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ZED has won the second edition of the Dutch 4TU Impact Challenge. The start-up from Delft University of Technology is working on a more sustainable Internet of Things without needing to use batteries.

Start-up ZED wants to make the development of the Internet of Things a lot more sustainable by replacing batteries with kinetic energy. ZED, which stands for Zero Energy Development, gets to showcase their product at the World Expo in Dubai. In addition, the team will be taking home €1,500 to further develop their technology. “We look forward to showing our technology to the world in Dubai,” said Niels Hokke, co-founder of ZED, right after the victory.

The best students from the four Dutch universities of technology compete against each other in the 4TU Impact Challenge. The event was digital this year. Each university had already held its own preliminary rounds in the spring. Two student teams per university were chosen from these. They pitched their ideas during the national event. An independent jury, comprising Lotte Leufkens (Cloud Cuddle), Nils Beers (Techleap), David Cerda Salzmann (Forward One), Harm de Vries (Innovation Industries), and Nele Valkeniers (Ministry of Defence), ultimately chose a winner.

Passion for sustainability

After their triumph in the student competition, ZED raised the TU Delft flags in their office. These were also on display during the live event of the national competition. The judges joked about it, but in the end, the flags turned out to be more than justified. Jury chair Lotte Leufkens clarified the choice for ZED: “We are very inspired by their idea. We really like the fact that the team not only provides technical solutions but also contributes to reducing environmental pollution. The team works with a tremendous amount of passion on their technology and that was the deciding factor.”

Watch the broadcast of the innovation competition here.

The goal of ZED is clear: To drastically reduce the number of batteries on the planet. With the rise of the Internet of Things, more and more wireless appliances are connected to each other. Batteries that cause pollution are needed for this. That’s why ZED came up with a way to get energy out of the environment instead of batteries. They are now working on a pilot for Airbus.

In response to the pitch by Niels Hokke of ZED, the jury asked for a prototype, something that could be put on display in Dubai. He told them about a functional switch that people can operate without batteries but with energy from the surrounding environment instead, such as from movement, the wind, or the sun. This clearly shows the fundamental idea behind this start-up.

A living breakwater

The viewers also got to cast a vote. The audience award went to Reshore. Students from Wageningen University are working on a living breakwater. Existing breakwaters are primarily intended to protect people living in artificial environments. But those structures in the water are not so favorable for marine life, as co-founder Frej Gustafsson explained during his pitch. That’s why Reshore has developed a multifunctional breakwater. The floating unit not only protects the artificial environment but also restores the underwater ecosystem and produces food. The breakwater is partly made up of cages that contain mussels and oysters. These will not only help break the waves but can also serve as a food source. Gustafsson on winning the audience award: “This is fantastic. It shows that people feel a connection with our innovation.”

In addition to the two award-winning start-ups, there were plenty of other interesting innovations to be marveled at during the digital live event. Students are working on a variety of products, but they often have the same goal in mind: a better and more sustainable world. For example, small devices that would allow anyone to measure air quality so that much more data on air pollution is made available. Or a new way of vertical agriculture whereby herbs can be grown directly in stores. XYZ Dynamics also participated in the 4TU Impact Challenge. This start-up won a Gerard & Anton Award at Innovation Origins earlier this year. They are developing an electric powertrain to make it easier and cheaper for delivery vans to run a hybrid system.

Read more about the first edition of the 4TU Impact Challenge here.

4TU cooperation

The four technical universities in the Netherlands work together as part of the 4TU Federation, from which the 4TU Impact Challenge stems. They pool their efforts to make optimal use of knowledge and creativity in the technology sector. They do this in the field of education, research, and knowledge valorization. This event is one example of the knowledge valorization category. Students bring the knowledge that they have gained back into society in the form of start-ups and student teams. Their products and services are contributing to a more sustainable future this way.