The Hague promotes ground-breaking innovations at sea

18th Sep, 2018

The city of The Hague is showcasing its strong commitment to environmental sustainability by supporting local initiatives that strive for building a better world. As ‘city by the sea’ The Hague sheds a light on maritime innovation makers by giving them a stage at this year’s The Hague Awards.  

The Hague Awards, which took place last week, is a yearly event that honours those contributing to the city’s economic spin-off. On top of that, this year’s edition had a strong societal and environmental focus as it evolved around the theme “Seaside Celebrations” (original: Feest aan Zee). The show shed a light on local initiatives that inspire with innovative ideas on how to move towards a more sustainable future.

As Nienke van der Malen, Director The Hague Convention Bureau, clarified, “In The Hague we have a special relationship with the sea and are really proud of our beautiful beaches. They offer us and our international visitors a true holiday experience, which is very unique since The Hague is the only major Dutch city with a beach. But this also means, that for us the world’s environmental challenges are very close to home. We are highly aware of the fragility of our environment and take the need for sustainability very seriously.” 

This second edition of The Hague Awards took place in the Zuiderstrandtheater, the only theatre in the Netherlands that is located directly at the coast. Here the guests watched inspiring elevator pitches of five local initiatives namely, Elemental Water Makers, the Noordzeeboerderij, the Sailing Innovation Centre, DeltaSync/BLUE21 and TNO Maritiem & Offshore. 

With increasing freshwater scarcity and rising energy prices, Elemental Water Makers has picked up on the growing need for desalination and developed an innovative desalination system that can turn sea water into drinking water, using sustainable energy. “There are more than 4 million people in the world that have no access to water. And this number is rising quickly due to a growing population, our water footprint and climate change” said Sid Vollebregt, founder of Elemental Water Makers. “In my opinion, this is the biggest challenge of the 21st century.” Since 2012 Elemental Water Makers operates in 8 different countries and has recently been rewarded with a very special price “Last year, for our efforts, we were flown in by the king of Dubai to receive the Global Water Award”, said Vollebregt.  

Next in line was Koen van Swam of the Noordzeeboerderij (seaweed farm), who offered some little-known facts over seaweed to begin with. ”Did you know that a seaweed farm twice as big as Portugal could provide sufficient amounts of protein for the whole world?” and “Did you know that if we fed our cows 70 gram of dried seaweed every day, they would emit 95% less methane and their milk production would go up? If we would do this for one year, we would produce 2,1 million tons less CO2”, clarified van Swam. For five years, the Noordzeeboerderij has been working on promoting seaweed as a source of sustainable food. On 4th of October, the prototype of an experimental farm will be unveiled in the harbour of Scheveningen. 

Former Olympic sailor Cees van Bladel represented the Sailing Innovation Centre, an initiative that helps accelerating innovations in sailing. The centre supports the sporting ambitions of the Netherlands in sailing, promotes interest in sailing and contributes to economic growth by supporting companies in realising new and better products and services. “Our innovations always happen in the golden triangle: sports, business and knowledge. And if there is an innovation we always need to collaborate.” The Sailing Innovation Centre fosters new innovations by collecting a lot of data on the sea, the boats and the sailors. 

Mirjam van der Ploeg introduced DeltaSync/BLUE21, a collective of engineers and architects who have specialised in constructing floating buildings. “We want to realise floating cities with a positive impact on our planet” said van der Ploeg. The organisation is currently working on building a floating island in French Polynesia for which it has teamed up with local communities, the government and a partnering organisation from Silicon Valley. 

Lastly, Maurits Huisman of TNO Maritiem & Offshore, an initiative involved in many maritime and offshore innovations, entered the stage. He revealed that TNO is currently working on developing underwater Wi-Fi, “not to take a selfie while diving, but to be able to conduct wireless underwater inspections of wind parks on sea”, clarified Huisman. “This is important because through this, we make sustainable wind energy on sea more affordable and we need to bring people into dangerous situations less often.” The base of their technology is to send data by means of sound waves. “Thereby we create a network that we can use to operate our underwater drones. And we can even live-stream what they see. All this is being developed in The Hague”, concluded Huisman.

Next to a maritime-themed The Hague Awards 2018, The Hague emphasises its status as ‘city by the sea’ through many other activities. Next to commemorating the 200th anniversary of Scheveningen beach with a year-long celebration, The Hague is welcoming major sailing events to the city. This June, The Hague was the ultimate destination of the legendary Volvo Ocean Race which finished in the Netherlands for the first time in history. It has furthermore recently been announced that The Hague will host the Sailing World Championship in 2022.

Nienke van der Malen concluded, “The Netherlands is a country that lies below sea-level for large parts. For us that live here, it is therefore natural to set focus on sustainability to fight rising sea-levels. In The Hague we want to create positive impact and motivate event organisers that come here to do the same together with us”.

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