Best read: are algorithms taking over our shopping decisions?

Grown-up women rolling around on the floor like sumo wrestlers for cut-price clothing. Shoved and yanked everywhere and huge queues at the cash registers. Black Friday. The day after Thanksgiving when Americans are already getting their Christmas shopping done with major discounts. This chaos is shifting increasingly more from shops to the internet. The Monday after Thanksgiving, Cyber Monday, encourages consumers to shop online. They’re already spending much more online than in a real store.

Eveline van Zeeland, columnist at IO, has also noted this trend. In last week’s best read story she talks about the advance of robotized consumerism. More and more purchases in the future will be made without human interaction. Van Zeeland writes that she is a fan of a society where human intelligence is supported by artificial intelligence if needed. Of course, you have to keep an eye on the ethical consequences. But it’s nonetheless a pretty cool trend, as you can read in her column.

Rens van der Vorst calls himself a technophilosopher and gives lectures and workshops about the impact of technology on society. He also wrote the book ‘Appen is het nieuwe roken’ (App-ing is the new smoking). He thinks we should think twice before entrusting our wallet to an algorithm: “It’s a recurring issue that we haven’t found an answer to as yet. What are values are at the core? Yours or those of the technology companies?”

Automating purchases

Ask Alexa or another smart speaker to order pizza and that’s what happens. “Very handy, the algorithm selects one for you from all of the pizza delivery services. Whereas if you place an order on your laptop, you have a wider choice and are much freer. We are increasingly leaving that choice in the hands of tech companies. In the future, an algorithm will already know what you want and your food will be ready for you when you’re hungry. That’s no longer such a weird idea.”

Van der Vorst also sees the dilemma: “See, recurring purchases such as coffee, toilet paper and things like that can best be left to an algorithm. That would be pretty straightforward if it’s done automatically. These infrastructures are already in place. Look at home delivery, and various supermarkets are also working on that. But this does mean that you give up privacy: you let an algorithm view what you’re buying. In return, you get the benefits of convenience. The question always remains how much privacy are you willing to give up. The closer such an algorithm is to you as a person, the better the assumptions and recommendations will be. But is that something we really should want?”

It’s all about the money

According to Van Der Vorst, consumers hardly have a proper look at the revenue model whereby user data is used as a means of payment. “That mindset is wrong. The data we generate is the raw material used by the Googles of this world by which they make predictions. And the more data they have from you, the better those predictions become. They earn their money from this because these predictions go to the highest bidder. This leads to social deprivation,” he explains. Because those highest bidders are not the supermarket on the corner, but companies with deep pockets and good SEO. “This principle is strictly about making money. Those Google machines are not programmed to support, but to sell. The way things are going now, you can count on it being a case of only the big players staying in the game, the winner takes all.

Worldview in code

This is also a trend that Suzanna Zuboff has outlined in her book ‘The Age of Surveillance Capitalism‘. Zuboff states that we are slaves to the data economy and that tech companies do everything in their power to model our behavior in order to make money from it. Van Der Vorst summarized the book: “A big fat book that you can barely get through, but it does contain an incredible amount of interesting information that everyone ought to know. Whether it will be as dystopian as she writes, I dare not say. But we are increasingly handing over our choices to algorithms.”

More on Zuboff’s book here

Airbnb, Uber and Tinder are all examples of how we let ourselves be supported by algorithms, all in the name of convenience. “But you know what I really don’t like about these kinds of platforms,” says Van der Vorst. “I just don’t know what’s behind them. It’s a type of worldview in code. I am not familiar with that vision and I certainly don’t know how it works. Is it inclusive? Does it work honestly? When you try to gain insight into how this mechanism works, you don’t get to see it at as it’s considered business-sensitive information. Nobody knows exactly how it works. The discussion about comprehensible AI is absolutely justified. But sometimes I wonder if we actually want that. The less we know, the more we seem to rely on algorithms.”

Does this make us less sociable as people? “Automating chores such as shopping gives you more time to spend with your family or do something with friends. But we’re increasingly caught up in a tech worldview shaped by socially awkward white men. Talking to someone in real life is exciting, so romance and love are automated via Tinder. But on the other hand: how many social interactions do you actually have in a supermarket?”

‘A Tesla for people who like to play Rambo’

Each week we take a look with EV specialist and Innovation Origins columnist Auke Hoekstra at what caught his eye on topical issues or what he runs into when it concerns the preservation of our planet.

Nobody will have missed it: The presentation of the Tesla Cybertruck. The opinions are divided – from unbelievably ugly to brilliant and everything in between.Though Tesla is getting a lot of pre-orders. Elon Musk posted the latest update on Twitter: more than two hundred thousand orders.

Auke learned a lot about Tesla’ latest model on Twitter. He is advocating a ban on these kinds of ‘juggernauts’ in the city.

Read the thread

What bothers you so much about the new design?

“Have you seen how huge it is? Maybe this is more suitable as a lunar vehicle. Or for people who are expecting to be attacked. But no one really needs such a huge vehicle, do they? It’s also about the signal that you are sending as a driver. It looks extremely aggressive. Like: ‘We’re just going to shove you off the road for now.’ This is everything you do not want to have in a city. It’s as if a driver feel superior to the rest of the traffic. Surely that can’t be the intention.”

“On the other hand, I do understand the thrill, I’m still a small boy who loves fun toys too. A Maserati is also super cool. When it comes to its looks, I can imagine that people find it futuristic and a pretty good thing. It is definitely something different for once. These reactions do make me think, yet I’m still overwhelmed by the feeling that it is a war truck.”

“So long as there are no proper rules to keep these antisocial tanks out of the city, I’m just glad that there are electric alternatives.” Auke Hoekstra.

How would you rather see it?

“It’s mainly about the signal you’re sending and that’s just wrong. To what extent can you still call it a sustainable car? It takes up a tremendous amount of space, has a lot of material around the wheels and is not at all aerodynamic. Tesla uses a stainless steel construction which is super heavy. On Wikipedia it says – for what it’s worth – that this model weighs about 3,000 kg. This causes the tires to wear out faster and it also means that there has to be a massive battery in there …”

Suddenly on the other side of the phone connection there are sounds of mumbling and tapping on a keyboard. Auke is busy with the math. “… They say that you should be able to drive at least 800 kilometers on a fully charged battery. I take that with a pinch of salt, they base that on the most favorable conditions. But let’s assume for the sake of convenience that it’s true, then my guess would be that it has to contain at least a 200 kWh battery, maybe even bigger.”

“”Even if you were to drive around using completely green electricity, you’d still need a substantial supply of raw materials in order to produce such a huge battery. That’s not a justifiable approach.”

Already the response on Twitter was that you shouldn’t complain so much: this car isn’t meant for compact Dutch cities at all, does that make you change your mind?

“I definitely don’t deny that they drive in much larger cars in the US, for example, where that trend has been going on for much longer. Oil is cheap and there are certain tax advantages to larger cars. But you are also seeing more and more of those SUV’s here. These cars have one major feature: driver safety. You are shielded and yet you don’t get any sense of the vulnerability of pedestrians and cyclists.”

“It bothers me that the design of these forts on wheels does not take those vulnerabilities into account. Quite a lot of research is being done on outboard airbags, or bumpers that have extra give. But that’s not nearly enough. Much more attention needs to be paid to safety on the outside.”

Can Tesla change any of this?

Auke starts laughing, a video can be heard in the background:

“The claim that the glass is unbreakable, turns out to be a bit off the mark.”

But according to him, the car manufacturer is keeping up with current trends by making these kinds of claims. As in an indestructible all-terrain vehicle. “They hit the side of it with a giant sledgehammer in order to prove that the model doesn’t give way. You can imagine what happens to a person when he is hit by a car that doesn’t budge an inch. That is not going to end well. This criticism is not only directed at Tesla, but at all manufacturers.”

“Consumers also have a responsibility here. When you buy such a thing, you are actually telling the rest of your surroundings: you’re out of luck, I’m driving here. What are these huge cars doing in the city anyway? Studies show that these types of vehicles are more dangerous. Maybe we should also give people who want to play at being Rambo in the city a higher level of liability.”

Lastly, can you find anything positive in this new model?

“Evidently this is what it takes to get people out of their fossilized pickup trucks. So long as there are no proper rules to keep these antisocial tanks out of the city, I’m just glad that there are electric alternatives.”

Two ex-Lightyear employees present budget solar car for city use

Munich already had its own budget solar car, so today a Dutch version will be added especially designed for the city: the Squad (solar quad). The idea came from two former Lightyear employees who wanted to design an affordable solar car for a large group of consumers.

Two passengers can sit next to each other in this 45 km/h solar car and there is enough space for luggage in the boot. The Squad combines the practical convenience of a scooter with the comfort and stability of a city car. Sheet metal and doors have been omitted in order to make the car as light and cheap as possible. The Squad costs almost €6,000.

More about solar cars can be found here.

The solar car can automatically charge up to 9,000 kilometers per year using its own sunroof. This is all it takes for users to drive 30 kilometers or about an hour emission-free every day, according to Squad Mobility’s CEO Robert Hoevers. “Most vehicles in this segment don’t drive much more than 6,000 kilometers each year. But if users need extra range, it can be recharged directly from a regular power outlet. Fully charged, you could drive up to 100 kilometers. Consumers can also opt to order additional battery packs for more range.”

Old cities need new solutions

In Hoevers’ opinion, emissions and congestion are the biggest problems associated with urban mobility. “Our old cities are not equipped for cars. In the Netherlands, we are seeing a trend towards further urbanization, with 90% of city dwellers living in suburbs and surrounding areas. All of these people like to go to the city regularly. For work, school, going out or shopping. This is not feasible in the end. Public transport and cycling are excellent solutions, yet they’re not a good alternative for everyone. For instance when it rains or if you live far from a bus stop or station.”

