Urban sports, a collective term for sports and exercise in built-up environments: running through the city, base jumping from buildings, but also street soccer and basketball. Skateboarding, also an urban sport, will be an Olympic sport next year. Urban sports radiates innovation, is tough and offers opportunities for getting more people moving. These sports are one of the topics that should inspire innovation and cooperation during the 16th Sports Innovation Congress on October the 7th. The overarching theme is “connecting sport, vitality & business,”.

More than with previous editions, the focus this time is on the connection with the business community: knowing what is going on within the sports world, responding to it and learning from best practices.

Sportinnovator and the Eindhoven-based Cluster Sports & Technology are organising this 16th edition of the sports innovation congress together for the second time. René Wijlens, manager of the Sports & Technology Cluster, was at the inception of the first congress in 2004. It is quite logical to Eric van der Veen, responsible for strategic communication and stakeholder management at Sportinnovator, that these two groups are now back working together again. The goal for both organizations is to create a sustainable ecosystem around sport and innovation whereby the business community, educational institutions, municipalities and provinces all work together. “We want to join forces. We have the same target groups and it is definitely useful for all of them that there is one conference where knowledge, expertise and resources are being bundled together. That way you can build on an even stronger congress.”

The Cluster Sports & Technology is an open network of companies, knowledge institutes, sports-field labs, governments and social organizations. This network is committed to a vital and sports-based society by using innovation to createeconomic and social value. At the heart of the project is the technology from the Brainport Eindhoven region, although it also extends across the rest of the country. Sportinnovator is a national incentive scheme from the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, managed by Topteam Sport. The aim of Topteam Sport is not only to increase the value of sports innovation, but also to combine technology, data and knowledge so that the Netherlands can become a leader in this field. There are various Sportinnovator centers in the Netherlands. The scheme supports the further development of the activities of these labs through subsidies, knowledge sharing and coaching.

Just as with past editions, High Tech Campus Eindhoven was chosen as the stage for the conference. The smartest square kilometer in Europe and a hotspot for smart technology and innovation, says Wijlens. “A congress like this is changing along with the changes in the environment and in the domain of sport and vitality. For example, the first congress in 2004 was meant to provide a national platform for sport and innovation with which we wanted to inspire people to get involved. Many more parties have now joined on a national level and everyone is doing their bit. The relevance of sport for a healthy and active lifestyle is steadily increasing. In the coming years, a conference such as this will continue to adapt to what is happening in the ever-expanding area of sport and vitality. I hope that the landscape of sport and innovation will become brighter and that everyone will know where to find each other. A successful innovation climate benefits from this openness in order to be able to make the right connections.”

The way in which the sports innovation landscape is fleshed out and mutual cooperation is also important to Van der Veen. “If you look at the Eindhoven region, it is mainly technology-oriented. Limburg also has that focus, with an innovation center which DSM as well as others are part of. TU Delft is also working on technology. Amsterdam and Groningen focus on knowledge. For its part, the University of Groningen conducts research into talent development. Wageningen and Papendal are mainly concerned with nutrition. You have to be able to find each other, one does not rule out the other. It’s all about creating synergy.”

According to Van der Veen, the Sports Innovation Congress is in line with the Sportinnovator’s ambition of putting a sustainable ecosystem in place. Sportinnovator focuses on three themes: nutrition, exercise and material. Sportinnovator works together with Papendal and Wageningen University on the theme of nutrition. TU Delft has an innovation center which focuses on exercise and materials. Innovations that Olympic athletes will be able to use during the Olympic Games in Tokyo, which are “expected to be the most innovative Games ever”.

The conference in October will focus on business and entrepreneurship. Frank van der Vloed (member of Topteam Sport and president of Signify Europe), Frans Lefeber (founder of start-up Smart Floors), John Baekelmans (Managing Director imec Netherlands and Vice President) and Robert Jan Koens (Director Corporate Strategy at Jumbo) will have a discussion with each other during an entrepreneurial forum. There is a start square, where start-ups get to present themselves and make a pitch. An inspiration square introduces visitors to, for example, the latest sensor applications.

In order to know what is going on in the world of sports, there are a number of inspirational platforms where participants can discuss current themes. Like skateboarding, Van der Veen says: “A new sport that will be an Olympic sport from 2020 onwards. This sport is already innovative, but will it be able to use innovations from other sports as well, so that athletes can further improve and enhance their performance? We also try to do things like that. So that businesses know what’s going on and possibly act on that.”

Sports Innovation Award 2018 © Sport & Technology

The Dutch Sports Innovation Award will be presented in keeping with the previous ten editions. This award is an incentive prize for innovative and promising products or services in the field of sports and exercise. In the past, this prize of € 15,000 was won by Smart Goals, IPOS and Open RTLS. Start-ups may register until 6 September.

More information about the congress, the programme, the speakers, the award and registration can be found at http://sport-innovatiecongres.nl/

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