Innovation

Turning The Gymnastics Training Hall Into A Photostudio

Erik van Diest No Comments

Once a year I work together with the female top gymnastics team of DVO Dordrecht. During this shoot we shoot, amongst others, some shots they can use for their press releases as well as some free work for myself (and the gymnasts of course).

The last few years I only used my Elinchrom Quadra system to light the subjects, but this year I added a black background to the set to create some very special images. What kind of images? These:

Als de turnhal omgetoverd wordt tot fotostudio.. from ADV on Vimeo.

With kind thanks to my father/ADV Media Productions for shooting the video!

Naval Innovation Environments

Erik No Comments

One of the things that can be very helpful for innovation is clustering companies that are in the same sector but are not direct competitors.

In the naval sector this is no different, and so I was pleasantly surprised when I visited the recreational harbor or Bruinisse last weekend. This large harbor (1.400 places) has a very good mix of companies. For example, they have a store for supplies, but also a boat sales company for both new and second-hand boats and two large halls were boats can be serviced indoors in a sheltered environment.

All together this creates a very fertile environment for innovation, where the companies can create new products and services together which they can immediately try on their customers which lay in the port.

It all looks quite new, and so at the moment I can’t find any news about innovations coming from there, but the environment has been shaped. And so it’s an interesting place to keep an eye out for any future boating related innovations.

And as a bonus, the parking lot has some very special stripes 🙂

2016-03-05 11.49.18

Strategy Redefinition of a Transportation Company

Erik No Comments

Over the past few years the Dutch train operator Nationale Spoorwegen (NS) was not performing as was expected from them.

For example, they ordered high-speed trains which fell apart during a snow storm, they have a shortage in trains (and seats) that led them to some ‘creative‘ solutions as they like to call them and they played an unfair game for a tender in the south of the Netherlands.

All together this led to part of the top management leaving the company and the need for a revised strategy. This week they presented this revised strategy and there are some interesting things (and some open doors) in it.

The revised strategy builds on three parts:

  • Better performance on the main lines (open door, there is still room for improvement and there will probably always be so they should always be striving for optimal performance)
  • Taking care of the stations (interesting, they want to improve the total journey by making the stations more attractive)
  • Contribute to a better door-to-door journey (interesting since they are cutting away almost all of the transport that is not related to the main lines)

This is quite a shift from the previous strategy, where it was mainly about being the biggest and being in control everywhere, either through their main name NS or through one of their subsidiaries such as Qbuzz or Abellio.

With the new strategy they adopt a more open strategy, focussing on co-operating with the other partners such as the network operator and the competitors instead of trying to do everything themselves.

Quite a bold move, since it also means that they are saying goodbye to certain parts of the company and so a large part of the staff. Not very surprising that not everybody is happy with this, including the work council.

Still, I think that it is a wise decision to step back and focus only on what they can do best and leaving other parts of public transport to other companies. Only by leaving it all to them the trust between them can grow, since it can be hard to work together and trust a party which is also bidding on a tender you’re involved in in another part of the country. The added trust can then be used to create the better door-to-door journey

So all together I think it is a wise move.

One final thing which is out of their zone of influence and which I believe is a bit weird is that their shareholder demands that 7% of the profit is paid to them each year as dividend. This is not so special for normal companies and maybe a bit low, but it’s different when you consider that the only shareholder is the Dutch State (in the form of the Ministry of Finance) and that they also see that the NS has a social function (so making sure that the Netherlands has an affordable public transportation system).

My personal opinion on this point is that I believe that the largest part of the profit could better be used by NS to reinvest in their company, for example by buying more trains or by not raising fares, instead of money flowing to the state which can them maybe invest it in the railroads. Or maybe not. Depends on where the money is needed according to the State.

I am specifically not saying here that there should be absolutely no dividend payments, but I personally think that a little less could also be fine, and that the NS should use most of their profits to improve their company.

Nevertheless I still think that the strategy is a wise move and I’m curious about what the future will bring for them, as
 the first changes are already happening.

First Large Scale Urban Smart Grid in the Netherlands

Erik No Comments

Decentral power producers such as solar panels & wind power have a positive impact on the environment. On the electricity grid, however, there impact is much less positive.

Since these sources are under the constant influence of the weather it is very hard to predict exactly how much they will produce at a certain moment in time. However, for a stable electricity grid you want to have the production and use in balance which is very hard this way.

