How some Dutch companies are innovating

AMSTERDAM • Earlier this year, the Netherlands was placed second on the Global Innovation Index.

Here are some ways in which Dutch companies are shaking up the way things are done in their respective fields:

REALISTIC ROBOT BIRDS

At the University of Twente, scientists have built a falcon-shaped drone designed to scare avian pests away from airfields. Unlike a regular drone, the robot bird of prey keeps other birds away for longer as they believe that a predator has entered their territory.

"It is the same size and flaps at the same frequency as a real peregrine falcon," said Professor Stefano Stramigioli, who worked on the project. "When the birds see it, they fly away and stay away for at least a week."

HIGH-TECH REHABILITATION

At the Roessingh Research and Development institute, one laboratory is equipped with eight wall-mounted cameras and pressure-sensitive force plates.

These enable scientists to capture and virtually recreate a person's movements, down to the exact angle of their joints.

For patients with problems walking, this technology can help doctors nail down the problem and give them targeted help.

 
 
 

Human movement scientist Jasper Reenalda recounted how the technology helped them treat a man who suffered a traumatic brain injury and could barely walk.

"At first, he could walk only 10m," Dr Reenalda said. "After the surgery, he was able to walk 2km or more. He could go back to work and regain his normal life."

BRINGING ABOUT A SEA CHANGE

The maritime sector is still labour-intensive and heavily paper-based, said PortXL managing director Mare Straetmans. But this also means that the industry is ripe for change. His company matches start-up firms with smart solutions to established corporates which need their help.

One of its success stories is RanMarine, whose floating rubbish collection drones have helped clean up waters from Sweden to South Africa. "In a lot of ports, you still see people with a boat and a net picking out litter," Mr Straetmans said. "But they made a boat - a floating drone that picks up all the waste in the water."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 25, 2018, with the headline 'How some Dutch companies are innovating'. Print Edition | Subscribe