Why is there so much global attention for public transport? Does hydrogen have a future? Why do large high-tech companies share knowledge with small companies? On Wednesday 6 November, the CDA members of the Provincial Council of Fryslân went on a high-tech safari to get answers to these questions and many more.
At the end of the successful work visit, owner/manager Bas de Nooijer of door manufacturer Ventura Systems in Bolsward received an invitation to share his knowledge about the future of public transport with the officials working in the provincial government building in Leeuwarden. Sustainable public transport is a hot topic among politicians. The pressure on mobility increases because of harmful carbon dioxide and nitrogen emission and the need to keep urban areas accessible and the countryside livable. Keeping the countryside livable is particularly important in Fryslân. According to De Nooijer, the Northern Netherlands is ideal as an area to test new forms of public transport, such as autonomous driving. ,,We have the 5G infrastructure, the high-tech knowledge and suitable roads.’’
During the tour through his door factory, De Nooijer showed the politicians how his factory produces and delivers complete bus, subway and train door systems to customers within six weeks. These customers are mainly located outside the Netherlands. In this country, only two bus builders use Ventura doors. ,,All buses in London, Singapore and Sydney have doors made in Bolsward. The factory produces as many as 30,000 doors a year and that number is growing,” said De Nooijer.
The Chair of Innovation Cluster Drachten, Binne Visser of Philips, summarized the collaboration between the high-tech companies in the region at the start of the work visit. ,,We are not a discussion group. We are doers!’’ Speeches by plant manager Sybren Reinsma of Stork Turbo Blading in Sneek and DGA Rob Castien of Resato in Assen underlined this. The collaboration between our high-tech companies is effective when it comes to knowledge sharing and recruiting or retaining technical talents after graduation. Castien summarized the motivation of these companies to collaborate: ,,We work together on subjects on which we are too small as independent companies. We learn from each other because we speak the same language, develop our own products and encounter the same obstacles in international sales and service.” Castien welcomes interns who now even make up 10 percent of the headcount at his company. ,,We help to define the hydrogen policy for the Northern Netherlands. We have 40 people working full-time on hydrogen and expect this number to rise strongly in the coming years.’’
With his factory in Sneek that makes blades for turbines in energy plants, Reinsma wants to have a leading position within the Stork Group, which employs 18,000 people in 100 countries. ,,We want to make sure that we can’t be ignored by other Stork sites, and we manage to do so thanks to Innovation Cluster Drachten.” Stork in Sneek gets production allocated from various locations because of its leadership in 3D metal printing. ,,Together with other ICD companies, we make use of the 3D metal printer in the ICD shared facility center in Drachten. We started with just a few hours development time and now have one employee working there two days a week.” Together with other companies and students of the University of Groningen, Reinsma is exploring the possibilities of 3D metal printing. ,,It calls for a different way of thinking and working. In printing, you construct and build products, while milling means removing material. The great thing about 3D printing is that we can now make things that we could not make by milling. This is also picked up by colleagues at other Stork sites.”
The members of the provincial council showed a great interest in hydrogen when Castien told them about the special hydrogen filling stations his company is helping to build all over the Netherlands. Castien was unable to remove the fear of hydrogen as a highly flammable gas, although he convinced his audience that Resato is very good at this technology and is a specialist in extremely high pressures of up to 14,000 bar. One of the provincial council members wanted to know what was true about the stories that it would be impossible to set up an infrastructure for hydrogen. Another provincial council member had a question about the operating radius of hydrogen buses. The main question was whether all vehicles would become electric or not. According to Castien, all petrol vehicles will become electric and all diesel vehicles will switch to hydrogen. ,,In both cases we call this electric driving and the only difference is the way the energy is stored.” Hydrogen fuel cells are necessary because we would otherwise need an electricity network that has five times the capacity of the current one. This is not a realistic option, according to Castien. ,,That is why we are currently discussing a plan for country-wide hydrogen filling station coverage. Within five to ten years, electric driving will be cheaper than driving on fossil fuel.”