Dutch companies have always had a strong focus on innovation, the strong rise in innovative concepts in business cannot be denied. Recent discoveries and developments in new technologies, new products, and new services can be traced to the Netherlands. Check out this list of five ingenious Dutch innovations. They have been shaping new realities and meeting market needs for some time.
Akulon and Arnitel from DSM
DSM’s Akulon and Arnitel are two types of materials that are currently used in several Cradle to Cradle®-certified products, including the Herman Miller chair. Cradle-to-cradle , referred to as “closed loop” systems , share the goal that materials – including metal, paper, plastic, and even food – are recycled or find their way back into the natural environment.
DSM recently refreshed its corporate brand to reflect their innovative approach and achievements.
ABDS (active blast countermeasure system) by TenCate
This was developed for defense forces by TenCate Advanced Armour. Unfortunately, in many places in the world, war is still going on. Troops need the best and most advanced armor protection and the TenCate ABDS active blast countermeasure system offers an innovative defense solution. TenCate designed and manufactured this life-saving protection against a number of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) currently seen particularly in Afghanistan.
No wonder, TenCate has scored high in the annual report on the most valuable Dutch brands by Brand Finance, and significantly increased its position in Management Team Top 500 (brands with the best image) from 285 to 146 place.
Senseo Coffee Pad System
Philips has paved the way to yet another creative innovation – Senseo Coffee Maker – a coffee brewing machine that utilizes a coffee pad system to produce an enjoyable cup of freshly brewed coffee topped with a layer of thick cream. The Senseo coffee maker is the brainchild of two top notch companies: Philips, the electronics manufacturer, and Douwe Egberts, the Dutch coffee producer.
This font was created with the economy in mind. It is a font designed with minute circles throughout the character to cut down on the amount of ink used. It reduces ink usage by approximately 25%. The company has also freshly come up with an Ecofont Software Enterprise edition, a program that supports other fonts and also adds tiny holes to the characters before printing. The software puts a print button to your toolbar and with a click of the mouse, you can convert commonly used fonts such as Times New Roman, Arial, Verdana, and Calibri into hole-filled Ecofonts. The cost-cutting effect on ink reduction will be noticeable after several prints.
Automated self-service passport control at Schiphol
The number of passengers at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport is predicted to swell in the coming years. However, the number of passport counters and policemen can’t be extended endlessly and this can have an off-putting effect on airport transactions and security. That’s why gates were designed and equipped with the newest technology to allow passport control to be fast, efficient, smooth and yet very secure. The gates are suitable for passports integrated with a chip from all European countries plus Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Switzerland. The gates have been developed by Accenture and delivered in collaboration with VisionBox.
Of course, this list of Dutch innovations is just a small selection and far from complete. There are many other great examples of innovations that were developed, or are continually being developed, by leading Dutch companies.
The Netherlands, or Holland, is a relatively small country but it has so many successful international brands that it makes you wonder what the reasons are for this phenomenon.
Well, it is generally known that the economy of The Netherlands strongly depends on foreign trade and that it is a European transportation hub, just think of the Port of Rotterdam. But there is more to it.
The Netherlands also is the home of many high tech and innovative companies. Highly sophisticated marketing allows many Dutch companies to take leadership roles in their fields.
Add to this the openness and pragmatism of the Dutch and you will have the answer to the title question, but let’s take a closer look at the key factors:
Mergers and Acquisitions
Mergers and Acquisitions are very popular strategies among Dutch companies. Acquiring established brands and expanding into low-cost emerging markets is a key strategic tool to drive growth. It counts for both domestic and cross-border transactions. Many businesses (also privately owned) increasingly invest in Asia.
Marketing and Branding
The Dutch understand very well the value of branding and the benefits of coherent marketing. All successful organizations have incorporated branding in their business strategy. There is a clear understanding that brands create economic value, and there is support from the executive board. Global service offerings and branding are critical competitive tools for most Dutch Top Brands.
