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Green, young tech companies can be given a helping hand in the port city of Rotterdam

Being an important link in the chain of innovation and sustainability. This is what Platform Zero wants to become in Rotterdam (NL). The first building of Platform Zero is located on the Climate Campus in the old port area.

Helping young companies, those that provide a better climate through the use of technology, so that things don’t go wrong after an enthusiastic and promising start. Mare Straetmans sees this happening. The co-founder, along with Auke Ferwerda, notices that start-ups and scale-ups aren’t getting enough time to grow.

„Subsidy processes that take too long, collaboration with partners, and all of the activities necessary to continue with the project are quite difficult at times. Waiting three months for a development – which happens – is a lot of time for young companies.”

Campus Platform Zero

Platform Zero, itself a start-up, hopes to iron out these kinds of wrinkles. With help, advice, linking the right people together and thus also physically offering the target group a place.

„The location is beautiful,” Straetmans refers to the western area next to the Nieuwe Maas in the direction of Schiedam. „It’s located between the city and the port, well connected with, for example, a subway nearby, and ideal for stimulating creativity.”

Platform Zero's Campus in Rotterdam.
Climate Campus ©Platform Zero

A year ago, the idea of Platform Zero started to take shape. With a physical presence in the port, a climate-tech campus focused on energy transition. Start-ups from the maritime and energy sector can now go to the campus in Merwe-Vierhavens.

„The dilemma is oftentimes there are really good technical people involved in a young company with good ideas, but they are not always successful in realizing them. Entrepreneurship, commercialization, investors, researchers, students: all these factors and people have to come together on our campus to make those great ideas succeed.”

Prospects are good

The prospects are good for Platform Zero. With partners such as the Port of Rotterdam, First Dutch, Rabobank and the municipality of Rotterdam on board and important players in the area (multinationals), the plans are ambitious. A similar hub is already being built in Lisbon on behalf of the platform. This is done with local partner Forum Oceano.

„The idea does not stop at the border. The intention is to internationalize, with a network of eight to twelve locations as far as Asia. That is of course in line with the impact of the climate. Our oceans are destroyed. This calls for a large-scale approach from innovative companies. The direct impact is paramount. Platform also invests in this itself.” The campus must become a place for like-minded people, adds colleague Iris Klingeman. „A real community,” she emphasizes.

Two companies on campus

At the moment, two companies have joined forces with Platform Zero. These companies are also located on the campus: Energy Pool and Maritime Battery Forum. Energy Pool claims to be the purchasing organization for energy collectives. „Unique in the field of energy purchasing and the marketing of sustainable energy.”

Platform Zero at the launch of the new campus.
Peter Goedvolk (First Dutch), Mare Straetmans (Platform Zero), Petra de Groene (Municipality of Rotterdam), Saskia Mureau (Port of Rotterdam), Auke Ferwerda (Platform Zero), Tim Houter (Hardt Hyperloop) ©Platform Zero

Energy Pool manages and optimizes the energy consumption of complex systems, acting on the side of demand, such as industrial sites, distributed power generation, renewable energy, and storage assets. Maritime Battery Forum aims to promote the application of batteries in the maritime sector. This is done by sharing knowledge about, among other things, technical developments and the technical and economic aspects of the use of battery technology on ships and other offshore installations.

Ten times as large

Having started out with a thousand square meters for young climate companies, Platform Zero wants to grow to ten times that. According to the initiators of Platform Zero, the economy may slow down somewhat in some sectors, but the prospects for this hub seem favorable.

Straetmans: „We hardly notice any decline. Especially during these times, those involved want to make a change, there is a growing market for these kinds of initiatives, according to many, things are moving too slowly.”

According to him, an example is Green Town Labs in Boston. A climate start-up incubator on the east coast of the US where starting companies but also corporate companies, investors, executives, and others come together. Green Town Labs is an international leader, where 200 climate tech start-ups take up the challenge to do something about climate change.

Brainport as example

In the Netherlands, Straetmans considers Brainport Eindhoven to be a successful example of a transition to a new, similar use of area as in Rotterdam. Brainport is known as an ecosystem that has emerged for innovative technology to make the world a better place on the former Philips site.

Rotterdam is internationally renowned for its port. Platform Zero sees the proximity of major industrial players in the maritime and energy world as an opportunity regardless of their association with the environmental impact. They can make an impact to do something about climate problems.

Start-ups and scale-ups can benefit from that proximity. For example, by testing a technology on a larger scale, all the while the industry needs to innovate faster with new, sustainable technologies.

The M4H area fits in well with Platform Zero’s ambition. It is a transition area, which welcomes innovative entrepreneurs who want to ensure a cleaner, better world with open arms. The sustainable mobility scale-up Hardt Hyperloop has also settled there.