ECsens has won the 4TU Impact Challenge. The start-up from the University of Twente is designing sensitive sensors for a faster diagnosis of cancer. This year, for the first time, the technical universities in the Netherlands have organized a joint innovation competition where students can showcase their groundbreaking solutions to social problems. The winner will go together with representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a number of companies on a trade mission to the World Expo in Dubai.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance that we have got to take,” says Pepijn Beekman in response to his ECsens company’s victory. “It’s great that it was a success.” His aim with this start-up is to ensure that every patient can be given personalized treatment. A major elimination round preceded the final in the Zuiderstrand Theater in The Hague. The technical universities in Eindhoven, Delft, Twente and Wageningen had each held their own preliminary rounds last spring. A total of around 800 students took part in the competitions, 80 teams per TU. In the end, sixteen finalists made it through.
One of the reasons why the independent jury chose the Twente start-up was because their product solves a major social problem. It has the potential to have an impact on the lives of many people. Nevertheless, jury chair Esther van Someren, deputy general of the Dutch consulate in Dubai, admitted that it was a tough decision.
Each and every one of the teams has brilliant solutions for social problems. For example, from more efficient healthcare with eye tests at home, to the smart repair of coral reefs. The food industry and the impending food shortage are also popular themes. As an example, students researched the substitution of meat with insects as a way to get sufficient protein. Another team devised practical products with a clear goal. Such as a tool for recognizing PTSD symptoms in aid workers and care providers early on. This would mean that employers, for instance, could offer professional help at an earlier stage. Or a toy train that grows along with children as it teaches them programming in a playful way.
A few months ago, the students received pitch training so that they could present their story in a clear and concise manner. “The students had demonstrated in the preliminary rounds that their idea has potential in technical fields. But transferring that idea is a profession in its own right,” Pitch Academy trainer Nathalie Mangelaars told IO at the time. “To do that, students need to get out of their comfort zone.” The students learned to pitch in three different ways: for journalists, politicians and the general public during the final. At the end of the training, students stated that explaining the idea in a simple way is not always easy, but it is important.
Prior to the final e-pitches, a number of students handed over their ideas to the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte at the Binnenhof, the Dutch parliament building. “Rutte was open to our ideas and asked several questions,” says Beekman. Now there is hope among the technical universities that the Dutch government will actually invest more in innovation. According to Robert-Jan Smits, chairman of the Executive Board at TU/e, this will not nearly be enough. He would find it a good move if, for example, the government were to support start-ups through incubation programs.
“We want to remain at the forefront of innovation and technological development in the Netherlands,” says Victor van der Chijs, chairman of the 4TU collaboration. “It is essential to continue to invest in young talent and the innovations they come up with. The social importance of this is tremendous. Moreover, companies are eager to get in touch with young talent who are able to shape the future and who can work well together.”
Eindhoven University of Technology does this together with TU/e innovation Space, among other things. Student teams, start-ups and companies can meet each other and work together on innovative solutions for social problems through this community. Four teams from this community participated in the 4TU Impact Challenge. For example, Team RED is making a model for quickly providing insight into changes within the field of sustainable energy. Team CORE is building an incinerator that recycles metal which is becoming increasingly scarce. Intense Keyboards is designing a pressure-sensitive keyboard that helps to recognize stress-related complaints more quickly. And SpaceSea came up with a solution for the impending food shortage using seaweed.
Robert-Jan Smits is convinced that being part of a student team is a worthwhile experience within a study program. “I daresay that students learn more in one year in a student team than in two years during their regular studies,” he tells IO at the end of the event. He emphasizes that gaining knowledge is extremely important, but that students in student teams develop other skills such as presentation, communication and solution-oriented thinking.
In his opinion, these skills are also crucial when the students eventually start working for a company. This is one of the reasons why Eindhoven University actively involves companies in the creation of student teams. One of the partners is ASML. Herman Boon also gave a speech on behalf of ASML during the event, which focused on the start-up mentality they started out with. “It’s great that ASML still continues to show and cherish that,” says Smits. “Companies have to contribute to student teams because it is about their future employees in many cases.”
Things are looking good for that future. Smits: “Of the hundred ideas from students, perhaps only two or three actually reach the market. These are the companies that will really change the market and society.”
The 4TU Impact Challenge is part of the overall cooperation between the four Dutch technical universities. They are joining forces with a view to making optimal use of knowledge and creativity in the technology sector. They are doing this in the areas of education, research and knowledge valorization. This event is an example when it comes to the knowledge valorization category. The students transfer the knowledge that they have gained back to society through start-ups and student teams. Their products and services contribute to solving social problems.
On 7 November, the final round of a unique innovation competition between the four Dutch universities of technology was held in The Hague. Each of the competing universities – Eindhoven, Delft, Twente, Wageningen – organized its own preliminary round in the spring. No fewer than 800 students (80 teams at each university) presented ground-breaking innovations designed to help solve key problems facing society. This was then whittled down to the 16 competing finalists in The Hague. The winner of the challenge will join the Dutch trade mission to the World Expo 2020 in Dubai.
On the day of the challenge, the students were able to spare some time for a chat with Prime Minister Mark Rutte. At the Binnenhof – the heart of Dutch politics – the Prime Minister welcomed a number of finalists and was presented with an innovation box containing their ideas.