Dutch brand owners agree that their brand is one of the most important assets that influence the choices of customers, employees, and investors. Furthermore, it can provide a long-term competitive advantage. The Dutch adopt the latest developments in branding and marketing very fast and incorporate them into their marketing mix.
The Dutch are Great Negotiators
The Dutch belong to the most professional negotiators in the world, they are organized, well prepared and understand the pressure of time. They mostly also speak more than one language. The official language of The Netherlands is Dutch. However, today Holland is probably the most multilingual country in Europe. Already a long time ago the Dutch realized that for a small country speaking foreign languages is key to succeed in trading beyond their borders. Besides English, many Dutch speak German, Spanish or French.
The Dutch economy also benefits from expats, knowledge workers who find the Netherlands an attractive country to live in, mostly because of a great life-work balance.
The Best Dutch Brands website is a showcase of carefully selected Dutch brands in B2B, B2C, and non-profit industry. So stay tuned and get updated follow us on Twitter.
VDL Groep is one of the most powerful family-owned businesses in The Netherlands. It is a global industrial and manufacturing company that focuses on producing, innovating and marketing semi-finished products, buses, and coaches and finished products. An interview with the Corporate Communication Department about the leadership of Wim van der Leegte and theinvolvement of the new generation and working culture:
What is the VDL Groep’s DNA?
VDL Groep is an international industrial company focused on the development, production and sale of semi-finished products, cars, buses & coaches and other finished products. It is a conglomerate of flexible, independent companies, each with its own specialty. The common thread found throughout the operations is the combination of metal and technology. Since the founding in 1953, this family-owned business has grown to include 82 operating companies, spread over 18 countries, with more than 8,700 employees. The strength of the VDL Groep lies in the mutual cooperation between the companies.
How would you characterize the culture within VDL Groep?
VDL Groep is a company that has both feet on the (shop) floor. An informal, open atmosphere, not being afraid of hard work, working with others and having the courage to be enterprising, are characteristics that belong to the VDL Groep’s no-nonsense culture. VDL has a flat organizational structure with short policy lines, so decisions can be made quickly.
The next generation of the Van der Leegte family is actively involved in VDL Groep operations. What changes can we expect after the succession? Or maybe no changes? Currently Wim’s three children all work at the company. Pieter van der Leegte is deputy director of VDL Groep, Jennifer works at the Financial Department of VDL Groep and is member of the Supervisory Board and Willem is also deputy director and managing director of VDL Bus & Coach Nederland and VDL Bus & Coach Belgium. Since 2011 all children are shareholder of VDL Groep. What kind of changes the future brings, we do not know yet.
What kind of business leader is Wim van der Leegte?
Wim is a man who knows his numbers (by heart!). He is straightforward, honest, proud, friendly and social. What you see is what you get. The slogan of VDL Groep is ‘strength through cooperation’ and that is what is important to Wim. Cooperating; working together to get the best possible result.
Is the leadership type of Pieter, Jennifer and Willem different from their father Wim’s?
The children are all individual people, each with their own strengths. But of course they have been involved in the company since they were young, so they know the way their father works. It remains to be seen how their leadership style will develop in the future.
Is working for a family-owned business different than working for a corporation? Yes. A family-owned company has some unique characteristics. There is more mutual engagement between the company and its employees. Family-owned companies are characterized by their creative and innovative entrepreneurship. They have the ability to adapt quickly to changing circumstances, and new products or new ideas can be introduced easily. A family-owned business is more focused on long term results than for instance a listed company. Continuity is an important aspect. And if we look at the Netherlands, almost 70% of all companies are family businesses. Together they are responsible for almost half of the country’s employment. So family companies are very important for our economy.
It is no secret that introducing new innovative products and solutions is challenging, and we all know that it’s people’s nature to hold on to the past and avoid what’s new and unknown. Yet innovation is rapidly becoming the lifeblood of the global economy.
