The Hague Innovators Challenge 2018:

"In The Hague, we believe in experimentation"

This year’s edition of the The Hague Innovators Challenge was just kicked off at Impact Startup Fest. Deputy Mayor Karsten Klein launched the challenge and encouraged those present to apply. We checked in with last year’s winners to hear how winning the challenge has kickstarted their businesses.

“The world is growing ever more complex,” Deputy Mayor Karsten Klein explains. “Issues related to security, energy, climate and food are becoming increasingly internationalized. At the same time, these issues have an impact on the people that are living in the city.”

That’s why the City of The Hague aims to encourage startups, organizations and students to present new ideas on tackling current global challenges. It does so by organizing the annual The Hague Innovators Challenge. Winning ideas are awarded with prizes ranging from €5,000 to €30,000.

Idea owners are encouraged to invest their prize money in experimentation. “To come up with new solutions, startups and students need room to experiment. In The Hague, we believe in and want to encourage the notion of experimentation,” Karsten Klein stresses. “It all starts with an idea and the willingness to challenge the status quo.”

Lightening speed 

Last year’s first prize winner, Hack the Planet, spent its prize money of €30,000 on further developing its GroundHawQ concept. The GroundHawQ is a low-cost, 3D-printed and self-driving drone. It can be used for a wide range of activities, depending on the additional technologies that are installed. Functionalities can range from mobile medicine kits to thermal cameras.

“Winning the challenge has allowed us to fund the entire development of the first GroundHawQ prototype,” Hack the Planet’s Tim Van Deursen shares. “What’s more, it encouraged a number of our current partners to join in. All in all, winning the challenge gave our energy levels a significant boost. It helped us to feel confident about being on the right track.”

“The prize money has allowed us to start investing in the building process right away and to fine-tune our design. This led to a working prototype at lightening speed. If we hadn’t won the competition, this would have taken us much longer,” Tim adds.

Establishing connections

Tim encourages his peers to apply to the The Hague Innovators Challenge. He says, “It may sound obvious, but a competition like this one challenges your concept. It will improve your concept regardless of whether you’ll win, because you have to open up to feedback.”

What’s more, being involved in the challenge meant meeting new people and being exposed to new ideas. “I realized there’s tons of innovators working from the City of The Hague, and many of them have great ideas. Many new connections were established,” he adds. Among other things, this has led to him being part of this year’s The Hague Innovators Challenge selection committee.

Building confidence

Second prize winner, startup Budgently, entered the competition with the idea of a mobile-only personal financial assistant. Budgently is an application that uses behavioral design principles to create financial awareness among young people.

“Of course, the prize money of €20,000 is significant,” founder Danny Mulders says. “But apart from that, winning has also brought good things on other levels. When a professional jury endorses your product, it is reassuring. It helps to build confidence. This has been invaluable to us.”

Budgently invested its prize money in the production of a marketing video as well as product development. “Before we actually go live with the application, we want to make sure to validate all of our assumptions. Our chances of success will be much greater that way,” Danny says.

Reflecting professionalism

Startup SafeRails won the student prize of €10,000. They are working on a plastic profile to be inserted in the city’s tram tracks that is to prevent cyclists from getting stuck in them. The plastic profile can take on different shapes, so that it will accommodate trams as well as bicycle wheels to pass through.

“Not only did the public support for the SafeRails concept increase, but also the achievement reflects professionalism onto different stakeholders,” SafeRails founder Roderick Buijs describes the advantages of winning the student prize in the The Hague Innovators Challenge last year.

Creating opportunities

“While the technical development of the SafeRails concept is our greatest challenge, the The Hague Innovators Challenge led to more interest from local authorities with whom we had some interesting discussions,” Roderick adds.

He encourages his peers to join this year’s challenge by submitting an application. “Competing in an innovation contest is a great motivator that creates lots of opportunities,” he says.

Interested to hear more about the The Hague Innovators Challenge 2018 and excited to possibly follow in last year’s winners’ footsteps? Have a look at the details and, please note, deadline for applications is 6 November.