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The Hague calls on startups to help make the city future-proof

The 2017 edition of The Hague’s governmental accelerator program, Startup in Residence, has launched. The program is inspired by the notion that startups are perfectly positioned to come up with altogether new solutions to the problems the city faces. The series of urban challenges that are the focus of this year’s program are now available.

Ultimately, the municipality hopes to open up its system of public tendering to startups. “We’re eager to make an effort to bring in young entrepreneurs,” Deputy Mayor Karsten Klein explains, “their fresh ideas and perspectives can help us to adopt a new outlook on our work.”

A change of mindset

Last year’s pilot edition of the program demonstrated that it’s a change of mindset that the program is working towards. “Of course, we have all sorts of ideas here at the municipality. But we are part of an official organization,” municipal officer Niels Al stresses. “That’s why it’s interesting and beneficial to hear about how people outside of City Hall are thinking about the issues that we are facing.”

The municipal officers involved are excited to broaden their horizon. “I’m looking forward to collaborate. It’s great that the startups will bring along a different perspective on our problems,” Floris Zwaferink says. Equally eager, Paul Kersten explains: “I think that startups can inspire us by their divergent thinking”.

Presenting 8 urban challenges

Eight urban challenges take center stage in this year’s program. The city calls on startups to have a closer look and come up with creative concepts to tackle them. We are excited to present the urban challenges to you in more detail below.

Urban challenge #1 | Buzzing Beatrixkwartier:
How to bring liveliness to the business district

The Beatrixkwartier is The Hague’s central business district. It’s an area that is going through intense change and development. Large companies have a significant presence here. However, due to the many vacant properties, smaller companies are increasingly settling in the area as well. They bring along an altogether new kind of energy that benefits the area as a whole.

Nonetheless, the area still lacks overall liveliness and buzz. Space is the least of the area’s problem: a staggering 300,000 square meters of office space is available, much of which remains unused in the evenings and on the weekend, when activity in the area comes to a standstill.

“The Beatrixkwartier lacks buzz, activities, opportunities for people to meet,” municipal officer Paul Kersten explains. “By connecting to each other, people create innovation, productivity, new ideas. We need to encourage this by making sure it’s easier for people to connect.”

The City of The Hague invites you to ponder the following questions: What’s the potential of all this space? How can it be used to bring more liveliness and local buzz to the area, during office hours as well as after? How can the Beatrixkwartier become an altogether more attractive place to work, for smaller companies and people in the 20-to-35-years-old demographic in particular?

For more details regarding urban challenge #1 “Buzzing Beatrixkwartier”, please go here.

Urban challenge #2 | Care checker:
How to ensure access to care

Care for the elderly, the disabled, and the more vulnerable groups falls under the city’s responsibility. The city offers general assistance to all of its residents that need support. This way, it hopes to ensure that people can continue to live independently for as long as possible and to reduce the need for more intensive care.

Examples of general provisions include neighborhood assistance, administrative support, meal services, local transportation, and social activities in community centers.

When these provisions prove to be insufficient, residents can apply for additional and more personalized support. Nonetheless, it often proves difficult for residents, professionals, as well as informal caretakers to find the right information about how to gain access to the support they need.

The City of The Hague invites you to ponder the following question: How can the city provide easier access to information related to assistance and support under the Social Support Act (Wet Maatschappelijke Ondersteuning)?

For more details regarding urban challenge #2 “Care checker”, please go here.

Urban challenge #3 | Love your home:
How to make homes energy efficient

The City of The Hague strives to be CO2-neutral by 2040. An important step towards achieving this goal is to encourage homeowners to make their homes more energy efficient. The municipality aims to improve 20,000 homes by 2020.

It wants to encourage and support increased sustainability by lowering the threshold for homeowners to take measures. “We want to encourage a large group of people to make their homes more sustainable,” municipal officer Maaike Van Langelaan explains. “Currently, homeowners don’t want to, cannot, or don’t know how to improve their homes. We want to change this.”

The City of The Hague invites you to ponder the following question: How do we encourage the majority of private homeowners to take on sustainable home improvement?

For more details regarding urban challenge #3 “Love your home”, please go here.

Urban challenge #4 | Use your roof:
How to increase alternative use of our rooftops

The Hague is a densely populated city. That’s why streamlining the city’s density with its ambitions in terms of sustainability and “greening” are high on the municipality’s agenda. Needless to say, this is no easy feat.

