Best kept secret of Dwingeloo 'brings you the universe'

News | October 2, 2017

Kor Visscher (l) signs collaboration with ASTRON under the watchful eye of Professor Carole Jackson

To the delight of alderman Erik van Schelven of the municipality of Westerveld. ASTRON belongs to the top 3 in the world in radio astronomy and is Dwingeloo's best kept secret. That is why it is wonderful that ASTRON is now part of this great Northern Netherlands collaboration of high tech companies."

ASTRON combines high-end scientific research with the development and production of non-existing high-tech machines, supercomputers and parts. Jackson calls her company an 'innovation powerhouse'. ,,We are a signpost in the world and working on highly ambitious projects, both in technical and scientific fields. We work together with partners from all over the world and I hope we will contribute to the knowledge and expertise of the high tech companies in Northern Netherlands to meet our ambitions.''

Vital manufacturing industry

Alderman Roel Haverkort (municipality of Smallingerland), one of the founding fathers of the business cluster, took this opportunity to emphasize how important it is to put the region on the map as innovative, technologically and knowledge-intensive. “Stimulating Northern cooperation between companies and knowledge institutions in the field of High Tech Systems & Materials is a spearhead for Innovatiecluster Drachten. In this way, our companies try to keep the manufacturing industry vital and thus remain interesting for young talent. This is essential for the economic development of our region. That is why we want to strengthen regional cooperation and connect companies that act quickly and exchange knowledge back and forth.”

Smart people

"Creating an attractive climate where people can enjoy working, living and studying is more important than before for the Northern Netherlands," adds Kor Visscher, chairman of Innovatiecluster Drachten, the alderman. “Attracting highly trained personnel for the region and the exchange of knowledge and experience are our concrete goals. This needs to be done with more urgency than a few years ago as there is an increasing common problem with the recruitment of future top technical talent. After all, there are more smart people outside our companies than in them. I therefore expect that it will become increasingly difficult to get talent, of all levels, to the companies, especially in competition with other technical regions."

make it yourself

During the tour it becomes clear how unique ASTRON is and why it is a logical partner for Innovatiecluster Drachten. “We sometimes ask the industry for parts or products that it cannot yet supply itself. Then the only option is to make them yourself. We just can't do that without cooperation'', says Gert Kruithof, head of the Research & Development department. ,,We can't Lofar or SK building without cooperation with industry. Our stuff that is in swamps or deserts and used in space should last 50 years. We don't have that knowledge, so collaboration with others is necessary."

space weather forecast

ASTRON certainly doesn't intend to 'get' alone. Kruithof: ,,The universe is so fascinating that we see things every day that we have never seen before. What is noise to us may be data to others. For example, our technology allows us to calibrate satellites and thus make GPS signals even more accurate for agriculture, for example. And with Lofar we see right through all the interference. In this way we can see solar activity, say the space weather. We are now ready to issue a so-called space weather forecast. This is important if you know that radio communication and electricity grids can fail during intense sun activities. If you know when the radiation harms your network, you can take this into account."