By Corine Spaans
SUSTAINABILITY – This year, the 5G Innovation Challenge will take place for the second time. Everyone is welcome to apply with a solution for sustainability.
“We are holding a challenge to make the world a better place,” says Rene Visser of VodafoneZiggo while sitting in the 5G Hub on the High Tech Campus Eindhoven (HTCE). A space that looks a lot like a gym with the stripes and circles on the floor, the bucks, and a grandstand. Everyone can develop applications with 5G with other parties. With the 5G Innovation Challenge, the hub allows people to come and test their concept and bring it further to the market. This year, this challenge will take place for the second time, with the theme of sustainability. Visser: “Everyone with great solutions for sustainability is welcome.”
“We are looking for appealing examples to help the world move forward. To reduce nitrogen in the agricultural sector, or the emission of gases in traffic, or the plastic soup. Or even to measure the strength of the dikes,” Visser sums up.
“Drones that you use to quickly get an AED device to someone who has a heart attack. Or to measure the biodiversity in a nature reserve,” adds Andy Lürling of capital fund LUMO Labs. “You can send a forester there, but he sees much less. With a camera, you can zoom in, process the data, and send it in real-time.”
Lürling is one of the Challenge’s jury members. According to him, the great thing about such a challenge is that you get an insight into what is going on in the world. “And it’s a great opportunity to discover parties that might interest us.” LUMO Labs is an early-stage investment fund and has a two-year venture builder program for start-ups focused on AI/Data, Blockchain, Robotics/Drones, IoT, and/or VR/AR.
Participants can register up to and including May 1st. These can be start-ups and student teams, but also large companies, says Visser. “As long as they have ‘something’ tangible, something that goes beyond just an idea. 5G is a technology. For us, it’s about the applications.”
Everyone who registers personally calls Visser or someone else from one of the other participating companies. “To get acquainted and go a little deeper into their idea.” Then there is a selection round. Those selected will proceed to an information round in the 5G Hub.
There they get to know each other better and receive information about the 5G network. In the next round, each participant pitches the solution and receives feedback from a jury. Each participant also goes on a ‘speed date’ with someone from Brainport Development, sustainability consultancy organization Sustainalize, and Lumolabs, who can take their solution to a “higher level.”
A number to be determined will then move on to the final round at the end of June. “In the end, there is only one winner,” says Visser. “It gets a serious price. We’ll keep it exciting for a while. The winner will get plenty of attention anyway. Also international. But for all finalists, there is attention and prizes such as help with marketing or technology.” Participation in the challenge is free.
Last year, start-up Oddbot won the first edition of the challenge. That company has developed a solution for the use of pesticides in horticulture and agriculture. “A fantastic solution with a business model, because in 2026 it will be prohibited by European law to use pesticides.”
Voltgoed won the audience award last year. A start-up that has developed a way that heat pumps can make flexible use of green energy. The company is now located at the HTCE. Visser: “Initially, they had a solution that did not immediately involve 5G. But they did make it to the final.”
This year a conscious choice was made for a theme. Registration was completely open last year in terms of subject. Visser: “We must all work together on the theme of sustainability. At the same time, we cannot just do everything; a solution must be linked to a business model. We want to help with that.”
That is why the jury was expanded with representatives of companies such as LUMO Labs, Sustainalize, and ICT Consultancy bureau Strict. “Companies that can think along in the appropriate business models.”
There is also a jury member on behalf of the Vodafone Foundation. “The foundation helps with communication in disaster areas. For example, now in Ukraine, near the border with Poland. There is a lot of work being done to restore the infrastructure. But the foundation also works in earthquake zones.”
In addition, the founding partners of the 5G Hub are on the jury: Vodafone Ziggo, Ericsson, Brainport, and HTCE. Companies like NXP and Groene Groeiers are also participating, Visser continues. The latter is a network of VNO-NCW and MKB Nederland in which entrepreneurs invest in sustainable solutions.
Anne van Wijchen, Sustainability Manager, is a jury member at the HTCE. “The campus has the ambition to be the most sustainable and innovative campus in Europe by 2025. We also look at the climate objectives. The campus must also be an attractive place to work. In addition, we want to accelerate the innovations of our tenants. We want to be a living lab for start-ups to test their inventions, offering people new ideas and opportunities to grow. This challenge is a great opportunity to attract those people. As a jury member, I will mainly look at how innovative and applicable the ideas are.”
The challenge is a nice prelude to the next level, says Lürling. “It is hard work to gain a foothold for a new technology. That is why it is good to show what you can do with the technology. Then people will understand what 5G is and what makes it possible. In addition, this challenge contributes to accelerating and deepening the applications. For example, an idea for a drone that you can use with AED devices may also add an insulin syringe to it. Or any other medical application.”
As a jury member, Lürling “does not only pay attention to whether it is technically possible.” “I pay particular attention to the added value for the world and whether it is a financially sustainable application.” For Visser, it is important that he can feel and see the passion with which the inventors work on their solutions. “That passion for a better world is what I’m looking for.”
This article was first published on Innovation Origins.