One simple way to overcome this problem is by adding temporary storage facilities in the grid which can take up the power when there’s an excess and release it during periods of shortage.

At some points dedicated systems are built for this, but with the rise of Electric Vehicles an enormous amount of batteries are available for a large amount of time during the day (a car is used on average for 46 minutes per day according to this study). The only point is that you don’t want to have full batteries when you want to drive from home to work or vice versa, but for the rest of the day the car can be used for storage.

A couple of years ago a small pilot started in the city of Utrecht to test this concept. In the past year the first field trials were held with this concept of car batteries used for storage and now it has been decided to enlarge the project to the entire region where thousands of chargers will be transformed so they can be used for this concept.

Really cool to see that this new concept is now growing to a larger scale. Now if they would only switch to DC it would make it even better, but there should be something left to do in the coming years.

What To Do With Empty Department Stores?

Erik No Comments

For over a 100 years the V&D was a big brand in the Dutch store landscape. But last week it was officially euthanized after not making a profit for over 20 years and so the Dutch inner cities have a lot of extra empty space.

In total about 360.000 m2 of space was occupied by in total 62 different stores for which now a new use has to be found.

One of the options is that a new company starts its own department store. This was tried by Cool Investments, but they didn’t get the business case complete so this didn’t work out. Rumors are that Hudson’s Bay is trying to take over part of the stores to start some of their own formulas, but they will also only fill part of the stores and I think it is clear that a lot needs to be changed in order for a department store to be viable.

Luckily there are also some more creative people in this world. They see an empty building, and lots of options. A few of these:

  • In Deventer a group of people want the building to be remodeled into a large discotheque. Currently 1152 people like this idea on Facebook, but the potential is higher for Den Haag, were 3764 people like this same idea for the building in the Hague.
  • In the east of the country the people are hoping for a food market. Where Rotterdam has the Markthal, people in Zwolle, Hengelo and Enschede have some feelings for their own food market in the empty buildings.
  • Or restructure the entire building. Convert the top floor(s) to apartments and put a large series of small shops in the rest of the building. Not chosen as a option yet, but potentially attractive to counter the rise in empty shops in the smaller cities.
  • Some cities are even considering putting the public library in the empty building, such as the city of Oss.
  • There are even people suggesting to turn it into entertainment halls including casinos, cinema’s and even go-kart places, or to use it for temporary housing for refugees.

Creative ideas, but the most creative I’ve found must come out of my birth place.

Already at the beginning of the year the website iDordt presented the idea of taxi driver Herman. For this you have to know that the Dutch marihuana system is a bit weird, where you aren’t allow to grow more than 5 plants, but as a coffeeshop you may have 500g in store. But how they get is a very dark area, so this taxi driver had a plan to change it all.

The entire store in Dordrecht should be converted into a giant coffeeshop, where weed is grown on the top floor. For this, youngsters which have trouble finding a job could do some on-job training, and the problem of knowing where to get the stuff is also solved.

The rest of the building (the other 2 floors) should then be converted to large relax areas, and maybe so room to sell home grow kits.

You can think of it whatever you want, but the award for the most creative solution definitely goes to this idea.

 

My Master Thesis Project: Direct Current in an Office Building

Erik No Comments

hereMy biggest project of the past year (and of my entire life I think) was my Master Thesis Project. During eight months I conducted research for ABN AMRO bank at Grontmij (a large engineering consultant) to investigate the possibilities for converting an existing office building to Direct Current (DC).

The research was split up into two parts, where first of all the focus was on building a business case for converting an office to DC, and second on investigating the available policy instruments to aid the development of DC buildings.

The very short summary of the first part is that it is possible to convert an office so it can run on DC, but that the costs are currently fairly high (with payback times of 10-30 years depending on the choices you make) and that a lot of tailor made solutions need to be used. It is however possible to save between 10-14% of the electricity use by doing so, coming mainly from less losses in transformers and less losses in the cables.

Other financial savings come from the ‘simplification’ of the system. For example, a DC/DC converter for a computer is much smaller, uses a lot less material and is more efficient than the current AC/DC blocks that feed your PC, thereby saving money.

So the conclusion for the first part is that for now it is only interesting as a learning opportunity, but not so much as a hard financial opportunity.

