Another step forward for Eindhoven Engine: Fontys University of Applied Sciences and TNO have joined TU Eindhoven as shareholders. “It’s quite a statement,” says Ella Hueting, Director of Fontys School of Engineering and chairman of Eindhoven Engine’s Advisory Board. “I don’t know of any other initiative where all the knowledge centers in the chain are the shareholders and work together with companies in the region.”
Sharing the load
In some ways, this development has been a long time coming. “Eindhoven Engine is about involving students with companies in the Brainport region, which Fontys has done for a long time, especially with SMEs,” Ella explains. “It was very natural for us to get involved.”
By becoming equal partners, she hopes to send a message to the Netherlands that Brainport’s success also lies in knowledge institutes working with both companies and one another. “In engineering, for example, Fontys has almost 1200 students working on projects from about 300 companies each year. When it comes to smaller companies, knowledge is not so available. Should we use robotics, for instance? It’s important for both big and small companies, so we can work on projects where high-level theoretical knowledge comes from TU/e and TNO and Fontys can apply it in smaller companies. It’s very complementary, I think.”
“The projects are even more important than before. Businesses really have to innovate right now.”
A new NatLab
One such example is SmartMan@SME, a Fontys-led project which brings together TNO, VDL and VBTI as partners in OpenCall 2020. This aims to improve factory efficiency by optimizing production processes for SMEs. “It’s not one fixed research project but rather smaller projects which we work on together,” notes Ella. “It’s a question of the company itself, which asks us to help them apply a new technology. We then work on it together with a couple of students. TU/e students have a high theoretical level and some of them really want to apply this too, so all our knowledge is now connected. It’s wonderful!”
Success in SmartMan will be measured in terms of the economic value of improvements per project and company but could also represent the start of something bigger. Ella: “With Eindhoven Engine, I think Maarten [Steinbuch] wanted to achieve a new NatLab. This could be the first step. I’m really enthusiastic about this project, which I think is unique. Now we’re started, I think we’ll achieve big success – particularly in this corona time.”
Opportunities and exposure
In keeping with the forward-thinking nature of Eindhoven Engine, Ella prefers to view the ongoing pandemic in terms of new possibilities. “The projects are even more important than before. Businesses really have to innovate right now. In Brainport and the Netherlands, we need to be challenged to work together and quickly bring new technologies to the market. This might be an opportunity because it’s something we’re good at, and it could give us a big advantage compared to other countries. After all, we have a lot of international students who know that this region is the place to be. Eindhoven Engine creates exposure for what we can do.”
“It was very natural for us to get involved.”
Eindhoven Engine unlocks the collective intelligence in the Brainport region. Thanks to a unique formula, innovators from companies can join forces with students and experienced employees from knowledge institutions in order to work together to accelerate innovation and realize disruptive co-creation projects in which co-location is a prerequisite. The founding fathers of Eindhoven Engine are the knowledge institutions Fontys, TNO and Eindhoven University of Technology and the companies Philips Healthcare, Signify, ASML, VDL, NTS and NXP. Eindhoven Engine’s funds come from the Brainport Regio Deal.
OpenCall 2020 projects
Humanity is facing an unprecedented challenge: global warming, driven by carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil sources such as oil and gas. However, these emissions, if captured, can be a renewable carbon source with applications such as crop growth and sustainable fuel synthesis. Carbyon will develop Direct Air Capture (DAC) technology to remove CO2 from the atmosphere and turn it into a green substitute to fossil fuels. As the global demand for renewable carbon will increase once the price level reaches €50 per ton of CO2, Carbyon is challenging multidisciplinary teams within Eindhoven Engine to collaboratively improve the main cost drivers of DAC technology.
Partners: Carbyon, DIFFER, TU/e
ECoS-IAQ Efficient Comfortable School Indoor Air Quality
Installations in buildings are responsible for around 35% of all energy consumption, approximately 20% of which is due to inefficient operations. Inferior environmental conditions within classrooms can have both short- and long-term health effects, mainly due to the presence of particulate matter. With greater insights into sensors, data interpretation, trend signaling, continuous monitoring, fault detection/diagnosis and predictive maintenance, problems can be identified in the Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems of schools. The ECoS-IAQ project focuses on the creation of product development concepts for air handling manufacturers, air filter manufacturers, control companies and installers.
Partners: Building G100, Camfil, ISSO, Kropman, Lucas Onderwijs, NedAir, TU/e
Smart Manufacturing aims to improve factory efficiency by optimizing production processes, but SMEs often lack the capacity to create innovation in this domain. Bringing together Eindhoven Engine, Fontys, TNO and Brainport Industries Campus, the SmartMan project comprises research into various facets of smart manufacturing, including robot-assisted manufacturing, data sharing, industrial AI, virtual reality and autonomous transport. Student projects will be executed at SMEs with the goal of developing knowledge, technology and methods for combining quality, automation and flexibility in manufacturing. Success will be measured in terms of the economic value of improvements per project and company.
Partners: Fontys, TNO, Smart Industry Fieldlab Flexible Manufacturing partners, VDL, VBTI and several SMEs
The iHeat@Home project contributes to a breakthrough innovation in thermal energy storage: a heat battery which is better, cheaper, smaller and greener than any competitor. This will accelerate the energy transition, promote the development of renewable energy sources, reduce grid investments and create new business. This is all happening here in the Brainport region. iHeat@Home focuses on solutions for real-time data on the heat battery’s state-of-charge and its optimal data management, with three coherent solutions: 1. The basis for a sensor which is robust and cheap; 2. Communication protocols and data management; 3. Integration in a validated, user-ready heat battery. The aim is to bring this technology to the market by 2023.
Partners: Caldic, Fontys, TNO, TU/e, Warmtebatterij BV
POWer FITTing FITTing Persons’ vitality and optimizing their Work Environment
In an increasingly competitive global economy, physical inactivity and burnout rates are increasing. Sustainable employability based on good physical and mental health is therefore crucial, preventing absenteeism and also reducing healthcare costs. POWer FITTing optimizes the relationship between vitality and the (home) office environment through the combination of data acquisition, integration and application for the validation and acceleration of user-oriented solutions. By taking into account individual, societal and contextual factors, this enables employees to remain both healthy and productive. This benefits companies, individuals and wider society.
Partners: Fontys, HC Oranje-Rood, IMEC, TNO, TU/e
WOMBATH: towards an artificial womb
Following their birth, each child faces a physiological transition from mother-placental life support to (self-sufficient) life outside the womb. For some premature babies, this transition occurs too quickly. This places a heavy demand on the child’s immature vital organs, which is why extremely premature babies often experience serious, lifelong health problems with possible social consequences. As a trial in recent years, premature lambs have successfully been kept alive in a fluid-based environment, allowing them to develop in the same way as in the womb. The results are also promising for human application. The WOMBATH consortium will develop a medical device – an artificial womb – that supports the safe development of extremely premature babies outside of the womb. Ultimately, these infants will have better health prospects than premature infants with conventional care.
Partners: LifeTec Group, Máxima Medical Center, MEDSIM, NEMO Healthcare, POLIMI, RWTH Aachen, TU/e