RvT-members: 'Turn this temporary tool into something structural'
Why did you decide to commit to the TTTs in the role of supervisor?
Geanne: “I have a passion for regenerative and future-proof business. From my experience in the field, I have seen how startups can actually help a large company innovate. However, this innovation must be past the research stage. It then suddenly becomes possible for a spin-off to contribute to the challenges of our time on a larger scale. The role as chair of the supervisory board of TTT Circular Technology is a good fit for me because accelerating integrated sustainability and circular economy is also my main focus point in business.”
Jeroen: “I joined in because in my work as director of The Gate at the Technical University (TU) of Eindhoven, I see how important it is to support a startup or spin-off from the start. That very early stage is the most vulnerable phase, but also the least interesting one for investors. The technology is often unproven and the market feasibility is still unclear. Market players and investors often come in later, and therefore I think the government should take a position during that early stage financing. That’s what happens with these TTTs.”
What else is the strength of the TTTs?
Geanne: “With this, we can respond to the enormous importance of marketing innovations that can help the Netherlands (and the world) move forward. That’s where the future lies for our business community. Within the TTT programs, the TUs and TNO work together so that young researchers and startups can receive help by means of knowledge and financial opportunities to move their innovation forward. The possibility of seed-money from Shift NL and others also increases their chances of getting funding from other investors.”
RvT members can also be seen as the propagators of the TTTs ideas. How is this being responded to in your network?
Jeroen: “Well, let me tell you… The TU Eindhoven is a member of the EuroTech Universities Alliance, a strategic partnership of six European universities. Recently there was a meeting about the different practices around valorization and I told colleagues from Denmark and Germany about the TTTs in the Netherlands. They were extremely enthusiastic and thought the collaboration between investors, government and the TUs was unique. That did make me a little proud of what we’re doing.”
Have you yourself ever been in contact with TTT-backed companies?
Geanne: ”Absolutely, I purposely look for them. Those conversations are very inspiring. Think, for example, of Respyre. A startup making cities greener with building materials that allow for spontaneous moss growth. This contributes to realizing the ambition in construction to build in a nature-inclusive way. Buildings thus contribute to better air quality, cooling and more biodiversity. I also think Mylium is a great example of this. They make innovative textiles from mycelium (fungal yarns). Mylium is working toward a plastic-free alternative for synthetic leather. I am originally a textile engineer and therefore I get very excited about such innovations. I hope to be able to help these types of startups with my experience and by connecting them to my network.”
Jeroen: “I too am often involved with all those great cases, naturally especially at the TU Eindhoven. I find the recent work of a startup such as Hable incredibly interesting. In December, they won the 4TU Impact Challenge, an innovation competition for students from the four technical universities in the Netherlands. Hable is developing a device that will allow blind and visually impaired people to control their smartphones through Braille writing. It’s still really early phase work, but there are opportunities for them from the TTT. In addition, I spoke to several startups and spin-offs that received TTT vouchers, such as Taylor Technologies, MicroAlign, MantiSpectra and Cellcius.”
The answer is easy to guess given your enthusiasm, but should the TTT programs continue?
Jeroen: “Yes, absolutely! I truly advocate turning this now temporary tool into something structural. If the ministry stops doing this, we will be throwing away the goose with the golden eggs. The TTTs are bearing fruit for the innovation power of the Netherlands. An extension is currently taking place into the field of Artificial Intelligence, in which Nijmegen and Amsterdam are also participating. Which is great to see.”
Geanne: “I too am in favor of the continuation and intensification of the TTT programs. At the national level, the connection with business may receive even more attention, that would be a strong ambition.”
About the RvT-members
About Geanne van Arkel
Geanne van Arkel chairs the supervisor board of TTT Circular Technology. She worked at Interface for seventeen years, which is a publicly traded multinational, and one of her roles was Head of Sustainable Development in Europe. She currently works as a freelancer and is a sparring partner in the field of regenerative, future-proof business.
About Jeroen van Woerden
Jeroen van Woerden started as the director of The Gate in 2021, which is the valorization department of the TU Eindhoven which also entails a partnership of five parties in the Eindhoven region. Before that, he was mainly active in business, including 13 years at Philips Lightning, and in the chemical and manufacturing industries. Jeroen has been an SB member for the TTTs for one year.