Parked cars take about 10 square meters of space, he says, while a Squad only needs 2 square meters. ” You can park five Squads on the same spot as one car, crosswise on a parking lot. You don’t have to take open doors into account when parking, that saves space.”

Hoevers works together with Chris Klok and is responsible for the design of the solar car. Together they have more than 40 years of experience in mobility. From scooters to motorcycles, the FIA Formula E, solar cars and even flying cars. “We’ve spent a lot of time on the design of the Squad. The compact dimensions were a major challenge. We wanted to move away from the ‘archetypal car’ in which people move through the city in a small closed-off cage. The objective was to create a more social, interactive experience whereby passengers are involved in the social setting of their urban environment while experiencing comfort and protection from the elements. A complete roll cage with seatbelts and the stability of 4 wheels provide maximum safety for all passengers. Helmets aren’t necessary.”

From A to B quickly, easily, safely

The Squad solar car has also been designed with shared services platforms in mind. Hoevers: “Users of these platforms want to get safely from A to B quickly and easily. Cities are looking for solutions with a minimal use of limited space and the lowest emissions. Automatic charging on solar energy is of course ideal for a shared services platform. The portable, interchangeable batteries minimize the ‘downtime’ that the Squad experiences when charging. In addition, its ruggedness, sturdiness and low maintenance levels are key demands in this market.” Subscription and lease options will be offered from 2020 onward. The aim is to keep the lease price below 100 euros per month.

At the same time, the company is also launching a variant with extra space in the boot and is thinking about releasing an 80km/h version in the future.

Best read: Professor says – ‘Don’t panic about the rise in sea levels’

Soaking wet feet through flooded streets. We are increasingly faced with heavy rains or periods of drought as a result of climate change. The municipality of Eindhoven is taking all kinds of measures to mitigate flooding. Last week’s best-read article featured a measurement tool developed by the municipality to figure out how much water building constructors need to divert from new buildings in order to reduce the risk of flooding. The municipality of Eindhoven is also addressing problem areas with new water storage systems aimed at reducing the disruption caused by heavy downpours.

Great, all these measures, but they won’t help you if The Netherlands floods. There is the idea among some sea-level experts that unstable ice sheets cause the sea level to rise faster than is presently thought to be the case. But according to Bas Jonk, professor of hydraulic engineering at Delft University of Technology, at the moment we will be able to technically cope with a rise in sea level of 1 to 2 meters. “It is expected that the water will rise by 20 to 30 centimeters by 2050. This is not a problem right now. We could raise dikes and replace storm surge barriers as the water rises.”

According to the professor, the Netherlands has things pretty much under control when it comes to flood protection: “Many flood barriers have been designed with an increase of 1 meter in mind. Every year, the government invests around 1 billion euros in flood protection. Which is something we can maintain and that’s a good thing. Compare it with other countries – there are plenty of areas in the United States that are not yet well-protected so they still have a long way to go. Thought is being given to constructing dikes or taking other measures over there now.”

Not acting is not an option

He gets that the Dutch are worried. However, there is no need for panic. “60 % of The Netherlands is low-lying and vulnerable to flooding. This can have many consequences. So yes, that concern is justified. But you should put it in perspective. Between now and 2050, the sea level will rise by a maximum of 30 centimeters, only after that will it rise faster. The threshold of 2.5 to 5 meters will probably not be reached until the 22nd century. This means that we still have ample time to see what can be done technically. Nor would it be a bad idea at all to raise that budget by 2050 from 1 billion to 2, maybe even 3 billion euros a year.”

The Maeslandkering storm surge barrier near Rotterdam is designed to close about twice a year. If the sea level rises above 1 meter, this barrier would then have to close every day. This is far from ideal because ships will no longer be able to sail freely. And the Oosterscheldekering storm surge barrier will also have to close every week if the sea level rises that much. This in turn will have negative repercussions on the wildlife environs.

Dams, dikes and drainage

“That’s why it’s good to think about alternatives now. Start by figuring out and planning what is needed to replace these barriers. What happens to the area if you build a permanent dam? Perhaps a new flood barrier would be a better idea. This involves a lot of work and the implications are considerable. These are expensive projects that have an impact on the environment and the economy. Planning and all the procedures surrounding these projects take up a lot of time. This is where the biggest challenge lies for the time being,” Jonkman explains.

In Jonkman’s opinion, we are more likely to be affected by other climate factors, such as heavy rainfall and temperature hikes accompanied by drought. “Recently a report was published by Deltares (a Dutch research institute) on this and their conclusion is that rising sea levels have not accelerated. Even though we are already suffering from drier summers. e.g. rivers are becoming less navigable as a result of low levels. Drought is endangering constructions built on piles and dikes. And in cities there is heat stress to contend with. In some places, drainage of water after heavy rainfall is also a problem.”

Advancing innovation, also outside of The Netherlands

Not only the Netherlands suffers from heat stress, drought or heavy rains. This is why various partners from fifteen different countries within the European Union are working on local solutions to climate-related problems. Brigaid helps entrepreneurs and inventors to flesh out their ideas. Bas Jonkman is also busy with this on behalf of TU Delft. “Often you see that innovations are difficult to get off the ground. Not much is put into practice. We want to support innovators in advancing their innovations through this project,” the professor explains.

The EU project runs until April 2020 and so far, Jonkman has already seen solutions from twenty different European countries. From a smart green roof in Antwerp that retains water during heavy rainfall and releases it during drought, to solutions for water basins in Spain where the water evaporates at high temperatures. “In Romania there is a test facility where you can test a smarter alternative to sandbags. And you are able to simulate all kinds of situations with temporary flood barriers here in Delft.”

“Furthermore, project participants receive advice with regard to the technical side and help with building a business case. Another objective is to boost education and research. Students who are doing an internship or are in the process of graduating are able to participate in various projects. You bring each other further this way.”

Best read: why a German-Flemish-Dutch megacity is not such a good idea

More and more people are moving into the city. In fact, in the coming years megacities are emerging where more than thirty million people live and work. It is by no means inconceivable that between now and 2025 about 70 percent of the world’s population will be living in these kinds of metropolises. With a population of 150,000 on average, Dutch cities cannot compete with this size. In order to keep its head above water, The Netherlands would do well to form a block together with Flanders and the German Ruhr region. Peter Savelberg, the innovator behind this Tristate City model, explained in last week’s best-read article how he envisages this. Savelberg believes that with a total of more than forty million inhabitants and know-how and a high level of prosperity and welfare, this block would be capable of competing with world cities such as Hong Kong.

A bad idea?

A bad idea according to Zef Hemel, Professor of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Amsterdam: “From an economic point of view, this kind of a metropolis is not at all attractive. Moreover, this urban model is not sustainable. An average Dutch person emits far more CO2 than someone in Hong Kong. There they use the metro to do everything, while here we travel plenty of kilometers by car. We have also lost out in the area of public transport, as we do not have a national metro network. The metropolitan area of Los Angeles does have that and it has about as many inhabitants as the Netherlands.”

Hemel clarifies that the idea which sees The Netherlands is one big city is not new. “Prime Minister Wim Kok was already saying that back in the mid 1990s. The national road network had just been completed and everyone could suddenly cross the country at high speed in just two or three hours.” The idea was that with the completion of the road network (and the simultaneous advent of the internet), it no longer mattered where someone was located. “But the opposite is true. This is the paradox we find ourselves in. More centralization has taken place since the completion of the national road network and the establishment of the internet. The pull factor of the center, referred to in The Netherlands as the Randstad, has only increased due to improved accessibility. Everyone wants to be a part of it.”

Inner cities are no longer bustling

As an example, Hemel mentions the move since the early 1990s of various head offices out of the provinces into Amsterdam. Perhaps the best-known example is Philips, which moved from Eindhoven to the main city in 1993. ” Concentration has increased since the 1990s. Research has shown that many city centers are no longer bustling, shops are empty and young people are moving to the Randstad because ‘that’s where it’s happening’.

This phenomenon is also seen in the healthcare sector. By merging hospitals, more and more towards the big city, regions are experiencing problems. The 45 minute standard for ambulances to get to a primary care center is under pressure and patients outside the Randstad have to travel further to get to a good hospital”.

University = diversity

When it comes to innovation, Hemel also does not see any advantage for The Netherlands in being one big city: “Cities play an important role in the knowledge economy. A good university with laboratories and researchers on a campus is not enough.

In America, you have college towns where the talent leaves after graduation. It only becomes interesting if a university is embedded in the metropolitan area. That’s when a university can profit from its proximity and from the availability of complex ecosystems. In New York you have Columbia, Cornell-Tech and NYU. These universities are among the best in the world. You can also see this reflected lower down the rankings, as there are state universities like the City University of New York (CUNY) that perform better than Dutch universities. That’s because they all benefit from New York’s diversity and critical mass. More people and widespread use of public transport. Fewer kilometers of traffic jams, because everyone uses the metro network.”

Hemel believes that there The Netherlands lacks the mentality to think in terms of a metropolis: “We don’t like it when people are banging their own drums like that. There’s the dutch saying: ‘Doe maar gewoon dan doe je al gek genoeg‘ – (which means ‘act normal, that’s crazy enough.’ Comparable to ‘don’t stick your neck out’, ed.) The same goes for the universities. There is less tension and less variance between universities here. But that’s what is necessary in order to move forward.”

Acceptance is still a long way off

Spatial concentration is not just confined to the Netherlands: “In the past, we mistakenly thought that this only happened in developing countries. But it is also happening in France, Switzerland, Great Britain and Canada. Toronto has a strong magnetic pull in Canada. I think that we should not keep on resisting this, but should accept this phenomenon. That’s how we can prepare for it.”

