plans. Already there are concepts of how they will contribute to the climate targets for 2030. But they still need to be streamlined, of course.”

Is it conceivable that there are obstacles that stand in the way of getting this Green Deal approved?

“The Green Deal is the political strategy for accelerating the process of energy transition within the EU. Yet the way in which we are supposed to achieve these targets has already been determined. The groundwork for the legal regulatory system that is needed for this is already in place, so I don’t see any obstacles there.”

You also don’t see any difficulties that might prevent this process from being sped up?

“No. The [requisite sustainable, ed.] technology is there and is valuable. If we stop using fossil fuels for industrial production processes right now, the companies involved would lose money. So we have to help them. Not only the industry and the companies, but also citizens who have to go through the transition.”

So there has to be enough money to help existing companies.

“Yes. There must be clear incentives, though not necessarily in terms of subsidies. But it does need to be like this:  If I have a factory which is currently using coal, I should be able to easily invest in a much cleaner wind farm. Right now, as in today. And then be able to write off that coal factory.

But as an entrepreneur you have to be able to afford that

“Yes, but there is plenty of money available. That’s not the problem.”

There is no obstacle in your view

“Yes, there is. The obstacle is us: we citizens. For example, think about locations where wind farms will be built. We have to accept these changes.”

High-level French official: “Involve low-income households in the energy transition”

The French Government, like the other EU Member States, is faced with the complex task of involving the entire population in the process of making the French economy climate neutral by 2050. As it turns out, there are concerns about this. “It’s not just about devising the very best new renewable energy technology,” said Laurent Michel, Director General of the French Ministry of Ecology and Solidarity, at InnoEnergy’s conference on innovative energy start-ups held in Paris last week.

Low incomes

It is very important that scientists invent new and better technology, Michel pointed out. For example, think of better batteries for electric cars that will have a greater range as a result. “But this should be accessible to all low-income households as well.”

“They must also be able to participate in the energy transition. The transition to products that use renewable energy will have the greatest impact on them.” After all, they have very little money to spare and therefore run the risk of running into problems if they have to buy new appliances that they cannot afford. At the same time, subsidies for innovative energy applications are paid out of the tax revenue that they themselves contribute to.

That this paradox exists is obvious, even if the French senior official did not explicitly refer to it.

Millions for energy start-ups

As is the case with the other European member states, France has prepared a roadmap to meet the EU’s 2030 target. Each EU member state must emit 45% less CO2 than it does at present. All economic processes must be free of CO2 emissions by 2050. This task requires a major upheaval of the industry. In France, this industry is predominantly based on energy from fossil and nuclear sources. France will have to make the switch to the production of renewable energy. The same applies to French households.

According to the French climate change official, the government is committed to subsidizing start-ups that are developing forms for renewable energy generation or energy conservation. Many millions are being made available for this. In the so-named PPE plan, launched at the beginning of this year, the French Government promised to double the production of renewable energy within 10 years. Wind and solar energy will be used first and foremost for this purpose. The country also wants to close four to six nuclear power stations. France emits relatively little CO2 within Europe, mainly due to the large use of nuclear power stations. Several of these are outdated.

Sociological framework

Nevertheless, the aim is for everyone to be able to benefit from this, Michel said. “It is important for the state to develop a sociological framework whereby all French citizens will be able to participate”.

An initial condition is that French citizens first accept that the transition will actually take place. Otherwise, they will not take part. “That’s a challenge,” according to Michel. But once that has been achieved, our citizens must be given the opportunity to demonstrate their willingness to do so. Which means that if they want to recycle plastic so as to conserve raw materials and energy, they need to be able to do that somewhere. That’s what the French government must do when it comes to guiding society.

Call for proposals

The goal is for French buildings to undergo thorough renovations which will drastically cut down on their energy consumption, Michel states. Transport must be innovated. Engines should run as much as possible on electricity and hydrogen. In his view, this also applies to heavy trucks and other industrial transport.

