We are facing an enormous challenge: in a few years the Netherlands will have to be largely gas-free. How can startups help our government with this? We spoke to Lieke van Son from the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations (BZK).
Lieke is involved in this extensive project and explains to us that everything is connected with one common goal: making the built environment more sustainable. We are moving away from natural gas step by step and we need the innovations of startups to achieve this goal.
Getting rid of natural gas with new innovations
Startup in Residence tackles complex, social problems with the use of innovative startups. By means of “Challenges” startups are challenged to come up with new, creative solutions. Take the natural gas-free neighbourhoods project, for example. Lieke: “It soon became clear how difficult it can be to make it attractive to people and to encourage them to get rid of natural gas. This transition demands a lot from the homeowners. Startup in Residence offered us an interesting opportunity. Our challenge: develop an innovative solution that motivates homeowners to take action and make their homes gas-free. BZK presented this challenge to startups who subsequently submitted all kinds of innovative and creative solutions. A great result. ”
What makes a startup a winner?
It is unique and innovative for a government agency to work with startups. The question therefore is: what exactly are the Challenge Holders like the BZK looking for? Usually, when collaborating with, for example, the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, a company must meet many requirements, which is often not feasible for startups. The challenges of SIR remove this barrier. The “Challenge Holders” evaluate the entries of the startups from the perspective of the government. After a thorough selection procedure, a winner is chosen.
A good idea does not always solve a complex problem. What made the solution of De Energiebespaarders (the winner of Lieke’s challenge) unique is their overal approach. They looked at the whole problem instead of one aspect of it. De Energiebespaarders use a digital platform with which they can immediately test whether an offer or idea appeals to the residents. That is much quicker than sending a letter and waiting for a response, without knowing how the letter will be interpreted. This fast feedback loop thus results saving lots of time.
Left: Lieke van Son (BZK), State secretary Knops (BZK) with Jeffry Broek, CEO from De Energiebespaarders. Photo: Martijn Beekman.
Lieke: “The ability to do good research, tackle the entire problem and offer the government innovative working methods, that makes a startup a real winner.”
Win-win for startups and government
At Startup in Residence, startups are given the opportunity to collaborate with a large party, which gives their company a positive boost. In addition to the fact that the government can act as a launching customer, the startup ends get access to a valuable network. When De Energiebespaarders were looking for a municipality for a pilot, Startup in Residence helped them by placing a call in the newsletter of the Natural Gas Free Neighborhoods Program and invited them to relevant events. As a result, several municipalities became interested in working together on the solution.
In addition, there are several benefits for Challenge Holders. De Energiebespaarders, for example, use a way of working that is difficult for governments to implement. The innovativeness and creativity that a startup entails puts complex problems in a different light. Quick testing and switching have a lot of added value and according to Lieke the ministry can still learn a lot from this.
Innovative startup? Join and register.
Are you a startup and do you want to participate in a SIR challenge? Registration for the new challenges start in November, so keep an eye on the website!