Startup support in Apollo 14 - TNO

In Apollo 14 we help entrepreneurs to start and grow their business. And for many startups, technology plays a significant role. Whether it’s about green energy, blockchain, artificial intelligence or the development of a new type of food:  a solid technological base is a key factor for success. The good news: we have TNO in the Netherlands: more than 3000 technological specialists who can assist you as an entrepreneur with advice, development and real-life testing. Especially for starters, TNO has very interesting possibilities. An interview with Aart Willem Benschop of TNO.

What is TNO?

TNO is the largest independent applied research institution in the Netherlands. This means that newly developed knowledge in the field of technology is literally applied. Here, developed theories that are in their infancy are converted to real-life technology. The goal: to support the Dutch business community and assist the government in policy making.

In the government, TNO works for Rijkswaterstaat and the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, for example. In addition, the Defense organization is a big customer, and even a separate unit within TNOhas been set up for this. In the commercial market, TNO is working for the larger corporates such as ASML and KPN, but also for smaller companies, including startups with a technological challenge.

Aart Willem: “The most common way of working, is that a company has a technological challenge and we are able to realize their idea with previously acquired knowledge and facilities. Think, for example, of a new sorting machine for greenhouse horticulture. You need X-ray technology to see if flower buds are rotten. TNO has the knowledge and test setups to help.”

Great facilities for startups


Aart Willem Benschop, Liaison manager at TNO

TNO has built up a wide range of knowledge and test facilities within its 9 units. These facilities, which are often extremely expensive, are also accessible to startups. Together with TNO you can further develop the technology you need for your startup in a practical situation. And this regularly leads to new patents that have been developed together with TNO.

Aart Willem mentions a number of examples: “A new company produces solar panels that evaporate dirty water, so you can use the sun to clean water. A wonderful innovation for countries in Africa. TNO can support this very well. Or a container full of batteries an inland vessel. Actually a large battery that can be exchanged. This allows the ship to be electrically powered.”

Blockchain and artificial intelligence

Also, TNO has specialized knowledge about artificial intelligence and blockchain technology. This requires less capital, for these technologies use knowledge and standard ICT. “We have specialists available to support these developements. They are divided over perhaps 20 departments, and they are in close contact to exchange knowledge. Here we are at the interface between theory and practice.”

In the provence of Limburg, TNO has a special blockchain center that is used by a number of startups. Here, all hardware and software is ready to do experiments. Aart Willem: “A good example is one of the projects TNO is now working on: ensuring the quality of hemp cultivation, or weed. With blockchain technology, the entire chain, from raw materials to sales, can be recorded and checked in a safe way.”

TNO startup support in Apollo 14

TNO regularly helps startups with technological support. As one of the founding fathers of YES Delft and initiator of TEK Delta, TNO knows the challenges you face as a startup. On the website of startup location Apollo 14 you can make an appointment with Aart Willem Benschop. He is the liaison manager for startups for TNO.

How does a first meeting with TNO take place? Aart Willem: “My aim is to make the startup question sharp. I want this question to be crystal clear and also challenge the startup to write it down. Then we can see if this fits TNO and the network TNO cooperates with”.

If the technological challenge is a match with the knowledge and expertise of TNO, you will receive one day of free consultancy with a TNO employee who has the required knowledge. During this day, TNO also checks the possibilities for further collaboration with TNO, and whether you can join public-private partnerships. Ultimately, this can lead to a new technological innovation that has been tested in practice and can be further developed as a start-up company.

Register here for the TNO office hours.