Impact starts with ... Twente

Minister-president Mark Rutte was the guest of honour at “De Rode Loper”, the traditional new years meeting organised by the network organisations participating in Ondernemend Twente. The prime minister actively pushes forward the 17 “Paris 2015” Sustainable Development Goals, for example by setting the goal of a 49 per cent CO2 emission reduction by 2030 in The Netherlands. Many companies from Twente develop and provide smart and sustainable mission-based innovations that contribute to a sustainable future. The prime minister argued for loving life instead of fearing the future.

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In short

  • Many companies from Twente develop and provide smart and sustainable mission-based innovations that contribute to a sustainable future.

Global Goal

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Reducing air pollution using moss

Twelve young women kicked off the evening by singing the 7-minute "Earth Song" by Michael Jackson. An “in your face” moment for many. Afterwards, 17-year-old Sophie Hesp was back on the stage after her impressive performance at the vorige edite of the Rode Loper. She explained what happened after she pitched her idea of planting moss at Schiphol to absorb particulates, thus reducing air pollution. After entrepreneurs responded to her call to help she pitched her idea to the Strategic Sustainability Advisor at Schiphol. The unfortunate conclusion: the reduction rates of moss are disappointing in real-life situations as particulates are a 3D problem, and moss offers only a 2D solution. While particulates are blown everywhere, moss only absorbs on the ground. Additionally, Schiphol policies steer towards reducing emissions at the source, while the moss solution essentially only combats symptoms.


Still, Sophie’s entrepreneurial spirit was greatly valued, and Schiphol, therefore, promised that she’s always welcome to contact them for any research related to the environment or safety for her (future) studies.

“Mister sustainable”

Harm Edens, also known as “mister sustainable”, moderated the event. In 1999 Edens visited a glacier at Spitsbergen with pop group Bløf. There, he realised that the ice was too soft while ice chunks crashed into the sea all around him. Almost no-one understood what was going on back then, only now, nearly 20 years later, we start to realise that we must adapt quickly. We must make sustainable choices, and this includes that we must move towards a circular economy.


Climate change may well be the biggest problem that humanity has ever faced. We need to act now by tackling fundamental issues. The good news is that awareness is steadily rising in recent years, resulting in more and more steps being taken. Edens: “We must work together. You can't do anything individually. Seek the help of your neighbours and ensure that we collaboratively contribute substantially to mission-based solutions.

Effects of climate change

Prime Minister Mark Rutte showed to be fully aware of the scope and extent of the eye-catching sustainable contributions made by members of Ondernemend Twente. Moderator Harm Edens asked a few more questions regarding the Prime Minister’s green ambitions in front of the 800 event attendees. The prime minister had stated before that “the Kingdom of the Netherlands is fully committed to keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celcius”. On stage, he emphasised: “It is important to adapt to the effects of climate change. Ondernemend Twente shows close collaboration, and the innovative capacity of Twente is admirable. There are ample great opportunities for companies from Twente in the climate agreement and the environmental transition, also because Twente is an important connector to Germany. The key to successful entrepreneurship truly lies in collaboration; that’s how we can accelerate moving towards a sustainable future”.

‘Smart impact starts with… Twente’

Four themes were centrally addressed at the Rode Loper: sustainability, circularity, inclusiveness and climate action. Mission-based innovations from Twente were linked to one or more of the 17 Global Goals.


Family-owned Machinefabriek Boessenkool from Almelo was founded in 1902 and has been owned by the Osse family for forty years. Eelco Osse was the first entrepreneur to enter the stage to explain his sustainable and circular innovations. Boessenkool developed a flywheel that is able to absorb and smooth out current and frequency peaks in electricity networks or at electro-intensive factories. Additionally, the flywheels can be used to store energy. With this product, Boessenkool contributes to Global Goal 7: sustainable energy.


Boessenkool also developed another product, the so-called DeSpray installation. It tackles the problem of 18 billion spray cans ending up in waste streams every year. The DeSpray recycling machine is able to separate liquids, gases and metals in spray cans, converting all materials to renewable resources. This way another significant contribution is made to the Global Goals, specifically to Global Goal 12: responsible consumption and production.