But the professor has seldom seen that acceptance as yet. According to him, various ministries in the Netherlands are doing everything in their power to turn the tide.

“The government is trying to promote the spread of urban development outside of the main cities as much as possible through all kinds of regional programs. I can count a considerable number of initiatives to help the regions grow and move forward. It would be more sensible in terms of sustainability to accept that networking leads to greater spatial concentration. Seeing the Netherlands as one big city is possible, but we shouldn’t think that this will even everything out.” Hemel is convinced that this model will inevitably lead to major differences between urban and rural areas. Hemel: “It is an illusion that we would be able to keep residents in one big, country-wide, highly disparate and fragmented city.”

Best read: only a German-Flemish-Dutch megacity can take on the competition

Asphalt, roads, rocks, buildings – that’s how Cees Jan Pen describes Veldhoven, ASML’s home base. As an economic geographer, Pen is an independent member of the SER in the province of North Brabant and is a member of various national committees for advice on regional development. Pen is voicing his concerns about the state of Veldhoven’s city centre. In last week’s best-read article, he describes how the municipality desperately needs a vibrant heart. Not only for the native Veldhovener, but also for the expat from Taiwan.

The town needs to be revamped. A lot of catching up must be done when it comes to urban development. But isn’t Pen thinking in too narrow a way? After all, Veldhoven is part of Brainport Eindhoven, a region with 21 municipalities and about one million residents. Surely this urban area cannot compete with London (almost 9 million residents) in terms of facilities and environment?

No, says also Peter Savelberg, creator of the TristateCity model. This model merges the Netherlands, the Flemish part of Belgium and the Ruhr area in Germany into one large metropolitan region. “Over the past twenty years, people have increasingly moved to large cities as a part of urbanization. This has resulted in a vast urban agglomeration where between 15 and 30 million people live. There are around sixty of these ‘megacities’ in the world. All these cities or metropolitan areas are competing for talent and investment.”

Connecting regions

Dutch cities, which have an average population of 150,000, are far too small to engage in this struggle, according to Savelberg. “In an area like Shanghai or Mumbai where some 20 to 25 million people live, the competition between Eindhoven and Amsterdam is irrelevant. I think we should move away from competition between cities and bring together all the various strengths of the different regions. Now you see separate municipal groups travelling around the world. They are all proclaiming that they are European hotspots. A Metropolitan region of Amsterdam (which includes 32 municipalities), a cooperation between Arnhem and Nijmegen (which includes 16 peripheral municipalities, ed.), the Brainport region – and so many others can now be found. It is not my intention to upset people with this, as I know it is a sensitive issue.”

Stronger together

But still Savelberg thinks it’s a shame that regions want to widen their markets on their own. “You are much stronger together. If you start out flanked by Flanders and North Rhine-Westphalia, you can count on an area with 35 million residents. There is a lot of prosperity and wealth in this area and a in particular, a lot of knowledge. People are highly educated, and the area has 8 universities in the world’s best 100. If you look at it this way, you are in the world’s top 10 in terms of megacities.”

The only thing is how do you do that, connect regions? Should everything have to be overhauled according to the Chinese metropolitan model? “Absolutely not, the Dutch, Belgians and Germans really do not want to want to live in 100-storey skyscrapers. We are used to space, a private garden, a good barbecue and things like that. Whereas in China they do almost everything by public transport, the Dutch hop on their bicycles. But the Germans and Belgians are also doing that in growing numbers. This is not only good for sustainability, but great for everyone’s well-being too. This is only set to increase with the growth of the electric bike,” says Savelberg.

Letting go of city limits

And how is that connectedness? The good road network and the many reciprocal commerce in the area serve this purpose. Savelberg: “Despite cultural differences or language barriers, the Dutch, Belgians and Germans have managed to find a way to reach out to each other for decades. These collaborations could be stimulated even more. Universities cooperate on European projects, but it would be good if this could be done in a more structured way.”

Savelberg sees there is still too much thought being given to city centres: “Plenty of research is being done in the field of health In Maastricht. This also applies to Utrecht, where it is referred to as ‘living health’ and Groningen as ‘ageing health’. Then I would say: look at what you can do as a network for healthcare. Let go of those city limits.”

Investing in railways

That doesn’t mean we’re there yet. Even though the road network is in good shape, the railways could still use a major upgrade. Also, there aren’t as many trains between the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany as you would like for such a ‘cosmopolis’. Savelberg: “Prorail has estimated that it is possible to run many more trains one after the other. In order to make this happen, we need to invest in a more effective safety system. As well as more high-speed lines are needed to improve connections between areas.”

Savelberg: “We are facing major changes; rapid technical development, the rise of data, robotization and so on. It changes the economic order and changes companies that we are currently familiar with. Perhaps in a few years’ time, the manufacturing companies as we know them today will have changed into data companies. Who knows? We want to keep looking ahead, take the next steps towards growth. The network that you assemble around you plays an important role in this.”

 

Best read: Mobility all the way from Helmond

The Automotive Campus in Helmond is ten years old this year. In this week’s best-read article, we looked back on the origins and evolution of the site that once housed Volvo’s factories. Today: which technologies, modes of transport and ideas first saw the light of day at the Automotive Campus? In other words, which mobility innovations do we have Helmond to thank (in part) for?

  • VDL electric buses

Although not designed there, VDL buses were tested extensively on the campus in Helmond. Currently, VDL is also working with Heliox from Best (in the Netherlands) at the campus on the further development of fast charging technology.

The buses had their test runs on the Automotive Campus in Helmond before the Dutch bus company Connexxion bought the very first 43 electric buses from VDL for the Eindhoven public transport service. “Hardly anyone knows that, but the test phase was done here on campus,” says Inez van Poppel from Automotive Campus. The buses drove nearly every day on the campus site in Helmond so they could put the technology through its paces. Does the weather affect the battery? How often do you have to recharge during a route? How long does it take to charge? “You have to have everything mapped out before you can put them on the road. We’ve got everything we need here on the campus for carrying out tests and sorting out teething problems,” Van Poppel says.

After Eindhoven, Amsterdam and the rest of the Netherlands also followed suit with the electric VDL model. Van Poppel: “The buses that run in Amsterdam at Schiphol Airport also went through thorough testing here. The buses may not have been designed here on campus, but we certainly played a part.”

The fact that buses in the public transport sector are increasingly more electric doesn’t mean that the R & D is over and done with. VDL is working with Heliox at the campus on optimizing the fast charging system which works via a pantograph mounted on the bus’s roof. The aim is that ‘ordinary’ electrical sockets can in future also cope with this kind of power. Which would be handy for passenger cars.

  • Lightyear, Spike and Dens

All three of these former TU/e student teams made the move to Helmond in order to keep on progressing.

“It is important that not only established companies are active on the campus, but also young talent who are committed to green mobility .” Inez van Poppel

Lightyear, who unveiled their first car last summer, made a conscious choice for the Helmond campus: “For us, the campus mainly meant a potential for growth. We had a number of requirements: an office area and a production space. All of this was achieved in no time at all. Somewhere else, where a landlord doesn’t really care that you are there as long as you pay, it would probably have taken much longer,” Tessie Hartjes explains. The automotive network in Helmond also played a key role: “We have easier access to decision-makers at home and abroad”.

Dens, formerly Team Fast, ended up in Helmond because they were in the process of designing a bus powered by formic acid for VDL. There was no room for us at the TU/e. “We wanted to show the world that the technology works, though we weren’t concerned with the commercial aspect of it then,” says Max Aerts van Dens. The start-up has found its niche on the campus and now makes formic acid aggregates. “As a substitute for noisy diesel generators that pollute the environment. We supply clean energy to construction sites and festivals.”

Spike, supplies intelligent batteries for smaller electric vehicles, such as scooters, tuktuks and lawnmowers. It started with the creation of an electric motor in 2014. The student team wanted to travel around the world in 80 days with this. To be able to do that, you would need a battery that charges quickly and lasts a long time. They used the knowledge they had gained from that for designing a flexible modular structure and the intelligence for it. Founder Bas Verkaik: “A battery in itself is a very stupid thing; it’s basically a cell that runs out. It doesn’t have a clue when it will be empty. So it’s important to add intelligence.” The start-up team is working with TNO in Helmond on the further development of this intelligence and are exploring various new technologies there.

  • Test facilities

This may not be a technology that will directly benefit the general public, but innovation is not assured without proper facilities where there is room for experimentation.

The A270 motorway, a kilometers-long test area, is literally on their doorstep. Cameras, Wi-Fi, transponders and other sensors are connected to the Traffic Innovation Centre, where all tests are carefully monitored, including platooning or autonomous driving. “This test route enables new technology to be put into practice. Innovation comes to life here,” says Van Poppel.

According to the campus staff member, innovation cannot be done without proper test facilities. “You have to be absolutely sure that something is safe before it is rolled out on a large scale. In addition to the test road, we have one of the most modern crash test sites in the Netherlands. But also several TASS international test centers. Including a test area for ADAS systems (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) which are being incorporated in cars more and more nowadays. Parties are not just able to gain certification at all of these centers, but they can set up research as well.”

 

‘It’s a waste when nobody benefits from a good idea – so get researchers out of their labs!’

Last Thursday three European start-ups recieved €50,000 in prize money from the European Commission as winners in the European Social Innovation Competition. Out of the ten finalists, their solutions to the global plastics problem were judged by the jury to be the best. The money is meant to be used for growing their businesses. According to Mark Nicklas, head of the Innovation and Investment for Growth department at the European Commission, this competition is about so much more than just the three winners and the prize money.