Start-up entrepreneurs in France who have come up with ideas for this are able to count on subsidies from the French state. “A call for proposals was issued in September for this,” Michel says.

Director-General Laurent Michel of the French Ministry of Ecology and Solidarity Photo: InnoEnergy

Former Secretary of State of the United States: Quadruple the CO2 price and let the polluter pay

The best way to reduce CO2 emissions is to make the polluting industries pay at least four times as much for the quantity of these emissions as they do now. So says Steven Chu, the former Secretary of State for Energy of the United States, Nobel Prize winner and physicist.

The price for CO2 emissions is currently around 20 euros per ton. Far too low, says Chu. According to him, this should be at least 80 euros. Otherwise, there is no financial incentive for reducing CO2 emissions. It is also not attractive for companies to collect CO2, nor for processing companies to make a product out of it or to store it.

Innovative start-ups

Chu made his views known during The Business Booster, the annual conference of the European investor InnoEnergy that was held in Paris last week. It focuses on innovative start-ups in the energy sector.

Former Secretary of State for Energy of the U.S. Government, Steven Chu, recommends a higher price for CO2 emissions Photo: Lucette Mascini

The former State Secretary for Energy in the Obama administration responded to the question posed by one of the participants in the congress, namely Robert Rosa from Climeworks. This is a company that is currently extracting CO2 from outdoor air and resells it to fruit and vegetable growers for their greenhouses. They also are storing CO2 in the ground in Iceland. In combination with the subsoil of basalt there, it then crystallizes and within a few years it turns into a type of white rock.

Get CO2 out of the air now

Rosa wanted to hear from Chu if it wasn’t better to focus on a technology that is already able to extract CO2 directly from air. As opposed to waiting until there is a technology that can be manufactured without CO2 emissions. After all, as long as this technology does not exist, large-scale industrial CO2 emissions will simply persist. The climate is suffering as a result, while you could help alleviate it right now. That’s a better strategy in his view.

Chu, (who told us himself that he is on the board of Inventys, a company that captures and recycles CO2), says that the current CO2 price is still far too low at the moment to be able to successfully steer in that direction. “As long as the world doesn’t raise the CO2 price, we’re stuck,” Chu says.

As much as 100 euros per ton

As much as 100 euros per ton is needed to be able to transform CO2 from outdoor air into rock in a cost-effective way, according to him.

In order to raise that price, the various trading bodies in the world have to make agreements about the costs of CO2 emissions, Chu says. “My dream is that the EU and China will sit down together at the negotiating table and make agreements about this. The best thing to do is to raise the price of CO2 from 20 to around 80 euros per ton over a period of 10 to 15 years. This will allow industry enough time to prepare for this.”

‘Dream of CO2 agreements between the EU and China’

This means that the industry will have to adapt its manufacturing processes and emit less CO2. Or else anticipate a higher price per product because of the extra tax that is charged for CO2 emissions. Chu’ s idea is to estimate the amount of energy used for the production of goods at the borders where they enter the country. The extra tax based on this estimate must be reinvested into the community.

Three tips from Nobel laureates to EU politicians on how to encourage innovation

Towards the end of the European Innovation Days, acclaimed scientists advised the European Commission and politicians on what to look out for when funding research with money from the EU’s Horizon Fund (amount: about €100 billion). These grants for scientific research are distributed by the European Research Council from the EU. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist in order to understand the tips given by the leading scientists involved in this research council to the European Commission. After all, they are concerned with freedom, money and an open mind. Plus, needless to say, a good dose of curiosity.

Tip 1: Focus on the working principle, not on the application

Ben Feringa is Professor of Molecular Sciences at the University of Groningen. He won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2016. Feringa built the world’s smallest motor, the nanomotor. He wanted to know how molecules move without having to think about what he was getting out of it. It was by chance that he discovered how molecules only move forwards and not backwards. This enabled him to build molecular motors. He is presently working on a coating that cleans itself by building in miniature nanomachines. These can be applied to solar panels, processed in paints for houses and used in windows that you will no longer have to wipe clean because of the molecular motors in them, he explained. “To me, it was about understanding the principle of how molecular movement functions. Without knowing beforehand what to use it for. If you understand the principle, that leads to so many innovations.”

