A digital journey of discovery!

Nieuws | 30 april 2021

Innovatiecluster Drachten organised a virtual meeting for students of secondary vocational education who are studying ICT at one of the regional education centres (ROC) in the north of the Netherlands. The main goal was to inspire the students and provide them with information about the possibilities for their following education, an internship or a job.

During this digital event, students were given a glimpse of the world of IT. Graduate students who are working in IT shared their experiences and successful entrepreneurs talked about their business activities. Innovation Cluster Drachten painted a good picture of the innovative high-tech companies in the Northern Netherlands.

Bad ideas form the basis for innovation

In his introduction Rico Bakker talked about the ‘the power of a bad idea’. By this he meant that when you ask the right questions and focus your attention on something else, you are able to truly innovate. He explained how you can turn limitations and bad ideas into a breeding ground for innovation.

Why does technology not always work and why do Tesla’s crash?

Marc de Bruin who works for RDW, the Netherlands Vehicle Authority in the mobility chain, is responsible for the approval of car types and exemptions, including those for self-driving vehicles such as Tesla, explained how a Tesla can still crash. This car is packed with advanced driver-assistance system features. But the system is not yet fully reliable. Tesla is still testing the computer technology and intelligence.

In a demo it was shown what information the car computer processes and what conclusions the vehicle draws from the images of the exterior cameras and why these conclusions are actually ‘logical’. There are still too many factors that cause the Tesla to make a mistake and that still requires the driver to be alert. But who knows, this might all be resolved in the future….

Merging man and machines

Joost Krebbekx, Program Manager at Innovatiecluster Drachten, gave a presentation on the connection with the physical world through autonomous high-tech systems, such as Tesla’s cars or the Amazon robot cart that delivers packages to your doorstep (last mile delivery).

Merging man and machines”, said Joost, while substantiating this with a few specific examples.

ICD is connectie met de wereld door autonome high-tech systemen
Joost Krebbekx bij MBO Ontdekkingsreis met Samenwerking Noord

Arms and legs

If we consider human senses, we are already quite far advanced in technology in terms of replacing or at least supplementing them. For example, we have developed 3D printed hands to pick up products from the conveyor belt. These robot hands can move fast because the material and construction is very light, and you can also perform tasks such as soldering and screwing with a safe robot hand (so-called Cobots).


Eyes in the digital world are cameras that allow us to make automatic observations to see, for example, whether something is right or wrong. We can make observations with special night vision binoculars and use detection cameras to detect errors in medicines or detect bacteria on the basis of recognition, which can help to save lives.


‘Nose’ sensors have been developed, for example, to measure milk quality and the health of a cow. There is also a multi-sensor space telescope with a radius of 300 km that can be used to look deep into space.

From space, we can examine the earth with very advanced instruments through satellites. And then there are sensors that measure glass. They can detect shards of glass that may be on the inside of a bottle or drinking glass. They can even detect them right through molten glass. This prevents you from ingesting any glass splinters when you are having a beer.


Each bottle is quickly photographed with an eye sensor that filters out the wrong bottles. The storage of all these photos can be considered as the brain, given the amount of data used in such a computer.

The satellite dishes of Astron are also comparable to our brain. One satellite dish collects more information in one year than the entire internet in the Netherlands altogether. Moreover, Philips has its own health cloud with data storage that contains millions of IP addresses of users. This is used to study health patterns.

Legs and feet

As a replacement for our legs and feet, there is a so-called exoskeleton. This is an external skeleton that can support people in their movements and enable them to do extra things that a person would not normally be able to do, such as lifting 450 kilos of weight.

In logistics, automated guided vehicles are frequently used to transport goods within the factory. 

Mouth – speech

When it comes to speech, you can soon follow a Master’s programme in Voice technology at the University of Groningen. This postgraduate study is about controlling systems by means of speech, or the other way round: the system talks to you. Besides this, there are many other developments in the field of human machine interfaces.

The future is near

If you are interested in these techniques as well as in societal challenges, our high-tech companies of Innovatiecluster Drachten are the right place for you. Together we can tackle a number of societal challenges such as hunger, health, the quality of water, clean energy, climate action, but also peace and proper security.  

All of this is possible in the Northern Netherlands: the (your) future is closer than you might think!!

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