“We want to help those innovators who have good ideas to implement their ideas. It is a waste if society cannot benefit from potentially great techniques or ideas. We think it’s important that someone with a good idea gets support so they are able to turn that into a business.” According to Nicklas, this support is far from a matter of course when it comes to all of the member states. The European Commission is endeavoring to close this divide. “Entrepreneurs or innovators often do not know where to look for support. Or there is little support available from their local government. We want to nurture good ideas and encourage local authorities to do the same through a competition like this.”

Out of some 550 submissions, the jury (consisting of experts on social innovation and the circular economy) chose the 30 most innovative ideas with the highest potential for a positive impact on society. “They all followed a three-day masterclass in Turin so they could further develop their ideas. Here, they exchanged ideas with each other, received tips from experts and learned everything about sustainable business operations. They each rounded this off with a business plan.

Getting a broader perspective

A three-day course such as this may seem short, yet it’s extremely useful for participants, Nicklas states. “The difference in their business plan after they had adjusted their initial version was huge. And on top of all this expertise, they make new contacts as well. Not only within the industry, but also among each other. That’s also very valuable. Moreover, they learn from each other. For example, they talked about how legislation on waste in their country is regulated. This in turn led to new insights. They also have their own business coach. This coach helps them with the things that you typically come across when you set up a start-up.”

Aside from all of that, the ten finalists pitched their ideas and all the semi-finalists had the chance to meet potential investors and financiers during the final held last Thursday. They may not have won first prize, but they did have the opportunity to benefit from a broad EU network.”

Social Innovation Impact Award

During the announcement of the winners on Thursday evening in Brussels, the Social Innovation Impact Award was presented as well to one of the semi-finalists of last year. This year the award and prize money of €50,000 was won by “MTOP goes digital”, an Austrian-based blended learning program that helps young, highly qualified refugees enter the local labor market. Under the theme “Rethink Local”, the 2018 Competition looked for projects that turned local challenges emerging from the changing economy into opportunities for the younger generation. “Here, we look at what start-ups have achieved after one year of work. A jury looks at whether they have achieved their goals and whether their initiative has a positive impact on society. This prize is also an incentive to spend the €50,000 well,” Nicklas explains.

New this year is an alumni network of which all participants from previous editions are involved. “We want to encourage participants from previous years to help new start-ups. They can exchange experiences here or ask each other for help. They all have different backgrounds and are active in various sectors, which can lead to some great cross-pollination. As the European Commission, we think it is important to stimulate cross-border cooperation.”

Drop in the ocean?

Certainly when it comes to the plastics problem, which affects not just one country, but the whole world. “In Europe alone, we are talking about more than 27 million tonnes of plastic waste per year. This forces us to look at how different links work. We have to look for ways to do something different. We want a clean circular economy for the whole of Europe. That is only possible if we look across borders.” But aren’t these start-ups just a drop in the ocean?

Nicklas: “This year, the EU has developed a strategy with measures for reducing plastic waste, increasing recycling and plans for developing bio-based plastics. We have also made agreements with large companies in the industry. They are working to recycle at least 10 million tonnes of plastic by 2025 and are looking for ways to produce less waste. So, a lot is happening already. And I hope that the start-ups from this competition will also make their contribution.”

Solutions should not only be provided by the government or by established industry, Nicklas believes: “Solutions are also welcome from the community at large. They also have a role to play here. It doesn’t even have to be a groundbreaking technology. An idea that changes people’s behaviour which causes them to use less plastic or make consumers more aware, is also part of social innovation.

Could you live in a cardboard house?

The Dutch Design Week is not all about new gadgets or cool gadgets. Instead it gives designers the space to explore the future. What will our life be like in ten years time? For instance, how will we build our houses and can we do that in a more sustainable way? Oep Schilling makes and sells houses out of cardboard. According to the designer, ‘wrapping’ a house like this is up to eight times more sustainable than building a traditional house. He traveled to DDW with three trucks from Amsterdam. At Sectie-C, he is introducing visitors to the Wikkelhouse and to his quest for more sustainable building construction and housing.

The cardboard houses are made up of a range of segments that can easily be attached to each other. These segments are ‘wrapped’ together in a giant machine. A large cast serves as the basis for each segment. In two 45 minute-long sessions, 320 meters of cardboard is wrapped around the cast. 24 layers in total. A layer of plywood is placed between the layers of cardboard so that the corrugated cardboard is not crushed. The exterior is finished with thermowood cladding (thermally modified wood).

Willy-wonka machine

The ‘Willy-Wonka-like machine’ was almost lost. It was standing somewhere in a barn gathering dust until Schilling came across the shrink wrap machine. “I was immediately fascinated by this bizarre machine and decided that I would take it off his hands.” Schilling is referring to René Snel, a son of a paper merchant and himself a technician. “He had an eye for quality and started to experiment. This produced a tomato crate that he had wound from corrugated cardboard. It was so incredibly strong. That crate lasted for four years.”

Soon Snel decided to make the machine bigger so that he could prove that cardboard was strong enough to make a house. “After a lot of time, money and effort, he finally managed to do that. This was around the turn of the century. People weren’t that concerned with the climate or sustainable building back then. He couldn’t sell the houses.”

The machine ended up in Snel’s shed, where it remained gathering more dust for quite some time. Until Schilling bought the machine. “It was now 2012 and Al Gore, among others, put climate change on the agenda. It was a great opportunity to show that there are also building methods that place less strain on the earth. We want to tell that story with the Wikkelhouse.”

Assembling Wikkelhouses at Stayokay Gorssel – april 2019 © Wikkelhouse

Where does the material come from?

“I come from a time when I took some things for granted. Even though that’s nonsense, of course. Precisely because of the issues at hand. The plastic soup in the ocean and micro-plastics that are all over the place. But also CO2 emissions, global warming and more of these issues. We are becoming increasingly aware that we only have one earth and that we can’t go on like this,” Schilling explains. His goal is to ‘wrap’ together a completely circular cardboard house. “To do this, you need to think about how to use material in a smarter and more sustainable way than is currently the case. We are striving for the lowest possible negative impact on the earth. After its service life, the cardboard that we use can be disposed of as wastepaper.”

But the Wikkelhouse is not (yet) completely circular: “Most likely that will never happen, but we are always trying to get a step closer to that goal. The first thing you do is explore: where does your material come from?” The plywood that Schilling uses in the houses is made of organically degradable wood, although this wood is glued. “That glue is rubbish, a lot of stuff that is glued ends up in the incinerator. That can’ t be recycled. We are now in talks with a large plywood manufacturer to examine whether there are any other, more sustainable alternatives to this glue.”

Glue is difficult to break down, the designer states: “Nature has a lot of problems with it. Moreover, it is almost impossible to separate it from other materials. Glue is actually just a plastic which comes from petroleum. For a long time, we have mainly focused on chemically modifying and exploring the unlimited possibilities that petroleum has to offer. No one thought about the fact that the degradation time of these reprocessed materials is extremely long.”

Observe what you can learn from nature

That is why Schilling advocates a different way of thinking: “Now the time has come for us to apply our intelligence in order to think about how we can close the circle again. And move towards a chain where raw materials are made into products, but can just as easily be transformed back into raw materials. I think we can learn a lot about this from nature. Scientists are researching this more and more as well. For example, how do mussels attach themselves to rocks underwater? This can lead to interesting insights and we should pay much more attention to these aspects.”

 

Wikkelboat in Wijnhaven, Rotterdam ©: Yvonne Witte / Wikkelhouse

In order to improve their own processes, Schilling no longer uses a wood stain, but uses thermowood instead to finish the houses. That’s better for the environment, he says. The glue they use is also less harmful to the environment: “Glue is an essential product for builders. It does its job well and is also widely used in the construction industry. But I think that 95 percent of all adhesives are synthetic. We used wood glue, but have switched to a more sustainable alternative. A wrapped house is up to eight times more durable than the build of an ordinary house with our method. But we’re not quite there yet.”

As Schilling says, there is an arc of tension between organically degradable materials and the comfort of the end users: “Starch glue is completely biodegradable. But people do have to constantly take care of their homes after periods of rain. This is unsustainable; we want a Wikkelhouse to last at least fifty years or more. In the meantime, we are still on the lookout for better materials that have less impact on the planet. At the same time, we don’t want the quality of the houses to be adversely affected.”

During Dutch Design Week, Schilling and his team aim to ‘wrap’ a segment each day at Section-C. There are two segments which have already been completed so that visitors are able to get an impression of the cardboard houses.

Diagram of cross-section © Wikkelhouse

EU awards three start-ups with €50,000 each to reduce plastic waste

Today, the European Commission announced the winners of the 2019 European Social Innovation Competition.  The three winning projects from the 2019 “Challenging Plastic Waste” Competition will each receive 50.000 euro for demonstrating outstanding potential to reduce plastic waste and improve re-use and recycling at a systemic level. Drumroll: and the winners are:

  • MIWA (Czech Republic)
    An innovative, financially sustainable circular distribution and sale system for food and non-food products with re-usable packaging.
  • SpraySafe (Portugal)
    An edible spray to be applied to the surface of foods in order to preserve them, thus reducing the need for plastic wrapping and containers.
  • VEnvirotech (Spain)
    A biotech start-up that transforms organic waste into biodegradable polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) bioplastics using bacteria.

The three 2019 Winners were selected from a total of 543 initial applicants from across Europe. In July, 30 Semi-Finalists took part in the 2019 European Social Innovation Competition’s Academy; an intensive training and coaching programme designed to develop their initiatives. Out of these thirty semi-finalists the jury chose ten finalists.

Elżbieta Bieńkowska, Commissioner for the Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs commented: “the European Social Innovation Competition clearly shows how we can tackle some of the biggest challenges facing European society through innovation and entrepreneurship. I would like to congratulate especially the three winners and to thank all of the participants for their entrepreneurship, ingenuity and enthusiasm.”

