29 Oct

Why compete to innovate?

We are very proud of S[&]T having won the Safety Innovation Competition 2015 held by the Ministries of Defense, Security and Justice, the National Police and the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee. The official picture from the event, which was hosted on the largest Joint Support Ship of the Netherlands Marines, shows a happy team, proud to have won an award. But I thought I'd take a moment to share a different photo (Thanks for the picture, Robert Huiberts!) and the story behind why we as a company continue to choose to compete in these innovation competitions. 

 "I didn't understand at first. I thought we had won silver." Carina Maas (S[&]T Director) explained to me when she was showing pictures of the event. "They announced bronze and then said our name afterwards, and I assumed we were second place." The photo above was taken at the moment when Carina realized that S[&]T would bring home the gold. When I asked her what she was thinking, "We won? I got chills and realized that maybe we should actually stand up and say something." It's charming to see that while safety and security systems are a far cry from olympic sports, that competitive aspect of this innovation prize brought so much more to having won an interesting project.

In the research and development domain, innovation typically moves slowly, as government entities and research intitutes make innovation plans that span years of investments in new technologies. S[&]T specializes in delivering projects and services for the R&D domain, and is comfortable working in an environment where new ideas move through technology readiness levels at a measured pace to be ready and qualified for a conservative market. The brilliance of this competition is that R&D innovators are inherently problem solvers, with a passion for bringing together new ideas to meet a specific demand. By putting that demand in front of our team and creating clear goals, then giving a strong deadline and a nice incentive, all of the key ingredients were available for the passion that we have for innovation to thrive. With the Cardio Access Key, S[&]T was able to go in just a few months from putting a couple of conceptual ideas together to presenting the jury with, in their words, a "safe, simple, innovative solution with large user value and broad applications." The armband measures unique patterns in the wearer's heartbeat as a personal identifier that is verifiably active only if the person is present - a harder system to beat than that of iris recognition or fingerprint scanning.

As a small to medium enterprise (SME), S[&]T keeps our R&D activities close to our passion for innovation. While some might see developments toward a competition for which 21 other companies are competing as a risk, we believe our employees thrive in an environment where new ideas are valued. As Erik Zoutman (CEO S[&]T) says; "That's why they are S[&]T'ers - they have a passion for bringing Science [&] Technology to the next level! We believe that putting them into a competitive environment will bring the best ideas forward and that these innovation events keep our energy up and running, and prove that what we are doing contributes to society." 

So it is therefore this moment - the one of realization that what we had done mattered- that I chose to share in a quick blog about the event. We are very proud to have won such a prestigious award, and are looking forward to our pilot projects coming to industry soon! 

S[&]T's Cardio Access Key technology will be featured in Beveiliging Security Magazine. For now, more about the project and the competition can be found via the official announcement from the Dutch Goverment (in Dutch): https://www.rijksoverheid.nl/ministeries/ministerie-van-veiligheid-en-justitie/nieuws/2015/10/16/hartslagsleutel-wint-de-vic2015