The second part of the research focussed on the policy instruments, and in there most of all the interesting observations concerning innovation and policy instruments can be made.

(Almost) Every new idea will need some help to be become a real product on the market. This is even more true for sustainability innovations, which have a positive influence on the environment but usually at costs that are exceeding the existing solutions.

It is therefore that governments create all kinds of policy instruments that can help these innovations cross the chasm and become a competitive product in the existing market. This does lead to some questions however, such as which innovations to support and when to provide which kind of support.

There is no simple, short answer to this but in general it is clear that in the first stages tax deductions for doing any kind of R&D are the instrument of choice, whereas in later stages more generic instruments are created when the innovation has proven successful. There are however still a lot more instruments to choose from at that point

If you’re interested (which might just be the case), feel free to check out the poster below, of download my entire thesis here. And if you have any questions, recommendations or other remarks, please let me know, either in the comments or by sending me a message!

Poster-MTP-ErikvanDiest-0834501

That’s all for today, in one of the upcoming posts I’ll explain some more about the design process of the logo, the branding and the poster & presentation.

Check back next week for more!

Portfolio Management For Innovators

Erik No Comments

One of the hardest parts of managing innovation is picking the right projects and managing these at the same time correctly. In the literature about this subject the main discussions are about exploitation (using what you already have) vs. exploration (diving into new areas of business and hardcore innovation) and about stage-gate models for developing the right innovations.

Portfolio management is also an important subject in this, since this focusses on what projects are in your pipeline, and which one’s you are kicking out of it. This is usually done looking at the incremental/radical division and how far does is suit our strategy, but you can go much further.

In this new article by InnovationManagement.se the focus is on four different types of innovations to consider when doing portfolio management, including the two named above, but also focussing on business model innovation and new venture innovation, focussing on how the company should react when the entire market changes.

Really interesting stuff for any company to think about when setting up their innovation goals for the years to come. Especially since it forces you to think deeper about what you’re doing and where you’re going.

3 Steps From Idea To Innovation (According To An Incubator)

Erik No Comments

A week ago I presented my research to the people from KIC InnoEnergy; an incubator aimed specifically at sustainable energy innovations funded by the EU.

They helped me get further with my research by pointing out some things they believe are necessary for the succes of the product, but also we had a nice discussion about innovation in general.

Along the way of the discussion we came across their method of getting a person with an idea towards an innovation. They do this in three simple steps, which I kindly turned into this nice infographic which is now also decorating some walls in the office.

3stagesInnovation-01

Home Battery Storage for Many More

Erik No Comments

This week Tesla has made an announcement that will really kickstart the battery storage at homes. The new Tesla Powerwall is a very well looking battery box that can be mounted to your wall and attached directly to your solar panels to store the power so you can use it when you need it.

Although they are not the first one to produce something like this, they aim at doing it a such an enormous scale (by opening a new factory which will instantly double the current world production of Li-Ion batteries), that it will have a big impact on energy storage.

The only issue with this is that it might lead to a lock-in of the inferior Lithium-Ion technology for batteries, whereas currently researchers are investigating many better options, with higher power densities at lower prices. The issue currently however is that these are by far not ready for the market, but it still means that research aimed at this should be funded in order to bring the world further (are you reading this European Commission?).

Still, for now I believe that this is a very good start for this, and that it will lead to a much bigger market for sustainable energy generation. So yay for Elon Musk and Tesla.

Molten Salt to Keep it Cool

Erik No Comments

Nowadays almost all big buildings use large, high energy consuming airconditioning units to keep their buildings at a reasonable temperature throughout the year. Especially in the summer these cost an enormous amount of energy.

This problem has lead to some very fine solutions lately to keep the temperature in buildings down, of which the melting and solidifying of salts is one of the coolest.

The two types of salts used in this test have melting points between 20-25 degrees Celsius, which means that whenever the temperature is below they will solidify, thereby sending out heat and when it’s above they will take up heat to be able to melt the salt.

The main problem right now is that it’s very hard to give a small spread to the salts. Currently the spread of about 3 degrees Kelvin is normal, but the hope is to bring it down to maximum one degree spread.

The good point already is that these salts are able to almost take away the entire cooling need for part of an ABN AMRO office, as the research by TNO has shown. All we can hope for now is that many more buildings will follow.