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

This week I was part of the “Uitblinkerslunch” (excellence lunch) at Noordeinde Palace. I enjoyed a lunch alongside 26 other award winners with our King and Queen. It was a special group: the secretary of the year (from Helmond!), the pavers and the footballer of the year, the business woman and the care manager of the year, and scientists like me with the Simon Stevin Meester Award in 2016.

At the start of the lunch, King Willem-Alexander said that they organise this get-together (twice a year), because it would be good to show gratitude to the top players in each domain or discipline, as well as to turn them into role models and to encourage excellence. It reminded me of the saying in Brabant, ‘just act normally, that’s crazy enough already‘. The speech of the King particularly appealed to me: I think that in all our humility, and that is a good feature, we should be telling more about what we are good at. That’s also been the basis of our Smart Calendar: offering a daily achievement out of our unique Brainport region; one to be proud of. By the way, we already sold nearly 10,000 of the 2017 edition, so the Foundation for Technology Promotion and the TU/e Student teams can expect a nice gift.

At our table I was sitting – among others – with writer Esther Verhoef, the European Heptathlon champion Annette Vetter and Jazz bassist Wilbert de Joode. It was an interesting company with very different backgrounds. What is the similarity between writing books, improvising with jazz music, practicing professional sports and the design of robots for surgery?

“What is your secret in Brabant and Brainport, where does your power to collaborate come from, and how come you have such a great contribution to the industrial development of the Netherlands?”

The first part of the lunch, a member of the Royal Staff was seated next to me. He asked me, what is your secret in Brabant and Brainport, where does your power to collaborate come from, and how come you have such a great contribution to the industrial development of the Netherlands? I answered him that it was our modesty, our do it together mentality, “sushi” (Shut Up and Ship: not too much meetings but just act together!). But also a common interest plays a role, and not too many big egos.

The second part of the lunch Queen Maxima came sit with us and we had an animated conversation. We concluded that a top performance is never the work of a single individual, you always need a whole team and moreover, you need to perform as a team. Cooperation is more important than ever.

At the conclusion, pictures were taken and I stood next to Davy Klaassen, football player of the year. He asked me what I did. I told him that my group is world champion in robot football, and that we, at a certain point in time, would be going to beat him. The surprise was clearly readable from his face!

I was really proud to be at this lunch among all the other ‘winners’ and to be able to speak with the King and Queen in a very informal way. They are warm people, with genuine interest and a broad outlook. My Simon Stevin Meester Award, worth €500,000, will be invested in research into the next generation of robots for surgeons, but more on that another time!