For the eighth year in a row, the High Tech Discovery Route is the highlight of the Dutch Technology Week. This time the annual technology feast is bigger than ever: with new discovery routes in places like Tilburg, Nieuwkuijk, Assen, Oss, Breda and Nijmegen, the Dutch Technology Week is getting an increasingly national look. Innovation Origins visited two routes in Brainport Eindhoven: Strijp-T (at the Innovation Powerhouse and Additive Industries) and Brainport Industries Campus (BIC), where over 25 companies from the Brainport Industries cluster presented themselves.

The teachers at Summa College feel blessed: one group after the other gets an explanation from them about the education, the students, but especially about the changed relationship with the business world. “If there’s one thing that’s struck us since we moved to the Brainport Industries Campus, it’s the cooperation we’ve received from the business community,” says one of them. “Of course, first and foremost the companies here at BIC, but also from far beyond. Just look at the machines we have here: the latest, the newest and the best. We wouldn’t have dared to think about that in the past.” He also understands that there is some self-interest for these companies, because they are all looking for new personnel, so the better they present themselves to the employees-of-the-future, the greater the chance that they will report to them later. “But the fact remains that this gives us the best facilities we can imagine.”

In addition to a look at the practice areas, Summa also offers some fifteen stands where visitors can get to work themselves with robots, 3D printers and a racing car simulator, among other things. One hall further on, the many professional companies in the Brainport Industries network present themselves to the visitors. Both the ‘own’ BIC residents such as KMWE and Yaskawa, as well as companies like VDL GL, Frencken and Demcon. PSV’s e-sporters are also there – and turn out to be almost as great a hero as the ‘real’ soccer players. We see young and old engaged in digitally composing and assembling their own Lego creation, programming robots, printing a 3D version of themselves and playing table football with a robot. In the midst of all the big names, Tech Playgrounds gives one workshop after another with great interest.

John Blankendaal, the foreman of the more than 100 companies that have joined forces in Brainport Industries, is showing a VIP group around. Nobody notices that he has just returned from a field mission to Nuremberg, one of the most important markets of the Dutch high-tech manufacturing industry, and in between also gave a presentation at Kempentech in Hapert, where another High Tech Discovery Route takes place. “When I arrive here, all my fatigue is gone immediately. I still get goosebumps from everything we can show here – and certainly from the reactions we get from the visitors.”

A few kilometres away, Strijp-T opens its doors at VanBerlo’s Innovation Powerhouse and at Additive Industries. At both locations, in addition to their own highlights, there is also room for technical performances by guests. And, after all, the day is also for children, so there is plenty of room for experimentation. At the Innovation Powerhouse, this takes the form of a ‘Build Your Own Robot’ workshop. With the help of a number of standard parts and some cardboard boxes, the robots quickly take on form and function. Through constructions connected to sensors, they make sound, can move, or light up.

A team from the Delft University of Technology, Talaria, has been given the opportunity to explain the GoFly competition organised by Boeing. The assignment: design an energy-neutral one-person aircraft, which could one day be used for personal transport in urban environments. The prototype is ready, but the team is already looking further ahead. “Of course we’d like to win that competition in America, but we’re also looking very cautiously at the future already: this might be about a hydrogen-based propulsion system and a freight drone.”

At Additive Industries, the attention of the visitor must be divided between an expert explanation of the operation of additive manufacturing and a look in URE’s racing car, built by the Eindhoven University of Technology’s student racing team. In the meantime, the company that specializes in 3D printing for industries such as automotive and aerospace is also trying to draw attention to the many vacancies which it has. And of course, here too, there’s a workshop about building robots. Because if something appeals to the visitors during this High Tech Discovery Route, it is a self-made robot.