Tip 2: Let young scientists think independently

Jean-Marie Lehn is Professor of Chemistry at the University of Strasbourg and won the Nobel Prize in 1978 for the chemical basis of molecular recognition. He wanted to know why certain molecules seek each other out while others do not, which he refers to as the sociology of molecules. As a result, he discovered that they fit together like a key in a lock. In his view, it is important for the European Research Council to provide grants to talented young scientists. This is so that they can think independently from professors and carry out scientific research as they see fit. This is also how Europe will build up a group of excellent scientific researchers who think independently. According to Lehn, independence also means responsibility. This means that young scientists deserve scholarships; nonetheless, their research must also ultimately deliver results.

Tip 3: Give talented researchers plenty of time

Emmanuelle Charpentier is the academic director of the Pathogens division of the Max Planck Institute. She won the Kavli Prize in 2018. She is a microbiologist and has discovered, among other things, how bacteria defend themselves against viruses. The knowledge gained here is used in gene technology. She advocates that there should be enough time to carry out research. Otherwise, fundamental research will not be possible. “I hear from young scientists that they only have three years in which to invent something. That’s way too short.” A better idea would be to provide scholarships which allow for long-term research – like 10 to 20 years – so that scientists have time to think. ,,Politicians want to see quick results. That’s not the right way forward”, added former European Research Council president Helga Nowotny who chaired the discussion. ,,Research and thought need time to mature.”

From left to right: Professors Emanuelle Charpentier, Ben Feringa, discussion leader and Emeritus Professor Helga Nowotny, Virginijus Siksnys, Christine Petit and Jean Marie Lehn

EU research into the use of fields, manure and forests aims to restore the environment

In the next five years, Europe has to invest in developing systems that measure and explain as to why some agricultural crops are growing well or others aren’t. That is the opinion of advisors from the European Commission. They want to know how European forests are being used by consumers. As well as what conditions farms need in order to be able to produce in an optimal, circular way. One of the aims is to ensure that less waste is released into the environment.

In a nutshell, this is the result of a discussion between scientific advisors about planning research paid for by the European innovation fund Horizon. This is how they will try to conserve nature and available water. This should also prevent a further depletion of biodiversity in forests and agricultural areas.

Sensors in fields

Agricultural engineer Helena Gomez Macpherson of the Association for Sustainable Agriculture IAS-CSIC in Spain said that the EU must invest in research into a more efficient use of water in crop cultivation. This is to prevent dehydration and soil acidification.

There are sensors on the market that farmers can use in their fields. They may use these to gauge how their crops are growing. However, Gomez notes that farmers won’t find out why their crops are progressing or not with these sensors. Subsequently, farmers sometimes do not know if problems are due to a lack of irrigation or an excess. Nor do they know what state the soil is in or what the effect of fertilization is having on the environment around their fields. Because this is not the type of information that the sensors pass on. It is possible that they are not taking appropriate measures as a result.

Intelligent fertilization systems

If farmers were to be provided with intelligent irrigation and fertilization systems which use sensors that are also affordable and accurate, (which she considers not to be the case at the moment), that would save them a lot of money. In her opinion, existing sensors do not do this. This would require European research funding from the Horizon Fund, which has a budget of around €100 billion.

Water use during dry periods

The aim is that the environment will improve because farmers will be able to use water and manure much more precisely and sparingly. They will be better able to determine which crops are thriving well in their fields and which ones aren’t. This should also alleviate the burden on the environment.

Climate change, (whereby certain areas in southern Spain, for example, are extremely dry in summer), makes research into environmentally friendly and effective cultivation methods absolutely vital, says Gomez.