Let’s take a look what strategies Apple, DSM, and TenCate have used to promote their innovative products.
Apple: 1 million Apps Available In The App Store
Apple is known for bringing new revolutionary products to the market that seem to be instant hits. However, it wasn’t always like that. When Apple introduced the iPhone in 2007, journalists and business consultants predicted that iPhone would end up nowhere.
The structure, content an design of Annual Reports has changed dramatically over the past years. Instead of dry documents full of financial data, reports now have become powerful and well-designed communication tools including non-financial data as well. Internet and mobile technology, benchmarking rankings and the need to stand out in the crowded marketplace influenced this remarkable change for better communication
In these times of social media, when everybody with an internet connection can spread every kind of financial or business information, companies have to address the growing need to influence the perceptions of various groups. It is no wonder the annual report has become an important communications means. Thanks to the internet, the modern annual report has become a document that reaches out to thousands of readers and is the most direct and controlled method of shaping the perceptions of various audiences and stakeholders
Technology has resulted in the biggest change in publishing annual reports
The biggest change in designing the annual report has been caused by the growing popularity of its digital version. Rene Cruz, annual report project manager at Philips, says that the number of visitors to the annual report website averages around 70,000, and the number of page views is on average around 190,000 in the first 3 months. Many people also download the PDF form of the annual report. In Philips’ case, the number of PDF downloads of the Annual Report 2012 was 12,000 in just the first 3 months, whereas the number of printed books was only 300.
Materials technology company TenCate also prints just 1.000 reports annually, says Jaap de Carpentier Wolf, spokesman of TenCate, because the majority of the stakeholders visit the corporate website for the PDF and also the dynamic version on the dedicated annual report website, tencateannualreports.com.
That brings us to the topic of AR (annual report) websites. Over the last years, we have seen more and more companies designing a separate website dedicated solely to the annual report. These websites provide a concise, well-written executive summary; backed up by a user-friendly PDF version that offers more information should visitors require that.
With the growing popularity of mobile apps investor relation), annual reports have also become an integral part of the IR app and are accessible to financial investors, job seekers and journalists on the go. DSM is one of the few companies that has dedicated investor relation app. Jos van Haastrecht, Director Global Branding at DSM says: ” we at DSM find it important people can find the fullest source of information related to our Integrated Annual Report – from the homepage of the corporate website as well as the availability of information in multiple formats suitable for different stakeholders and readers. Accessibility is an extremely important experience criterion as it’s the first contact with the reader.”
Rankings as inspiration and benchmarking tool and recognition for the team
There is no lack of rankings for annual reports. These rankings compare a large number of publications and choose the best of the best. “The best” can be determined as the most user-friendly, the most transparent, and the most complete annual reports.
At Philips, we see these rankings as inspirational, says Rene Cruz. Especially the following three annual reports rankings are important to us: IR Global Ranking, the Dutch Henri Sijthoff-Prijs from the Dutch Financieel Dagblad, and the Kristalprijs organized by the Dutch Ministry of Economics, he continues.
Winning the Annual Report Competition is also a great compliment for the team, says David Turner, Group Marketing Director at UNIT4. Unit4 is the 2013 winner of our own Excelly Awards. Many people are involved in the creation of the annual report. From writers and designers to the financial department, all are being recognized for their hard work that makes a difference.
Developing the Annual report’s theme, storylines and visual concepts
The starting point for most companies is to look at “best practices”, by collecting highly rated annual reports from different organizations around the world and to benchmark the approaches and techniques that are used in writing, design, infographics, photography, video, and animations. It helps to identify innovative design concepts that support the annual report’s themes and messages, and – above all – help raise the corporate identity of the company, says Jaap de Carpentier Wolf of TenCate. The development of a theme is a highly strategic decision that needs to be decided early on in the creation process. The theme is the most critical part of the book. It establishes the storyline the company wants to bind everything together.