Seaweed, not steak
Further on in this issue, you can read about all the innovations developed by our young top talents. They presented their cutting-edge solutions before an independent jury. One idea is a tool for remotely monitoring seaweed farms, a cost-cutting breakthrough set to bring large-scale seaweed cultivation closer to commercial reality. Who knows, it may yet provide the solution to our global food problem. Our students also came up with new technology for cancer diagnostics, sustainable vegan products and a method to protect us from rising sea levels using eco-reefs. This is only a selection from the pioneering ideas our finalists came up with. All of them were proud to have the opportunity to show the outside world how their innovations can make a direct contribution to solving global problems.
At the forefront
Victor van der Chijs, Chairman of the 4TU Federation, is keen to emphasize the importance of the challenge. “In the Netherlands, we want to remain at the forefront when it comes to innovation and technological development. It is essential that we continue to invest in young talent and the innovations they think up. The impact they can have on society is enormous. It is also worth remembering that companies are eager to link up with young talents who can design the future and work well together. That’s another outstanding reason to take an interest in a challenge like this and follow it up in future.”
Cooperation between universities of technology
The Dutch 4TU Impact Challenge is part of a wider collaboration between the Netherlands’ four universities of technology. We join forces to make the best possible use of knowledge and creativity in the technology sector. These efforts span the field of education, research and commercial knowledge transfer. Our students channel the knowledge they gain back into society in the form of innovations and start-ups. Their products and services make a valuable contribution to solving society’s problems.
Victor van der Chijs, 4TU Chairman
Wauw, what a first edition this is: students have blown us away by presenting their – unprepared – pitch during the kick-off meeting, they’ve been chatting and speed dating with our partners as if it was an everyday job, and they’ve created their own business plans from scratch – well with a little help of TU Delft Centre for Entrepreneurship and our business panel. So, we must say that we are very impressed with each and everyone of you!
Via the many chats that were started in the first two months of the Contest students have grabbed the chance to introduce themselves and their project to our partners. But it was only until the speed dates where they actually got to meet for the first time. Rounding off to about 140 speed dates, we feel this was a great success!
As the final event of the first edition of the TU Delft Ideation Contest draws nearer and nearer, the selection jury had one final, and one might say impossible, task left.
It’s time to announce who will get the chance to impress the partners, the grand jury, and the rest of the audience. It’s time to announce who made it to the top 20.
These projects and students will be battling for amazing opportunities and prizes during the final event on the 11th of June. Curious? Reserve your seat and don’t miss this spectacular battle https://www.tudelftcontest.nl/finale
Let us just say that selecting 20 projects was not an easy task and if you don’t see the name of your project below, this still means that you are doing a great job and we would like to invite you to join us again next year!
For now: congratulations to the following contestants with your well-deserved spot in the final:
Customized neck pain treatment device
Sleep quality of patients in hospitals
Sparky : Smart Parkinson's Monitoring Device
Wrist Mounted Shock Absorber
iDRIVE - Mobility Solutions using smart technology for efficient traffic grid
Gamification of Static Analysis Tools
Quantum Energy & Engineering
Finalists, please check your email to see which steps you’ll need to follow next!
Good luck and see you soon!
Speed dates TU Delft Ideation Contest
On May 10 the speed dates were organized in the beautiful Pulse building on the campus of the Technical University in Delft. After a long period of recruitment, development and selection, the top 40 projects were allowed to pitch themselves and enjoy helpful feedback from professionals. The Ideation Contest, known at other universities as the TU Contest, is being organized in Delft for the first time this year. The students will present their project to a company several times today. With the feedback, they have a chance to win a spot in the final. The goal for every project. In addition to a possible podium place, there is much to learn at this event. The students get to know their future sector better, discover career opportunities and get constant feedback on their pitch.
The day started with a plenary session. The large, open space with lots of glass and a grandstand was the ideal place for this event. Lino Thewissen (project manager TU Delft Ideation Contest) did the preface: at the TU Delft 182 students enrolled and 74 projects registered on the website! After explaining the rules of the game, Victor Scholten (assistant professor TU Delft) takes over. He is in the organization and has continuously guided and helped the students. He is very proud of the number of participants in this first edition. All companies are given a minute to present themselves. Who are they and what do they stand for? Big names are present. The police are also present: they look for inspiration and technological improvement and hope to find it among the students. ASML already has a nice message for the students: "come and work with us, make your vision ours".
In one of the interviews, Paul Luehrmann of ASML states that he is looking forward to it: he finds the input of the young people inspiring and valuable. Nele Valkeneers from the Ministry of Defence is also enthusiastic. She would like to help the students to "think in the right direction" in order to bring a great product to the market. Jeroen de Vrieze from VolkerWessels thinks that many students will end up in a completely different place than where they thought they would end up.
Jan Peter Doomernik from Nature 2.0 speaks passionately about the ways in which they can be of help: talking about dreams together, in order to achieve the unthinkable. It is a "two way learning experience," says Roxy van de Langkruis of the National Police.
Jaime Ascencio from student team Reefy is pleased that the companies take it so seriously. The members of Wundermind see the speed dates as an opportunity to open themselves up. They look forward to more of these opportunities. Also, the Dr. Medical team is very satisfied with today's feedback: they have learned a lot.
The atmosphere is positive: it was a very successful day. A lot of information was exchanged and there was a lot of talk during the closing drink. Beers are tapped, people laugh. Students and companies ask each other the last questions and discuss projects. The speed dates of the first edition of this event in Delft were more than successful.
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