Greater use of forests by city-dwellers

The problems are very different when it comes to forestry, as one of the recommendations made by the German professor Georg Winkel from the European Forest Institute (EFI) has shown. He sees a shift in the use of forests, which accounts for some 33 percent of European woodlands. Cities have become more closely involved with forests than in the past. As an example, there is a trend in Germany towards kindergartens in the woods, he explains. Known as ‘Waldkindergarten‘, there are now around 2000 of these as far as he is aware of. Plus there are more and more cultural activities that take place in the forests, such as funerals. If it is up to him, there will be research into how Europeans would most like to use their forests, what the advantages and disadvantages are, and how we can protect them.

Biodiversity under pressure

Albeit to a lesser extent than in agriculture, Winkel states that there is a clear trend that biodiversity in forests is also coming under pressure. He also wants European scientists to work with forest scientists on other continents, such as China, in order to exchange knowledge like this. Forests in the EU are not the only ones. As far as Winkel is concerned, a policy will be put in place to deal with products on the market which are linked to the loss of tropical forests outside of Europe.

Less soy from South America

One way to become less dependent on cattle feed such as soy from the US and South America is to reuse nutrients in agriculture that would otherwise become waste, according to Ghent professor Erik Meers, who specializes in bio-regeneration. In this context, he is focused on research into methods which will turn farming in the EU into a circular industry.

Manure as a source of energy

An example that he gave was the direct use of fresh manure for energy production. That way, the farmer avoids, among other things, the build-up of manure and the release of nitrogen into the soil. This is beneficial to the environment. Moreover, the European farmer saves money on energy because they then become an energy producer themselves.

Hardt Hyperloop to go on tour around Europe with their mobile experience center starting early 2020

Early next year the Delft-based company Hardt Hyperloop will start a tour around European cities with their mobile experience center. There, consumers will be able to become acquainted with this new way of traveling, whereby passengers are seated in a capsule that is shot through a vacuum tube at a speed of up to a thousand kilometers per hour. That’s what Hardt Hyperloop commercial director Mars Geuze said at the annual Business Booster conference held by InnoEnergy in Paris, InnoEnergy is a European investment company that has already invested 5 million euros in the development of the company from Delft.

Wherever they and their experience center set up, the founders of Hardt Hyperloop hope that the tour will interest municipalities and provinces in investing in the construction of a station platform and perhaps a part of the tube network.

Test site

Geuze doesn’t want to reveal which cities Hardt has in mind quite yet. Discussions are still ongoing about where the test site with a 3 km long tube should be built. “We are probably only going to cities where a station platform will be built. They are the ones who are most interested in participating in the project,” Geuze says.

Hardt will only announce which cities the mobile experience center will be set up once it is clear where the test sites will be located. It is likely that it will be installed at central railway stations. This is where the boarding platforms for the hyperloop are expected to be in the future.

InnoEnergy invests in start-ups which focus on sustainable energy. The Hardt Hyperloop should become an alternative for regional flights. According to Hardt, the Hyperloop will use less energy than a train and is as fast as an airplane.

Since the vehicle is electric and moves through a magnetic field, there are no CO2 emissions or other harmful gases.

Clock is ticking

Geuze confirmed that the idea for a hyperloop has been around for more than a hundred years. But now that CO2 emissions will have to be halved in Europe by 2030, the clock is ticking. When Elon Musk first launched the competition a few years ago to design a hyperloop, we all sat down together with a few students in Delft. We then very quickly listed the options and decided that this had to be it. Our concept fitted on the back of a beer mat, so to speak.”

The aim is to have an operational network for the transportation of passengers across Europe within 15 years, states Geuze. Freight transport via the hyperloop should be possible sooner because it is less complex to comply with the safety requirements. After all, no people are involved in that.

Saudi Arabia

According to Geuze, countries from other continents are also expressing interest. We have received requests for information from Saudi Arabia, for instance. They want to know what our standard will look like. Then they don’t have to come up with it themselves.”

Model for the European network of tubes through which the Hardt Hyperloop is to float. Source: Hardt