Municipal parks and gardens are important for ensuring the quality of life in the city. In fact, they are a precondition for continued urban density. But they do take up a lot of space. That’s why the city has started looking at its extensive roof landscape, which remains largely unused.

“The population in the city is growing. We want to continue to grow, and become a more sustainable and green city at the same time,” municipal officer Niels Al says. “Of course, we need to look closely at how to unite these goals.”

He adds, “The program offers us an opportunity to experiment with new perspectives and methods. We’re looking forward to the ideas the startups will come up with. I expect the program to offer us ideas and concepts that are able to have a positive impact on the city. Both in terms of aesthetics and profitability.”

The City of The Hague invites you to ponder the following question: How can we develop a scalable concept that makes it attractive for owners to make their roofs greener, more sustainable, and to use them more intensively?

For more details regarding urban challenge #4 “Use your roof”, please go here.

Urban challenge #5 | Circular city:
How to process waste into marketable products

The city’s businesses generate a lot of waste, adding up to hundreds of tons each day. Currently, all waste is being transported out of the city. Once there, it serves no further purpose.

The City of The Hague is working hard to change its perspective on waste. It aspires to be a circular and inclusive city, in which waste is seen as a valuable raw material. From this new angle, waste can be transformed into new products.

Examples exist in the city already. Several startups are currently growing oyster mushrooms on coffee waste, making belts from old bicycle tires, and making new candles from leftover candle wax.

The City of The Hague invites you to ponder the following question: How can we make a convincing business case to process business waste into marketable products?

For more details regarding urban challenge #5 “Circular city”, please go here.

Urban challenge #6 | The next Retail Monitor:
How to update the city’s current Retail Monitor

Every four years, the municipality performs the Retail Monitor (Detailhandelsmonitor). This test offers insight into figures and statistics related to specific shopping centers.

It offers information about average rental prices, business organization, consumer types, and so on. The information proves valuable to real estate owners, real estate agents, and other stakeholders.

The Retail Monitor is an important policy document at the municipality, which is unique in the country. But the available information is not currently used to achieve its full potential. It can be presented in a far more attractive and interesting way, to benefit a greater variety of parties.

The City of The Hague invites you to ponder the following questions: How can we develop new and smart ways to update the current Retail Monitor to include more attractive data? How can we tap into new data sources?

For more details regarding urban challenge #6 “The next retail monitor”, please go here.

Urban challenge #7 | Event traffic management:
How to ensure smooth traffic to and from free events?

The City of The Hague, and particularly the district of Scheveningen, has a long tradition of hosting large-scale, free events. A prominent example is the International Fireworks Festival that takes place annually at the end of summer.

On a good day, the event attracts around 120,000 visitors. Visitors arrive by car, public transportation, or bike. All of these different traffic flows get in each other’s way. Also, local residents are inconvenienced by visitors looking for parking space in the neighborhood.

Police, emergency services, road management, and traffic control have implemented a great variety of traffic measures. However, none have improved the traffic situation sufficiently. Visitors of free events are often creatures of habit. When it comes to choice of transportation, they tend to decide at the last minute if and how to go. That’s why they are difficult to contact and steer.

Municipal officer Quintin De Jong explains: “Our annual fireworks festival gets bad press every year because of the traffic. We are eager to find new ways to reach and inform visitors beforehand. That way, everyone can reach the beach comfortably and in time to see the fireworks.”

The City of The Hague invites you to ponder the following question: How can we ensure that traffic coming to and from free events generates as few complaints as possible from visitors, residents, and retailers?

For more details regarding urban challenge #7 “Event traffic management”, please go here.

Urban challenge #8 | Create happy customers:
How to meaningfully emphasize the city center’s hospitality

The Hague’s city center is successful, dynamic, and a pioneer in terms of partnerships. In order to remain future-proof, the city wants to continue to innovate and meaningfully respond to technology-related developments, consumer behavior, and possible competition with other cities. The municipality aspires for the city center to become even more hospitable to its visitors, particularly those coming from outside the city.

The City of The Hague invites you to ponder the following questions How can we develop a scalable, surprising, and measurable product or service that emphasizes the city center’s hospitality to visitors from outside the city?

For more details regarding urban challenge #8 “Create happy customers”, please go here.

Has your interest been sparked after reading this post? Have a closer look at the program, its requirements, and the urban challenges here. And get ready to join the municipality to improve our superb city.