The overall TenCate annual report’s theme is: Protecting People. In five years time, TenCate helps readers with a thematic approach to creating several points of view on the overall company. The recent annual report 2013 is focusing on mobility solutions.
2013: In transit
2014: In habitats
2015: At work
2016: During leisure
The visuals and texts support these themes.
At DSM, this year’s theme was related to the purpose of creating brighter lives for people today and generations to come. This has among other things been translated into two key sustainability programs:
ECO+ for the development of sustainable, innovative products and solutions with ecological benefits
People+, a program to develop solutions that measurably improve the lives of consumers, workers, and communities across the value chains
The Integrated Annual Report is also supported with visuals from and with their own employees who present tangible ideas and solutions which make a positive difference in the world. These visuals also express the fact that working for DSM equals doing something meaningful.
The 2013 Philips annual report has 3 themes that rotate on the website: Delivering innovation, Accelerate! and Building a great company. The themes are proposed by the Annual Report (AR) team and selected by the CEO/CFO, says Rene.
Some companies make a bold statement about the company approach by using creative themes like Unit 4 has done for many years. The company has a reputation for designing and developing innovative, agile software solutions for a wide range of services-based sectors. Encouraged by their CFO, Edwin van Leeuwen, who is not afraid to create bold new designs, UNIT4 sees the Annual Report as an opportunity to reflect this innovative culture by taking a highly creative approach that always surprises many people. The idea is to create a report which stands out in the crowd, demonstrating UNIT4’s willingness to do things differently and be bold in its design approach.
The annual report’s theme helps to communicate the company’s vision, values and philosophy toward customers and sets the stage for how the world should perceive the company, and the sort of reputation they want to project.
Most companies say that designing their annual report is the effort of their internal team. Even if they cooperate with creative agencies, these names are rarely shared.
Annual Reports in the Future
Rene Cruz says that in the future annual reports will be published mostly on the web and that the user experience will play a major role in the design of the annual report website. Furthermore, the annual report will have fully integrated reporting on the financial and sustainability performance of the company. Peter Penning, chief designer at Philips, says visuals elements will also play an increasingly important role.
Jos van Haastrecht, says within DSM we were front-runners in integrating our sustainability reporting within our annual report. In future the overall experience of annual report will change in terms of the way the information is being presented. This includes more infographics to simplify complex content, illustrations to support written content, the full integration of video and prioritizing quality over quantity
The future of the annual report is bright and transparent.
Just 10 global brands are behind almost every well-known product, Reddit, called “The Illusion of Choice.” This infographic shows the relation between the brands. Parent companies may own, own shares of, or may simply partner with their branch networks. For example, Coca-Cola does not own Monster but distributes the energy drink. Yum Brands owns KFC and Taco Bell. The company was a spin-off of Pepsi. All Yum Brands restaurants sell only Pepsi products because of a special partnership with the soda-maker.
Unilever reportedly serves 2 billion people around the world, controlling a network that produces everything from Dove shampoo to peanut butter.
Putting sustainability at the core of their business strategy and linking societal needs with business growth is becoming more popular between modern corporations. Michael Porter from Harvard University calls this approach creating shared values (CSV). This means that companies can grow their business and profitability while building sustainable, scalable solutions for societal challenges such as access to healthcare, education, and nutrition, but also to protective solutions, water management and mobility.
I looked at how five well-known companies implement this new approach:
Three years ago Unilever set out the Sustainable Living Plan (Twitter #sustliving), a ten-year journey towards sustainable growth and improving people’s health and well-being. This plan addresses global challenges while contributing to Unilever’s business growth. A good example is the company’s global handwashing campaign sponsored by Lifebuoy, Unilever’s leading anti-bacteria soap brand.
Handwashing with soap is one of the most effective and inexpensive ways to prevent some of the leading causes of death among children in developing countries each year. So Unilever focuses on establishing behavior change in schools and communities across Kenya, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe – three countries where handwashing with soap practices are low. In Kenya, for example, 28 percent of the school children report washing their hands with water at key times during the day, yet only 1 percent report using soap.