Harm Edens then turned his attention to the audience and asked whether more entrepreneurs contribute to the Global Goals. Arie Boorsma, representing Biochem from Enter (Wierden municipality), explained how he contributes to Global Goal 15: life on land. Their advanced nutritional concepts extend the lifespan of dairy cattle, make better use of nutrients and reduce the use of antibiotics. This prevents contaminated urine and manure from animals, which leads to pollution of the environment, surface water or groundwater.


Jaap Fris and Niels Moshagen of STAR / T enter the stage when the "inclusiveness" theme is addressed. STAR/T they support entrepreneurial asylum seekers (“statushouders”) in developing their innovative products, services and business models and creating social value. Knowledge and expertise to help this specific group are often lacking. That’s why Jaap and Niels partnered with, among others, the University of Twente. Their call to entrepreneurs: be present at the pitch evening on April 16th, and contribute by opening your network and mentoring the asylum seekers. This way entrepreneurs can help to create good jobs, economic growth and reduce inequality. Registering for the event by filling in this form.


Mary Kok-Willemsen, also present in the hall, aims to offer every talent worldwide equal opportunities, regardless of gender, ethnicity or level of income. With her FootballEquals Foundation, she not only contributes to reducing inequality but also promotes gender equality (Global Goal 5) and engages in global partnerships to achieve sustainable goals in a sporty way (Global Goal 17). By seeking cooperation with football associations and regional, national and international partners, lasting relationships and networks are created worldwide.

Climate Action

Stefan Kuks, chair of the Vechtstroom Water Board, explains how the water board needs the business community, as well as the knowledge institutions, to adapt to climate change and discover how water can be handled best. If anything, the past dry and hot summer has shown us that we must treat water with care. Especially the construction processes of new buildings are moments where innovative water solutions can be implemented. For example, solutions where excess water can be stored, and reused when facing water shortages.


Wouter Stadhouders from StadLandWater adds to this that a more livable, sustainable and climate-proof living environment is not created individually. Cooperation is essential in not only solving water issues but also in coming up with new services, products and technologies. Additionally, it should not only be focused on public space, and individuals should also be able to join climate-robust approaches.

We’re a flash in time, but our impact lasts.

Sevim Aktas, a student at the University of Twente, is an excellent example that individuals can make a difference. “You don’t need to improve the entire world. Start with yourself and inspire one other person. And another. We live in a world that is about to collapse. We ignore this because we are not faced with the consequences every day. We see the destruction of the environment but do not yet really feel the climate change. Actually, we are not destroying the planet - we are destroying our lives on the planet. Do you know what’s crazy? If you see the lifespan of the earth as 24 hours, humans have existed for 1 second. 1 second! We are a flash in time, but our impact lasts.

But, there are so many problems in this gigantic world. Where do I start? What impact would my contribution make? Mainly because there are so many other people, who can do it so much better than me.”


She reminds herself of an occurrence at a student team event where all teams joined. They were offered coffee from a plastic cup, but the team leader of the Drone Team declined. Especially for this occasion, he brought his mug. His teammate mentioned to be ashamed of this behaviour as they were at an official meeting and he kept looking in his bag until he found his mug. This may be a tiny incident, but one with a major impact. The team leader stood for his values and ideals! If you believe something is truly important, what is stopping you from taking the first step yourself?

Sevim: “hiding behind excuses and pointing fingers is the easiest way out. However, I believe we can do better! So many companies do great, impactful things that surprise and inspire me. I mean, today we've only heard a fraction of it. And they all come from Twente. When I hear those stories, I am proud of the place where I was born.


It is the power of movement. Every success started with a person who had an idea, a group of people who liked that idea and who not only said "let's do it", but actually started doing it.


An African saying goes: if you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together. Together we can respond to the global call and build bridges instead of walls!


Anyway, the next generation determines the future life on this planet. You all have the opportunity to give us direction by starting yourself and working with us."


After Sevim’s inspiring speech, the "next generation" filled the stage. Around 50 students from the Twentse student teams jointly called for a sustainable future with technological innovations and technical solutions from Twente, such as the innovative Twente solar cars, solar boats, electric motorcycles and drones.


Cause impact starts with us!

The Rode Loper 2019 is an initiative of the networking organisations that together form Ondernemend Twente, and is made possible by the following sponsors: Asito, EshuisSay Yeah Motion MediaSKOprovincie Overijssel and Rabobank.

Date: 10 January 2019 |

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