Alumni Network

During the event, the European Commission also announced the launch of the European Social Innovation Competition Alumni Network. All of the Competition’s Semi-Finalists, Finalists and Winners will now have the opportunity to join this community of entrepreneurs, thus fostering cooperation between innovators across the different themes covered by the Competition. They will also benefit from added exposure, as sector relevant bodies and aspiring innovators will be able to find them on the new online directory.

This year it’s the 7th edition of the competition organised by the European Commission run across all EU Member States and Horizon 2020 associated countries. The competition acts as a beacon for social innovators in Europe, employing a proven method for supporting early-stage ideas and facilitating a network of innovators shaping society for the better. Each year the Competition addresses a different issue facing Europe. This year the focus is: Challenging Plastic Waste.

Demand-driven agriculture- the solution for more sustainable farming?

We should all be self-sufficient by 2050. With that idea in mind, Simone and Arend Koekkoek have launched Campus Almkerk. They bought a secluded farm in 2016 and completely rebuilt it. No gas connections anymore, instead solar panels on the roof. It is a place where people can go for advice on sustainable building, housing and agriculture. There are also a number of companies housed there who are working on these issues. 2blueconomy, for instance. A company that supplies energy-saving products for the home, such as a shower that collects heat from shower water and uses it elsewhere in a house. And Pixelfarming, where customers digitally lease agricultural crops. Each ‘pixel’ patch measures 10 by 10 centimeters. People can choose what they want to grow and then design their own garden. No need to sow, harvest and keep track of the land yourself, a robot does all of that. From time to time you even get sent photos of how your crop is doing.

Old ways on the way out

“We believe that current farming methods are on the way out. Farmers are more concerned about which crop yields the most per hectare of land. Yet today’s monoculture is depleting the soil,” says Simone Koekkoek. Her husband adds to this: “Then there are all those other steps in the supply chain before anything ends up on a plate.” The Koekkoek couple are aiming to remove these steps by delivering directly to consumers and allowing them to choose for themselves what they want to grow. Pixelfarming does not use any pesticides and customers get the full harvest. Including all the products and by-products that are not commonly used in the industry.

“Spinach flowers, for example. A restaurant that we supply hardly uses them. When I arrived there once to deliver some spinach that had flowered, they were really enthusiastic. ‘Oh, we’re going to fry those flowers!’ they said immediately. It’s good for the sake of creativity, and it makes people to think about what’s available,” Simone explains.

According to her, the demands of the industry have made us too used to seeing vegetables look a certain way. Beets are between 80 and 110 grams, everything outside of that can’t be found in supermarkets.” While that same restaurant is really delighted with tiny-sized beets. We have forgotten where vegetables come from. This is how we aim to get people to think more consciously about it all.”

Invention is not innovation

Arend believes that technology is used in agriculture in the wrong way: “We have been able to grow crops for a very long time, there’s nothing new about that. Every time I invent a better or faster piece of machinery that can harvest more efficiently, I don’t call it an innovation. It only becomes that when we start using these new technologies to do things in a completely different way.”

According to him, demand-driven agriculture is one such system innovation. “This allows you to use agricultural land much more efficiently.  You are able to grow local produce. And you only grow what people actually need. This has a much smaller impact on the environment.”

“You often hear that the agricultural sector needs to make more use of data and that this data needs to be shared. I am in favor of this as long as it is done in the right way. I think it is very important that farmers find out in the first place what the real added value of data is for them. Just forwarding data streams is pointless,” says Koekkoek. Simone adds to what he said: “It’s a shame that farmers only use these drones or satellite images for determining when and where they should use fertilizer. They only do something with that data once a year that way. Surely a lot more could be gleaned from that?”

Hunting snails with a robot

Koekkoek also believes that agricultural machinery should have many more different uses. He compares it to the very first IBM PCs: “Before those computers, companies had to take their entire bookkeeping to an accountant in order to have them audited. With the advent of computers, they were able to do this themselves. But it also meant that they were able to dispense with typewriters too. They just put a floppy disc in and then the device delivered whatever they needed right there and then. That’s what’s lacking in agriculture at the moment.”

Pixelfarming’s autonomous agricultural robot is trying to perform these multiple tasks. The robot has a battery of sensors. And it has special heads that can be used in several ways. “You can use it to sow, harvest and also track and measure the land. Without the need for separate machines. We are able to design these in consultation with farmers, even when they have specific requirements.”

“You can even play games with our robot too,” laughs Koekkoek. Students who were working on a project about the agriculture of the future developed a game where players used the robot to deal with snails or weeds. ” This sort of thing just kind of happens here. So, that’s how you could look after a crop while playing a game. How cool is that! We need this kind of experimentation so we can view agriculture in a different way.”

Air filter for more pigs?

He has his doubts when it comes to the farmers who in the past few weeks have dragged their tractors out of their barns and driven en masse to The Hague (or their provincial town hall). “I don’t want to lump farmers all together. There are also farmers who do think about how they will leave the planet for the next generation,” says Koekkoek. “But the fact that something has to change has been as clear as a bell for twenty years now. Many farmers have ignored this. They were busy scaling up and increasing their profits. Pig farmers who buy a subsidized air filter for some more pigs – that’s not really a solution, is it?”

The couple believes that it may not be a problem at all if unsustainable agricultural practices were cleaned up. “The farmers who have been working on sustainability for a long time, have grown far less rapidly and have not made enough money. But they do keep an eye on the future of the planet. You can give these other groups money for sustainability projects, but does that change anything? It is not a choice, but a necessity. Let them feel it, maybe they’ll become more creative then. We also turned off the gas supply from one day to the next, so you have to find another way.”

Dutch Design Week Hidden Gem # 9: How two cultures come together

Before she graduated from the University of the Arts Utrecht (HKU), Samira Charroud was never busy with her origins. The daughter of a Moroccan father and a Dutch mother switches effortlessly between these two worlds. She stands with one foot in her mother’s Western culture, while her other foot stands in the Berber countryside of the Moroccan mountains. “I had a Dutch upbringing, but I spent a lot of time with family in Morocco when I was younger as well. I grew up immersed in Berber culture which I feel just as much connected to as Dutch culture.”

As Charroud grew older, she kept looking for a balance between the two worlds. “I grew up in both worlds, which is a self-evident thing when you’re young. You don’t think about it. As you get older, you start asking questions. As a teenager, I found it difficult to hear negative opinions about Moroccans. This shocked me, it didn’t match with the image I had of my family and the country. During my studies as an illustrator, I was only able to embrace my multicultural background again. I don’t have to choose sides, both are part of my identity. I don’t want to hide it. But I want to use it in my making.”

That personal quest in search for her North African roots resulted in four woven carpets. Charroud not only relates a personal story in these works – that of her father’s, yet she also has more to say. It’s about courage and hope as well as sadness and homesickness. Furthermore, the carpets are an ode to the unique position of women in Berber culture. “For thousands of years, weaving techniques have been passed on from mother to daughter; they tell each other stories that you can see in their weaving. I also tell stories in my work. I try to express something abstract like an emotion or sense in a visual way. Finding a form for this is interesting to me.”

One of the four carpets Charroud made for her graduation © Samira Charroud

Imagery

Charroud’s desire to express something in a visual way comes inadvertently from her Berber roots. “I would always be told stories when I was with my grandmother and uncles. I hardly speak the language, but because of their body language and translated literature, songs and poetry, I know how expressive the language is. Lively and full of imagery. They feel so connected to the countryside where they live that they give it human characteristics. That’s how the earth can feel and a mountain can cry. These are metaphors to express how much it hurts when they leave the country they love so much in search of a better life. This imagery is reflected in my work.”

“Usually these are drawings, but they might as well be actual products,” Charroud states. She made a freeze chair for a project wherein she wanted to depict the emotions of survival, as in: flee, fight or freeze. Somebody is literally stuck in this chair and has no way out. “It makes something abstract tangible and you can experience what it feels like to freeze. That’s how I want to make that kind of thing more interesting, without overdoing it.”

Worn by women

The carpets that Charroud is showing during the Dutch Design Week have been manufactured by company. “I tried all kinds of knot techniques and weaving methods myself. But I didn’t think the result was good enough”, says Charroud. She submitted her design and had the carpets woven by a company. Using recycled cotton in the loom. “But if I ever have the time and the money, then I think it would be great to explore that artisanal way of working.” This will be Charroud’s first major exhibition since she graduated.

“Admittedly, it’s really quite exciting though a lot of fun too. It allows me to tell my story to a larger audience.” It’s not necessarily so much that an artist wants to give or teach their visitors something. “It’s just that I grew up in two worlds, so I can tell a story from both perspectives. I also find it very special to let them know that women in Berber culture have a very different role than Dutch people often expect. Women have a high position within the family. Especially when it comes to upbringing or cultural things. This is something that women genuinely embrace.”

DDW

Location: Design Perron, Fuutlaan 12

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

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

 

 

About the fusion of Dutch and Moroccan culture © Samira Charroud

Dutch Design Week Hidden Gem # 8: ‘Hotel Insomnia’ – the crown jewel of hidden gems

You can check in, rent a room, shower and even sleep there. But Hotel Insomnia is anything but an ordinary hotel. Normally, the artists’ collective De Fabriek works on new pieces or offers space to other designers in this building that dates from the sixties. The old bookbinding shop is transformed into a hotel during the Dutch Design Week. From a cargo bike that guests can rent as a tiny house – to a more luxurious accommodation ‘with vintage sanitary facilities’. Hotel Insomnia has something for everyone. Budget guests can spend a night on the concrete floor in a Sheltersuit for a tenner. There are various performances and exhibitions to attend during the day. But when the guests check in, the doors are locked for the general public. The rest of the evening and night, guests immerse themselves in the world of several artists.