By educating communities in developing countries with hygiene promotion activities, Unilever grows its market and without doubt, Lifebuoy has become a market leader and the preferred brand of choice.
TenCate, a market leader in artificial grass fibers and geotextiles announces recently their participation in the GreenSource Sports for Water project. GreenSource includes the construction of a synthetic sports field with a drainage system to harvest rain and river water that is treated in membrane filters. TenCate cooperates in this sanitation and sports project with two other high tech companies: Pentair and Wavin. In the coming months, they collectively will install at least 20 GreenSource systems in South Africa.
The system achieves two goals: on the one hand, sustainable water buffering, water filtration and water distribution, and on the other, high-quality multi-sports activities on high-quality synthetic turf football pitches. Football is really important in South Africa and charismatic archbishop Desmond Tutu regularly said: “Soccer isn’t like a religion in Africa. It is bigger than religion.”
Many believe that football in South Africa has become an effective social and developmental tool and that it’s shaping a new future for South Africa. So having high-quality football pitches that will change rain and river water into clean drinking water is considered hugely relevant.
In the North West Province of South African, the GreenSource systems will be installed near schools. In this region, only 27% of households have access to safe drinking water, and various local communities are even faced with a total lack of sustainable drinking water. In this way, TenCate and its partners help build a market for their sustainable products and address the problem of shortage of safe drinking water and the need for sports facilities. Lack of safe drinking water is one of the factors that allow poverty to persist and slow down economic progress in Africa.
DSM recognizes that there are real problems in developing countries such as hidden hunger and malnutrition. Malnutrition is a serious condition that occurs when a person’s diet does not contain the right amount of nutrients. This condition could be tackled for example with fortified rice that contains necessary vitamins and minerals. And because rice is such a popular and inexpensive food, hidden hunger and malnutrition problems could be relatively easily solved.
DSM developed high-quality fortified rice that delivers calories and major micronutrients that are essential for good health. But realizing how complex food distribution in developing countries is, DSM partners with the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) on a strategic approach to rice fortification. DSM dedicated USD 1 million to World Food Programme nutrition activities in Asia to support rice fortification policy and program development. When this program will be developed it will create a huge market for DSM fortified rice.
Another example will be Randstad’s latest program called “Jeugd op zoek” (translated as “Young Seekers”). Randstad launched this program to help young people finding the first job, and they approached entrepreneurs and corporations via the media and asked them to create jobs for young, just out of school people. They also organized free training for job seekers, and this way, during 7 weeks they helped almost 10 000 young people to find a job, which was many thousands more than Randstad normally would have been able to do.
Did this action help Randstad with brand awareness and brand preference? Yes, absolutely, but in the same time these 10.000 young people became employees and for many of those this would not have happened if Randstad would not have organized the program.
This approach is exactly what Porter calls creating shared values, it is about helping to solve the societal problems and at the same times finding the profitable way of business growth.
Unilever, TenCate, DSM, and Randstad have developed great sustainable solutions that benefit society and help their businesses grow in a durable way. I hope we will see more examples of creating shared values from many more modern companies.
The 2014 Hockey World Cup will be held from 31 May to 15 June 2014 at the Kyocera Stadium and the GreenFields Stadium in The Hague, the Netherlands. The Kyocera stadium, home base of soccer club ADO Den Haag, will get a temporarily new surface of artificial grass called GreenFields TX.
The story behind the development of this synthetic turf system (also known as artificial grass) is really interesting because GreenFields TX was created especially for the 2014 Hockey World Cup and involved a methodology called “validated learning” known as a new, very effective way of product development used in the lean startup movement.
