Author profile picture

From cleaning robots that effortlessly traverse corridors to smart bins that automatically sort waste, the facilities sector is undergoing an impressive transformation. Amid this progress is the CSU Innovation Award, presented to the most promising innovation that can move the facilities sector forward. “We need to transform a sector with enormous impact on society and nature. That is only possible with start-ups,” says Kos Fourkiotis, Innovation Manager at CSU Cleaning Services.

For anyone looking at a 1970s photo of an office building, one thing quickly becomes clear: society has undergone a rapid transformation. Workstations with piles of paper documents have been replaced with desks full of sophisticated equipment and modern technology. Yet one figure in the building seems unchanged: the cleaning worker. Back in the day, he or she was already walking around with a hoover or mop, and surprisingly, this is still the case today. The world of cleaning has not always been innovative. A shame, because it needs to be. Besides, an awful lot is possible.

Opening doors

“We see that considerable strides have been made in recent years when it comes to innovation within the sector, but we are not yet exploiting the opportunities sufficiently,” says Fourkiotis. Therefore, through the Innovation Award, CSU wants to bring about positive change in the industry. The goal: to make the sector more fun, efficient, sustainable, ergonomic and data-driven. In short: “We need to change a sector that has a huge impact on people and the environment. That can only be done with innovators; with start-ups.”

For the start-ups themselves, there is much to gain. CSU ranks among the top 15 largest employers in the Netherlands and is responsible for cleaning services in more than 11,000 diverse buildings. “Every building in the Netherlands has to be cleaned, secured and managed. We have a huge network, and with it we open doors for participating start-ups. So submitting an entry is a small step that can actually allow a start-up company to take very big leaps forward in terms of commercial success.”

The winner will be awarded a ‚ā¨10,000 investment budget, marketing support, network access and guidance from CSU. “But we don’t skip start-ups that finish in sixth or seventh place either. If we are enthusiastic about a solution, whether it is cleaning technical or socio-cultural, we will definitely engage with the entrepreneurs to see if we can test their innovation,” assures the innovation manager.

Countless possibilities

There are countless innovations that can move the facilities industry forward. Innovation is also in full swing within CSU. For example, in collaboration with a former innovation award winner, the company converted a top five incidents during cleaning, think of mixing chlorine with other cleaning agents, into a VR scenario. This teaches people safe behaviour.

Another example is a visualised employment contract. This solution helps employees, who do not have a good command of the Dutch language, for example, to better understand an employment contract, including things like sick notes, travel expenses and pension. The signature that employees put on the document is legally valid.

A look at previous winners

The winner of the CSU Innovation Award 2022 was the sustainable block soap dispenser LESSEAU. Instead of liquid soap, this dispenser uses a soap block, but then the block can easily be scraped off for hand washing. This development was inspired by the belief that using liquid soap is no longer appropriate, given its high water content. The innovation results in significant water savings: where liquid soap consists of 95 per cent water, with Lessau’s it is no more than two per cent. Transport is also much more efficient and the soap block does not need plastic packaging.

In 2021, TranZero’s BubbleFlush won the innovation prize, with an eco-friendly method for cleaning toilets based on ultrasound. Every year, billions of litres of chlorine and other environmentally polluting cleaning agents from toilets end up in the environment. TranZero eliminates the use of harsh detergents. This is because the device is able to clean toilets using ultrasonic imploding bubbles.

Untapped market

Registration for the sixth edition of the award is still open and closes on 7 September. Fourkiotis is confident that this year too will be a success. “I know there are an awful lot of impactful start-ups in the Netherlands. Now they still need to find their way into the facilities industry. There is a market wide open for them.”

Collaboration

This story is the result of a collaboration between CSU and our editorial team. Innovation Origins is an independent journalism platform that carefully chooses its partners and only cooperates with companies and institutions that share our mission: spreading the story of innovation. This way we can offer our readers valuable stories that are created according to journalistic guidelines. Want to know more about how Innovation Origins works with other companies? Click here