One of these worlds involves the work of Florian de Visser, designer in the public realm. “As a Public Space designer I produce narrative scenes about places. I am fascinated by mass tourism.” Armed with cardboard, pens, glue and scissors, De Visser puts his scenes together. These stories allow people to look at things in a different way. In this case: tourism. “I want people to look at tourism as a tourist. It has taken on extreme forms in Venice and Barcelona. There, the question then arises: are they still cities?”

“I used to be annoyed by tourists, even though I am one myself. You want to get lost in a crowd, but you can’t do that at all. Culture is changing and tourism is also becoming part of culture”, he explains. It’s comparable to how Barcelona had markets where locals did their shopping which were discovered by mass tourism and have now turned into tourist markets. “Tourists always look for undiscovered places, places where other tourists don’t come. Ironically, everyone uses the same lists and ends up in the same places. In Tokyo I saw food bloggers in the same restaurants taking pictures of their food. This is an interesting phenomenon, it gives places a new identity. But what does this mean for the local culture and identity?”

Tourism is becoming part of culture

According to De Visser, this change in culture and identity is not necessarily a bad thing; it belongs to this day and age. “Culture is not a fixed concept, that changes all the time. Now you can get information from anywhere for your next trip and share it with others. As a result, ‘hidden gems’ no longer remain hidden. At the same time this causes a lot of irritation among the local population.”

This anti-tourism movement is clearly visible at the Bunkers del Carmel in Barcelona. “It’s located just outside the city. Lots of young people gather there to enjoy themselves and have a beer. But it is also a tourist hotspot because of the great view across the city. There are slogans on the walls of the old bunkers that say things like ”tourists go home”. It has an anarchic atmosphere, where people show that they are tired of tourism. I find it very interesting to explore this dynamic and then portray it.”

Anti-tourism in Barcelona © Davy de Lepper

In ‘his’ hotel room at Hotel Insomnia, De Visser continues where he left off with his earlier work. Tourist sightseeing. De Visser was amazed by the many art dealers on St. Mark’s Square in Venice, who all sell more or less the same artwork. “Typical Venetians. Gondoliers in their gondolas, that sort of thing.” He was determined to trace the origin of their work and approached some of them. “One man seemed almost offended and pulled out a neatly plasticized diploma from an art academy. He was actually teaching there these days he said. He also showed the paint smudges on the back of the painting. This was meant to convince me that he was the creator of that piece.”

Is the Matryoshka doll really Russian?

But this had the opposite effect. His story sounded premeditated and so De Visser doubted it even more. He waited on the square until five p.m. when the ‘artists’ cleared up their business. “A lot of our souvenirs come from China, while we all pretend that they’re local. So, I decided to follow them. They went away one by one, almost as though it would be suspicious if they all left at the same time,” he says. The market vendors disappeared into the streets of Venice with De Visser following behind. “The funny thing was that they all went into the same building. When the door closed, in a blink of an eye I saw some more shelves. As if it were a wholesaler. I figured they all worked for the same company and just sold the paintings.”

It doesn’t matter to De Visser’s work if these so-called artists are merely salespeople or are in fact real artists. “I want to use the scenes I create to tell a story and make people think. When tourism boomed in Prague, there wasn’t a typical souvenir. That became the Matryoshka doll. But what does that have to do with Prague, that doll is Russian, isn’t it? But the Russian Matryoshka is based on the Japanese good luck charm – the Daruma doll. These are fascinating observations.”

Location: De Fabriek, Baarstraat 38, Eindhoven.

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

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

 

© Davy de Lepper

Dutch Design Week’s Hidden Gem # 4: Bouwjaar Blitz

Mr. De Wit had hardly even opened the door before he started enthusing: “The other day a former pupil stood on my doorstep, he brought a bottle of wine with him. I love to hear about what they have been up to. Whether they’ve become carpenters or lawyers, it doesn’t matter to me. Everyone is the same.”

When you hear Mr. de Wit talking, it’s only the wrinkles on his face and the walker next to his comfy chair that betray that he is already quite old. “I am now 93. I still have a fixed routine every day. Even though I’ve been retired for quite some time now.” He shrugs his shoulders and starts the next anecdote. Mr. de Wit’s mind is still full of stories.

These stories form the backdrop to Lichterbij, a project by urban poet Jessica Bartels and designer Elke Veltman. Bartels went for coffee with residents of the Wilgenhof home for senior citizens in the Schalmstraat. She then turned many of the stories that she heard into poems. Veltman chose a strophe and made lampshades with this printed on them. She then hung these in the Rochus neighborhood, the White village and the Sintjoriskwartier in Eindhoven, the three neighborhoods surrounding the Wilgenhof. You can refer to the whole poem on the activities page of the Wilgenhof website by scanning a QR code on the lamppost.” This is how I wanted to bring the neighborhood into contact with the senior citizens who live in the Wilgenhof. I myself come from this neighborhood and I heard so many things that I never even knew anything about. These are wonderful stories that I wanted to share. I also want to show that a lot of things still happen in that kind of place. I want to do away with the stigma that an old people’s home typically has.

© Elke Veltman

Lichterbij is just one of the many projects that can be seen at the Wilgenhof during DDW. Costume designer Joost van Wijmen will be staying at Vitalis Wilgenhof to explore the statement ‘Mijn lichaam is (g)een object’ (My body is (not) an object) with the residents and give them guided tours. Here is the full program.

Overcoming stigma

Mr. de Wit has always also worked hard to break down barriers. From 1947 onward he taught at the de Laak primary school in Eindhoven. That’s where he later became the principal in 1966. A catholic school with exclusively catholic children, because that was how things were done back then. The building was shared with a school for the ‘rich’. But there was no mutual contact. “At our school there were children who didn’t come from well-off homes. They had no money to go on a school trip. Philips got out its wallet at the Philips schools. We had a good priest who made sure that every child could come along. Later on I introduced a savings scheme.”

Bouwjaar Blitz means literally Blitz Year of build, a reference to WW2. When Mr. De Wit originally moved to the Wilgenhof residential complex in the Schalmstraat, he was not happy. He admits that he, too, had an image of a care home. “That’s not for me, is it? But I have changed my opinion. I’m having a great time here and there’s plenty to do.” Mr. de Wit suddenly remembers something from his youth: “During the war I cycled all the way from the Schalmstraat to Leende, over those dirt roads. A family acquaintance had a sow that had just had piglets. She would give the Germans one less piglet if we came to pick one up quickly. When we got there, the piglet was inside a big wooden box which was tied to my bike. Father then said to me: ‘ride on up ahead’ – he wasn’t such a hero. When I cycled on, I understood why. That piglet squealed the whole way home. Luckily I didn’t meet any Germans along the way.”

When the young Mr. De Wit came home, he couldn’t get off his bike. “That crate was too big. I cycled in circles until my mother noticed me. They all made delicious things from that pig, black pudding too.” De Wit stares ahead for a moment. “I was born in the Schalmstraat and now I’m back living here,” he picks up the thread again. “For me, the circle is complete.”

Location: residence Wilgenhof, Schalmstraat 2.

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

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

 

Veltman bezig in de wijk © Elke Veltman

Best read: How to live in a more climate-neutral way

Earth Overshoot Day fell on July the 29th this year. On that day, we had used up all the natural resources for this year that the earth is capable of providing in a single year. That means that from this day on, we are living off our planet’s reserves. As of now, 1.7 earths are needed in order to be able to replace everything we use. And if everyone would live like the average Dutch person, you would then need about 3.5 earths. In other words, it doesn’t look good. You can compensate for this by taking a shorter shower, grabbing your bike more often or by buying less products packaged in plastic.

Many scientists see cultured meat as a solution to the greenhouse gas problem caused by livestock. In theory, it should be possible to grow ten thousand kilos of cultured meat using just one cell. In his column last week, Auke Hoekstra discussed how cultured meat could make the earth a more wonderful place. It was our best read story of the week. Unfortunately for Hoekstra (and the rest of us), it is unlikely that we will be eating a leg of cultured lamb at Christmas next year. The best alternative at the moment is to just avoid meat. And if you really want to make an impact, you shouldn’t fly anywhere or go on winter sports anymore. You shouldn’t have children, you should sell your car and you could stop buying imported products.

The list of climatic sins is just getting longer. The latest addition: a bunch of flowers. The Dutch conservation group Milieu Centraal looked at the CO2 emissions from 19 types of cut flowers.They then sorted them by each month of the year. In doing this, the organization wants to provide insight into when you could buy certain flowers with a clear conscience. And how did that turn out? Approximately 33 % of the flowers surveyed are out of the question for climate-conscious citizens whatever the season. Producing a bunch of these flowers emits more than 4 kilos of CO2. This is even more than the 3.4 kilos of CO2 that a 100 gram beef steak produces.

Strictly abstaining from everything on the blacklist probably won’t really make your life any better. Innovation Origins likes to take a more constructive approach and is looking for alternatives that won’t make you feel guilty right off the bat. What can you do to live in a more climate-neutral way?

Maybe you’re already doing a good job. Check that here and calculate when Earth Overshoot Day would fall if everyone were to live like you.

No guilt-mongering

Marieke Reisinger, spokesperson for climate and mobility at Milieu Centraal explains that their figures are not intended to make people feel guilty. “We don’t want to point the finger all the time, that’s counter-productive. Nobody would listen to that. We just want to make it clear to people what they can do to live more consciously. It makes a big difference whether you put roses from Kenya on the table every weekend or get them from the Netherlands.”