GreenFields, the company that created the winning synthetic turf system, first applied research created for the developing of artificial grass for the 2012 Olympic Games in London and built a pitch to test the TX product, it was installed at Dutch Hockeyclub Klein Zwitserland. They then asked professional Players and coaches for feedback (validation), and their opinion (new discovery) led to new adjustments. As the result of this process, a new revolutionary synthetic turf system called GreenFields TX product was improved to become the optimal playing surface. It’s revolutionary because it addresses all requests from players and it is technically advanced. It truly is a synthetic turf-built by players for players.
The fact that GreenFields TX artificial grass is the ideal environment for fast hockey games is widely confirmed by many professional hockey teams that use it for their home games and training sessions. This artificial grass system is now installed 11 hockey clubs in the Netherlands, 1 in Germany and soon in Australia.
The infographic below highlights how the artificial grass for the 2014 Hockey World Cup Stadium is made, from producing the fiber by TenCate to creating the multilayer foundation for the artificial grass carpet by GreenFields.
The prestigious PANalytical Award was created in 2012 to encourage exceptional early-career researchers. At a time when formal research funding is becoming more difficult PANalytical took the initiative to present the winner with prize money of € 5000.
PANalytical is the world’s leader in the field of analytical instrumentation that recognizes materials by using X-ray technology. The techniques are typically applied in scientific research and for production control in industry. Previously part of the Philips organization, the company has been known by the name PANalytical since 2002.
PANalytical’s Dr. Jan Gertenbach was involved with organizing this award, and he says that offering this award to young scientists provided the organization with the unique opportunity to associate the PANalytical brand with excellence and increase its brand awareness within academia and scholars engaged in higher education and research. PANalytical equipment is used by many research institutes and universities and therefore this kind of brand recognition is important to the company.
The winner of the 2012 award, Dr. Thomas Bennett, received tangible and intangible benefits. The prize money was definitely welcome but Dr. Bennett also received something that money cannot buy: recognition for the high quality of his work. The independent selection committee, including well-known scientists, was impressed with the exceptional quality of his research and he is a most worthy winner of the first PANalytical Award.
Thomas Bennett studied Natural Sciences (Chemistry) at Trinity Hall, University of Cambridge, graduating with MSci (Hons) in 2008. He continued his studies at the Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy at the University, researching the thermo-mechanical properties of porous framework materials.
Dr. Jan Gertenbach says that the first annual PANalytical Award has received a very positive response from the academic community and media. Also, the high number of entries affirms that PANalytical will continue to organize this award in the future.
TenCate was chosen by the Jupiler League as a vendor of synthetic grass for football fields.
It’s big news from many perspectives, first of all, Dutch professional football is choosing synthetic turf instead of natural grass. Will other countries follow?
Secondly, the system that was chosen is the innovative matrix system from TenCate. This new system is based on a patented weaving technology as opposed to tufted techniques. This is the first official synthetic turf system that combines optimal performance for players with sustainability, the pitches are fully recyclable.
Last but not least, the winning vendor is a public company that is listed on NYSE Euronext (AMX), so for investors, this is really great news; it opens new possibilities and brings positive vibrations.
TenCate is a market leader in the production of synthetic fibers and components that are used to produce synthetic grass for football pitches.
Synthetic grass and football have already a 10 years history. In 2003 it was first approved for use at football’s elite level by both FIFA and UEFA. Since then FIFA controls the quality of synthetic turf fields.
They launched the FIFA Quality Concept to compare the characteristics of synthetic turf and have a database of producers. Currently, FIFA lists 28 producers in its database, and the FIFA Preferred Producers contain 9 companies, 2 of which are Dutch. Both GreenFields and Edel Grass are using innovative TenCate synthetic grass for delivering winning systems, moreover, GreenFields is a subsidiary of TenCate.
TenCate is considered the producer of the best synthetic grass worldwide.
TenCate will install the pitches for he Jupiler League together with its subsidiary company GreenFields and carefully selected partners.
And the “grass” isn’t the only green thing with an artificial turf field. By using recycled materials and eliminating the need for watering, mowing and applying chemicals, the TenCate artificial turf field is environmentally friendly, too.