How do companies in the Brainport region approach their R&D? Do they work together or do they do everything themselves? Can other regions learn from this and are there opportunities for cooperation? Brainport Eindhoven and Corporate Venturing Network (CVN) invited a delegation of companies from the Netherlands and abroad. KLM, Unilever and ASML – to name but a few. About 70 people stroll through Eindhoven and get to know technology, design and all the intersections between these worlds. A group of companies from Limburg also follows this route, some come to be inspired and others come to broaden their network. They saw work from the Technical Universities of Eindhoven, Delft and Twente and products from various startups and connected with companies from the Brainport region.

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Alzheimer vest
Henny Bruinewoud of Brightlands Maastricht Health Campus is also visiting the tour. “Eindhoven is mainly about high-tech and new technology”, says Bruinewoud. “It’s less focused on life science, but the products are interesting. I have seen some work that could potentially add value to our campus.” Because that’s what Bruinewoud is doing every day: finding out whether scientists’ inventions have the potential to enter the market. “But we also attract external parties that have already started if we think there is potential in it”, explains Bruinewoud. She is mainly impressed by a vest that can help people with Alzheimer’s and an app for deaf and blind people. “There might be potential in this, I’d like to talk about it with them one day.”

Arjan Rensma from DSM also mentions the Alzheimer vest as an example: “This is a good example where design and material come together”, says Rensma. “At DSM we’re developing new materials, smart engineers who know exactly how chemical processes work and how to make a strong piece of plastic for the aircraft industry, for example. But the engineers know a lot less about design.” He thinks that DSM, but also other companies in the chemical sector, would benefit from more designers.

New materials
Rensma tells that he has a past working for Philips, he still knows the company from the days when everything was locked up. Rensma: “Everything was secret. It is fantastic to see that everything is so open now. It stimulates new ideas and cooperation. A lot is happening in this region, also in areas that are interesting for us, look at Shapeways, a big player in the 3D-printing area. I’ve just been talking to people from Storm, their motorbike is made with a composite, we make that too. That could be interesting.” But however interesting such a collaboration might be, it must be able to generate money for the company. Rensma: “That’s how the world works. It happens that someone invents an amazing material, but at the top of the company -where they look into the money- people are not that enthusiastic, simply because there is no money to be made (yet) with this new invention.”

School trip
“Every year Brainport Development invites (international) relations with the Dutch Technology Week and Dutch Design Week to promote cooperation in R&D and Innovation”, says Fancy van de Vorst manager invest/business developer Brainport Development. Together with Corporate Venturing Network they arranged this tour. CVN is a network organisation that focuses on open innovation. It organises various meetings on corporate venturing. “This is a kind of school trip, where everyone can get in touch with each other in an accessible way and at the same time see examples of innovation from this region”, explains Corina Kuiper of CVN. Kuiper has done her best to invite as many new companies as possible, which in her opinion creates coincidental encounters that might lead to something. It is still to be seen whether collaborations have already been established today. But it was instructive – at least found Rensma-. “DDW shows more than enough innovation. It is inspiring in many areas. Today I have seen a lot of fine examples of materials and how they can lead to business. It’s also a kind of scouting; can you do anything with it? How do they do it here? Can we do that too? I would love to see such an event in Limburg around materials.”

Photo: Ruud Balk