The average Dutch person buys six pairs of shoes and about twenty new items of clothing every year. Just by buying three pieces of clothing less, you save about 57 kg of CO2 per year. (For your information: an average Dutch household emits 20.2 tons of CO2 per year. Clothing makes up 5 % of that total. According to data from Milieu Centraal). But what if you don’t want to live without all that new stuff yet still want to live more consciously? A good alternative to new clothes is a clothes library. Here you can ‘borrow’ clothes for a fixed amount per month. As a result, clothes are worn for a longer period of time and are less likely to end up in the wastebasket or an old closet. Production levels can be reduced because you don’t have to buy new clothes. That saves on CO2 emissions.

Suzanne Smulders from Lena Library, a clothes library in Amsterdam, reckons that the library will have saved on production of about 30,000 garments by the end of this year. “We’ve been keeping track of that since it was founded five years ago. Each pair of trousers borrowed by a member does not have to be bought. That saves on production. The average member borrows two items of clothing each month. However, we also have people who come by for special occasions.” All those trousers, dresses or jackets account for 20,000 kg of CO2 and 16 million liters of water. ” We have based our calculations on an average weight per garment and percentage of fabric. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be possible to make that sum.”

Lena Library in Amsterdam © Huib van Wersch

From conscious laundry to sustainable nutrition

What is more important to Smulders is that when people borrow clothes, they become more aware of other things. This is done in a few steps at a time, she explains. “That can start with how you do your laundry. You care about your clothes and want them to last as long as possible. But effective washing also saves water and energy. Since you are aware of this, it takes less effort to focus on your food or amount of waste, for example. Members also point out that they are more conscientious when buying stuff.”

The collection includes not only vintage looks that have been around for about 25 years, but also new items from young designers. They take quality and durability into account at the library. “The clothing from the sixties and seventies is made with qualitatively better fabrics than is currently the case with mass production. The finishing touches are incredibly meticulous. This means that you are still able to wear these clothes today.”

And does Smulders check where young designers get their fabrics from? “You can look at all kinds of aspects of sustainability. For instance, what kind of factory does the fabric come from? How is it made? Good fabrics are a big investment for young designers. We think it’s important that they do their production locally. And minimize residual waste by making good use of fabrics. This clothing is also sustainable because it is of good quality, which means that it will last longer. This also makes a difference when it comes to production.”

Dutch newcomers are the first to start at the World Solar Challenge down under in Darwin

Last night, hopefully while you were still fast asleep, the sun was already blazing in Darwin, Australia. At half past eight in the morning local time, the starting shot sounded for the first solar car in the World Solar Challenge. The ‘newcomers’ from the North of the Netherlands qualified yesterday for the pole position by setting a track record in Darwin. “We have shown right away that other teams have to take us seriously,” Eline Hestra from the Top Dutch Solar Racing team says while in Australia. An hour later, the last of almost fifty solar cars also set course towards the finish line, 3000 kilometers away in Adelaide.

For more than two years, 26 students from Hanze University Groningen, University of Groningen, Noorderpoort and Friesland College have been working on the further development of each their cars. This is the first time that they have taken part in the Solar Challenge. “A few team members went to the previous event for input and ideas for our car. We also looked at the other Dutch teams to see how they were going about it.” But Hestra assures us that the team did not ‘cheat’. “There’s no fun in that. Our engineers had a good look around and tried out a great deal. In the end, they made their own decisions.”

Those decisions turned out to be successful. Because on Friday, the team was able to pass the final inspections remarkably easily. “It was very exciting and to be honest, we were quite surprised how fast this went. The inspection team stated that they were impressed by the car. A really fantastic compliment, of course,” Hestra explains. It was even more exciting because the team designed their own battery system that had to be tested extensively for the sake of safety.

Inspection of the car © Job Verkruisen

From eight o’clock in the morning until five o’clock in the afternoon, about fifty solar cars in three different classes are driving through the outback of Australia. “It’s the first time for us. Other teams have the advantage that they know how to better manage the race.” The teams have to go through checkpoints every day whereby all of the cars are inspected. “You can also replace parts or repair things there. We all have to do this as efficiently as possible. Off the top of my head, there are about nine stops. So, if you waste five minutes at each stop, you’ve already lost 45 minutes.”

Hestra doesn’t dare say if her team has a chance of winning: “Of course we will do everything we can. We’ve been working hard on this for a while now. A track record like that is great and proves that we are serious. Everybody gotten a bit nervous the past few days. You can feel the tension in the air. But no matter how well prepared we are, a lot can still go wrong along the way. We try to take this into account as well. We have spare parts. Plus while we were building the car, we sought out parts that can be easily repaired.”

The other Dutch teams had a less than flawless preparation. A solar panel broke during the transport of the Eindhoven Solar Team car. And last Wednesday during a test drive, the TU Delft car crashed into the guardrail. The driver escaped with just a fright. Nevertheless, there was a lot of tinkering going on in the past few days to get the car to the starting line on time. The race ends in Adelaide on October the 20th.

© Job Verkruisen

Start-up of The Day: Cytuvax helps doctors get back on the floor again thanks to a new vaccine

The Cytuvax vaccine for so-called non-responders to Hepatitis B vaccinations has helped more than one hundred physicians in clinical trials. “About 5 % of the people who are vaccinated in the standard way do not have a reaction to this vaccine. This group remains susceptible to Hepatitis B,” explains Paul van den Brekel, one of the shareholders of the Maastricht company. The last thing you want as a surgeon is to infect your own patients on the operating table. But police agents, firefighters and officers of the law also need to be protected.” For these professions: no reaction to the vaccine means no permission to work. “In order to protect these non-responders, they sometimes receive a double dose or a change in the shot schedule. (Normally you get three injections with a specific amount of time between them. By administering injections within a shorter period of time, it is possible that some people may react. ed) But none of these alternatives has been researched well enough,” van den Brekel states.

The Cytuvax team

The second clinical study revealed that 92% of patients react to the vaccine based on Cytuvax’s technology. The technology works as an adjuvant. ” To put it simply, this is a product that enhances the effect of an existing product. In this case, it is a vaccine to prevent a viral disease. But at the moment we are also researching this technology for therapeutic use with a view to treating diseases.”

When will the vaccine be available?

We have demonstrated through two studies that we not only have an effective, but also a safe drug that non-responders could react to. Yet with a surprisingly high response rate of 72% in the control group, this is a bit too one-sided. This is not distinctive enough. The discrepancy is not large enough. That’s regrettable, although 92% is extraordinarily high and it does show that the technology works.”

Why didn’t you just get a salaried job?

One day I’m in contact with a German professor, the next I’m talking to a Portuguese investor. In Maastricht, we are working together with doctors from the Maastricht University Medical Centre (MUMC). The small core team I work with is also very diverse in terms of age, nationality and experience. This is a very stimulating environment. It is very different from a large, global company like AstraZeneca and Organon, where I have worked in the past. Now the lines of communication are much shorter and I feel that I can have more of an impact.”

Running a start-up is always unpredictable, especially in the pharmaceutical world. I find it very satisfying that I have been able to let go of the comfort zone that’s associated with working for a “Fortune 500” company. And that I am also able to work very well in an environment with more uncertainty. Furthermore, as an entrepreneur in a start-up, you learn so much more than you would do if you were an employee. And not just not scientifically, but also when it comes to business.

Can you give an example of the ways in which you can have more of an impact with a start-up?

During our second clinical study on the hepatitis B vaccine, we were informed that the key trial medication was temporarily unavailable. Clinical studies often fail due to a lack of funding or because patient recruitment is too slow. We had this all sorted out. That’s why it was extra difficult that things were in danger of going wrong because of something that was beyond our control.

I then phoned every supplier imaginable. I was able to arrange the necessary medication in the end thanks to my past contacts. Normally this would be done by various departments at a large company. Now I had direct contact and managed to sort out something that enabled our research to continue. Large companies are less dependent on one or two studies because their portfolios are so wide-ranging.”

How does your company differ from other medical start-ups?

We want to use our technology as a platform. This means that we are examining what other conditions we could use the technology for. We are currently carrying out a preclinical study so we can develop a drug for patients with pancreatic cancer. It works as follows: this therapy does not tackle the source of cancer, but gives the immune system a boost. We hope that the body will ultimately be able to purge the tumor itself. But we are still a long way from that. Pancreatic cancer is one of the most deadly forms of cancer. So if we succeed in prolonging the lives of patients, that’s already a huge step forward.

Aside from our good contacts with the MUMC, you can easily get to Germany or Belgium in no time from here. We work together with specialists in Antwerp, Hasselt, Bochum and Aachen. This cross-border cooperation is important. This makes us more flexible when it comes to setting up a study that we think has the greatest chance of actually being able to help patients”.

Is that the ultimate goal?

Absolutely, it makes me incredibly proud that in the various phases of the study for the non-responders vaccine, we got more than a hundred doctors back on the floor. They had limited access to their profession or were unable to do so because they were at risk of infection or could transmit hepatitis to their patients.

The first step on the therapeutic side of things is to make the drug so safe that we can test it out on patients. This won’t be possible until 2021 at the earliest. We will only be successful if we can help these vulnerable patients in this way. In the end, that’s what it’s all about for me.”

 

Improved level of comfort for babies in incubators thanks to algorithms and pressure sensors

Every year, around 15 million babies are born prematurely worldwide. Almost all of them spend some time in an incubator so that they can gain strength. Each of them is covered in electrodes and connected to a monitor via a tangle of wires. All of this in order to keep a close eye on the babies. An alarm goes off at least a few hundred times a day in these wards. In many cases this is a false alarm that doctors do not have to respond to. This causes ‘alarm fatigue’ among nursing staff, which means that they may be less responsive to an alarm that does matter.

