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Tomorrow is good.

Screen Shot 2016-09-04 at 07.51.59In a weekly column, alternately written by Lucien Engelen, Maarten Steinbuch, Carlo van de Weijer and Daan Kersten, E52 tries to find out what the future will look like. All four contributors are – in addition to their ‘normal’ groundbreaking work – linked to the SingularityU The Netherlands, the organization that focuses on spreading knowledge about technologies that can provide solutions to the problems of our time. This Sunday, it’s Maarten Steinbuch‘s turn.

By Maarten Steinbuch

SU Steinbuch

We say goodbye to 2016, and despite some political surprises it has been a good year. A few highlights stand out more than others: the first operation in a human eye with our Preceyes robot and just before Christmas the first drug injection in the retina; the birth of our second startup Microsure with the presentation of the robot at DWDD, and I received the Simon Stevin Master Award of € 500,000. And as a topping on the cake, the inspiring lunch at Noordeinde Palace with our King and Queen.

Lunch with the King and Queen
Lunch with the King and Queen


slimme scheurkalenderProduction and selling of the second Smart Calendar went smoothly. And how well do I remember that together with Inge I was on the beach at Frejus in southern France, when we were watching the thrilling finale of the robot soccer world championship via our mobile phones – and that we became world champions again! We were very happy that our son and the rest of the Storm team returned safely  from their eighty days race with their electric motorbikes. We followed them every day on their unforgettable journey. Speaking of electric driving, with our Tesla we have indeed driven as many as 52,000 kilometers on electricity in 2016!

This year, moreover, saw the beginning of my sabbatical, of which many people kept asking me when it would be over – even though it in fact only lasted for three months. It was a fine time to ask yourself “what’s next?” In any case, staying healthy, and that was the reason for us to go on a strict diet, which resulted in both losing almost 20 kilograms. The cold showers I still take, but the knee bends, I skipped. Now, right after Christmas, we have to be extra careful with the weight (+2 kg). The good intention for 2017 is obviously to remain at the target weight (73-75 kg). I’m still not satisfied with my waist size (96 cm), it takes a long time!

Google car SteinbuchIn the middle of the year I first flew to Taiwan to give a one week course in the field of control technology, very cool! Right after that I went to California for a week of SingularityU with the other six first ‘faculty’ for their Dutch branch. We were trained in perfecting our speeches and we were able to attend a number of lectures at a Summit of Singularity University in Mountain View. Very inspiring, and it makes you think how we can really improve the world with technology. And it tought us to think big!

robosculpIn the transition to 2017 this is what concerns me: my dream is that when I retire (in 2027 or something like that…), so in 10 years, there are 1,000 new jobs in our region in the field of surgical robotics. Is that thinking too big? Or maybe too small? We are now with 10 people in two startups and two PhD students who will graduate next year and will hopefully be able to start a new startup for medical robots. So basically we are with 12. If we want to grow in 10 years to 1,000 people, that is a growth of 60% per annum, that seems feasible. If we were to double every year from now we will have 12,000 people working over 10 years. Also an option ? .

medical robotic TechnologiesWhat exactly does this mean for 2017? At the end of the year we therefore will have to employ seven more people in our startups. I think that will happen: first, we launch one or two new companies, and I would also like to really get Medical Robotic Technologies BV (the incubator BV around our research group CST) off the ground in the next year. The goal for this company is to have four new researchers started in well-chosen applications for medical robotics in the coming years. I want to achieve this by securing funding through companies that, like me, believe in this future, and with that funding, I would thus simultaneously develop both the business side and the research side. Which is a new combination.

I am convinced that with the medical precision robotics we have something unique, and that it also fits perfectly in our region, after all we are the best in precision mechatronics and have a world class manufacturing industry! Our new High Tech Systems Center is testimony of that!

I’m looking forward to 2017!

Everyone best wishes!