Innovating in times of crisis: How do you go about that?

For some entrepreneurs, these times are almost a survival run. Qualities that were previously considered nice to have, are now of the utmost importance. Is your target audience no longer relevant. Find a new one and change your product. Can’t physically open up? You are now a webshop. That deal you’ve been working on for so long fell through? Stay positive and find someone else. Together with Innofest, we talked to three Innofest alumni about their experiences.

Ruben Deddens - Sensoty

What kind of innovation is Sensoty and how did you go about testing it?

“Sensoty translates soil and environment data from sensors into advice to improve the quality of the soil. During FestivalderAa 2019 in Schipborg, we tested our sensor with Innofest. There we learned valuable thing like the ideal height to hang the sensor for the correct data collection and how to make the datasets as small as possible, so it can be processed the right way. Through Innofest, we had access to a big network and were able to choose from a lot of different locations that are very close to real life conditions.”

How can you keep on innovating in these COVID times?

“The peak times and visitor crowds we were counting on sort of fell through because many festivals and events couldn’t take place. That's why we started looking at what else we could get out of the sensors. We are now working on developing the sensor in such a way that it can be used in crowded places to check whether people can keep their distance.”

Lars Boomsma - Calix

What can Calix do and what did you test during DGTL?

“Calix is a cup holder you can attach to your belt or bag, with the goal of making the transition towards reusable cups easier. In 2019, we tested at DGTL [check the pilot here]. And that pilot really helped us getting the product ready for the market. We now know how much visitors are willing to pay and we made some changes in the design. Because of the test, we were able to show potential partners we our product works and is also validated through extensive testing.”

How do you stay innovative when your target audience is currently not very relevant?

“We’re still continuing the development of our product, but a little more behind the scenes and focused on the design. The pandemic also taught us that it’s good to have other sources of revenue, so we’re busy trying to find new ways to continue to contribute to a more sustainable world. We’ll be sure to keep you posted on what exactly that will be!”

Wouter Zijlstra - Greatwaves

What sort of innovations did Greatwaves test with Innofest?

“We tested our 60GHz Wi-Fi solution at Welcome to The Village in 2018, to see if would also work in densely wooded areas. And last summer, we tested our crowd monitor with Innofest Test Teevee, which gives a real time overview of how crowded a certain location is, based on connected devices. This was something we wanted to use to help employees avoid crowded spots in the office during the COVID-19 crisis.” 

How important have those innovations been during these difficult times?

“Innovation is always important really, whatever the circumstances. That’s because it challenges you to look at the things you’re doing in a different way. Sometimes, that can result in really great things, and sometimes it won’t, but that doesn’t take away from the value of what you learn from it. Early on during the pandemic, we were worried of course, but fortunately, things remained pretty busy for us. We wanted to use the crowd monitor as an added service for our customers, but there wasn’t as much need for it as we thought. But that’s totally fine, because we saw it as a great opportunity to showcase what we can do.”

Also want to test with Innofest?

From January 13 to 16 2021, the Groningen music showcase festival ESNS will take place - mostly digital of course.  The organization will make its infrastructure available to innovative entrepreneurs in the Northern Netherlands who have something they would like to test. ESNS - as the most important showcase festival in Europe - has a huge audience and a 150-man crew who are building the online environment. Want to know more? Check this page.