Rohan Joshi has devised a way of avoiding false alarms in the event of lower heart rates or oxygen levels. One that is based on machine learning. In addition, the PhD student at TU/e uses this technique to enable critical alarms to be triggered 20 seconds sooner. Doctors at the Máxima Medical Centre are able to do their work more effectively because of this invention, . They don’t have to respond to non-emergency calls as much and can intervene more quickly when needed.

Joshi is one of approximately one hundred PhD candidates who are connected to the Eindhoven MedTech Innovation Center (e/MTIC). This is a collaboration between TU/e, Philips and three leading clinical hospitals in the region, Namely: the Máxima Medical Center, Kempenhaeghe and Catharina Hospital in The Netherlands. Within this consortium, researchers want to bring new healthcare innovations to patients more quickly. “We work in three different areas: pregnancy and birth, sleep disorders and cardiovascular diseases. In many cases, research is still carried out in an invasive manner. This can be quite daunting for patients. One of the things we want to do is ensure that patients are able to be monitored without the need for invasive contact,” says Carmen van Vilsteren of e/MTIC.

Another one of e/EMTIC’s projects: Multimillion euro grant brings artificial womb for premature babies one step closer

Increasing comfort levels

In addition to the algorithm, Rohan Joshi has also designed special pressure sensors. Van Vilsteren: “These are located in the mattress that the baby lies on. They measure the same things as the patches which are normally applied to the skin. This increases the level of comfort for babies considerably. Patients at Kempenhaeghe could benefit from this as well. They are also covered with sensors when they undergo sleep research. The ultimate goal is that people will be able to be monitored at home too.”

e/MTIC also researches solutions for cardiovascular diseases © TU/e

It is possible not only to treat a disorder, but also to prevent or detect diseases more quickly by monitoring people at home. That’s according to Van Vilsteren. “The hospitals we work with all have an enormous amount of patient data at their disposal. This enables us to provide support to physicians in a smart way. It can serve as a basis for making decisions concerning the treatment of a patient. But it is precisely through combining and analyzing all of this data across a variety of areas that you are also able to have something to say about the development of a disorder. This is how connections are found that would otherwise have remained undetected.”

More can be done under current privacy legislation than is often presumed, Van Vilsteren states. “It is often about interpreting what is conceivable within the boundaries of the law. You can see that because of this, companies and healthcare institutions are very cautious in their actions in order to avoid risks. As a consequence, they share less data or store less of patients’ data.”

That’s a pity in her opinion. “The technology that is needed to compare this variety of patient data is developing rapidly. Kempenhaeghe has an incredible amount of data on sleep. It could be the case that interesting insights could be gained by combining sleep data with heart failure data. However, the use of (patient) data should not be allowed arbitrarily, even if it has been rendered anonymous. Before you can analyze this data, you have to obtain prior consent from patients.”

Data portal

Researchers at e/MTIC are working on a data portal to make this kind of analysis and the necessary data exchange possible. “We make clear in advance what patient data can be used for and that this data is shared here solely within e/MTIC. At present you see that researchers sometimes take up to a year to set up a clinical study. They are no longer able to see the wood for the trees. That’s due to all the various rules and regulations that they have to comply with. We want to take that work off their hands by setting up that infrastructure and supporting them with their submissions. This will enable us to significantly speed up the innovation process without skipping any steps. Of course, we don’t want to act negligently or contravene any rules.”

Although e/MTIC has been officially in existence for just one year, the cooperation goes back much further than that. “The TU/e has been working with hospitals for about 25 years and the relationship with Philips goes back much longer,” says Van Vilsteren. These are no longer separate projects within the e/MTIC framework, but rather an approach based on a vision that has been clearly outlined by the parties involved. “We are working on a collective roadmap. The advantage is that we are working together with hospitals. This means that we know what is going on with doctors and patients. This allows you to come up with a solution based on specific needs. We then test a concept several times with patients and physicians. Then we take the next step in the form of a new algorithm or a prototype.”

e/MTIC has a strong industry partner in Philips.  Which makes sure that new techniques are less likely to remain on the shelf, Van Vilsteren adds. “When you first set up a medical start-up from a university, that road is often very long. A party like Philips knows its way around, which is a huge help. E/MTIC has a far greater impact because of this.”

On Friday 11 October e/EMTIC is organizing a symposium at the TU/e entitled ”Technology meets Value-based Health Care‘. This will be organized together with the Dutch CardioVascular Alliance. The inauguration of Lukas Dekker will also be highlighted. Dekker is a researcher at e/EMTIC in the field of cardiovascular diseases. Registration is possible via Mrs. A. van Litsenburg at A.J.J.T.Litsenburg@tue.nl.

Best read: doing puzzles with the king

Did you see it? How King Willem-Alexander was as happy as a kid when he finally managed to get the coin into the right spot. With two thumbs up and a grin from ear to ear, the king almost made a jump for joy. It was a bit of a puzzle to get the stainless steel coin with 12 pins into the right holes in the right way. The king briefly threatened to give up. Nonetheless, Willem-Alexander was not distracted by the 1500 guests who eagerly watched how he doggedly persevered. He squatted down to study the pins and kept turning the coin around until it clicked into the path. Done!

King Willem-Alexander officiating the opening ceremony of Brainport Industries

That’s how the Brainport Industries Campus was officially opened last week, something very different from cutting a ribbon. Willem-Alexander finished a work of art created by Juul Rameau when he slotted this last coin into the right spot. Rameau really made the the king work for it. What was it like for her to make the king work up a sweat?

“Few people can say that they have figured out a puzzle with the king. And even fewer people have brought him to his knees,” Rameau looks back on it all with a smile on her face. But the designer was feeling slightly under pressure. After all, what if the last piece didn’t fit? The joy was all the greater when the king completed the work of art. “The piece would fit in only one way, quite difficult if there are fifteen hundred people watching over you. When it succeeded, the mood was almost euphoric and the audience was on the verge of cheering. The sense of relief and applause afterwards was enormous. It felt very special to see the king finish the last part of my work.”

Facilitating Fruitful Growth

The artwork is made up of a sculpture of a seed husk and a pattern of 2300 coins spread along the path towards the campus. “Lately, a wonderful ecosystem has developed on the campus which is continuing to develop. The coins are like seeds and depict that development and growth. They stand for everyone who has helped shape the campus. They are seeds that need to germinate and keep growing, just like the ecosystem around the campus,” Rameau explains. The shape resembles a growing tree when you look at the pattern of the marker points from above. Rameau: “But it also represents the synapses in your brain. The way you make new connections. That fits this place perfectly. The campus is a place of interaction and new ideas. This artwork symbolizes that creativity.”

Rameau tells us that her work of art also has a third layer: “When you walk over the coins or seeds, you feel it. Walking over this relief will help you get out of your headspace. You feel grounded again. It brings you into direct contact with your surroundings and helps you to clear your mind. That’s an important aspect for me.”

Campus director Erik Veurink is as proud as a peacock after the opening. “It does say something that the king has taken the time to come here specifically for the opening. That’s really nice.” Veurink didn’t doubt the king for a moment when he saw Willem-Alexander struggling to put the last coin in place. “He solved it in a sportsmanlike way and dealt with it very spontaneously.” There is another photo that summarizes the day very well for the campus director:

 

Opening Brainport Industries Campus – Handshakes between Ferdinand Gremmen (SDK Vastgoed) and Mayor John Jorritsma when King Willem-Alexander was about to leave the campus. Photo: Bram Saeys / BIC/SDKVastgoed

“Here you see the most important man in the Netherlands, together with the most important man in Eindhoven, as well as Ferdinand Gremmen, who made the campus possible. In the background you can see everyone who was involved enjoying themselves. I thought that was a wonderful moment.

It’s just a matter of time before Dutch satirist Sander van de Pavert (from Lucky TV) does something with these images:

https://www.instagram.com/p/B3J3wNEgD1A/?utm_source=ig_embed&utm_campaign=loading

TNO and TU/e receive 7 million euro EU subsidy for heat battery on salt

The Technical University Eindhoven (TU/e) and TNO receive a 7 million euro subsidy from the European Union to further develop a heat battery that stores energy in salt. The two knowledge institutes are leading a partnership at European level (HEAT-INSYDE). They use the money from the Horizon2020 programme to make the heat battery suitable for the consumer. The heat battery makes it possible to store sustainably generated energy in an inexpensive and efficient way, so that it is also available on windless and cloudy days.

It works as follows: by making salt wet with water evaporation, the water binds to salt. Salt becomes crystals and in this process heat is released. The process is reversible: by returning heat to the system, water and salt are separated from each other. As long as water and salt are separated, energy is stored. If you bring the two back together again, heat and therefore energy will be released. The heat battery is stable and works without loss of energy and, if used correctly, will last at least 20 years.

More about this project (Dutch)

Olaf Adan, who works for TNO and TU/e and is the project leader of the consortium, speaks of an ingenious system that works very simply. “This simplicity makes it possible to keep the heat battery affordable, also for blocks of houses or even for individual homes. The subsidy granted will enable us to speed up the development of the heat battery into a smaller model (the size of an average refrigerator). The cost price will be lower than in electrical storage systems, while the performance will be better. With the heat stored, a family can take a hot shower for two weeks.”

In time to come, the European partners will be working on a smaller heat battery model. The device must be able to connect to various energy systems, such as the electricity grid and heat networks, but also, for example, heat pumps and solar panels. In two years’ time, a pilot project will start in existing homes in Eindhoven, Gdansk (Poland) and Nice (France). These different locations have a wide variety of climates, homes and uses, allowing the device to be tested under different conditions and methods of use.

In addition to TNO, TU Eindhoven, materials producer Caldic, the municipality of Eindhoven and the housing corporation Trudo, the EU consortium also consists of international partners from Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland and Poland.