Many entrepreneurs in the Amerstreek area take an interest in robotics; that much was obvious during the Entrepreneurs’ Café by Rabobank Amerstreek on Monday evening, the 11th of May. Cees Gelderen, Director of Businesses, welcomed at least 250 attendees. They’d come to meet NAO in real life. This tiny robot was accompanied by guest speakers Danny Mekić, expert in technology, and Mike van Rijswijk, innovation strategist.
Creativity as an export product
Danny Mekić was declared most successful young entrepreneur in 2009 and is now a multidisciplinary expert. He’s taken an interest in technology and innovation since he was little. Danny believes the Netherlands need to be more innovative: “Creativity and innovation are the export products of the Netherlands. Science is ready; now it’s the people we’re waiting for. There’s a lot more room for innovation left. We just need to be willing to adapt our organisational structure, strategy or business model.”
As technology keeps becoming smaller and cheaper, it comes within reach of a larger and larger number of people and companies, with applications such as preventive healthcare for example. But it doesn’t stop there. Think of self-driving cars, like Google is developing. Think of drones delivering packages or being used for security purposes. Think of 3D printers that can create anything. And how about nanotech bandages with sensors that keep an eye on your health? But there are also ethical concerns that rear their heads; for example, should the safety of a crossing pedestrian come first to a driverless car, or that of its own passenger? If dodging the pedestrian would make the car slam into a tree, should it? Not to even mention all those new technologies putting our privacy on the line.
As a management consultant, it’s a challenge to Mike van Rijswijk to keep finding new technologies and find out what entrepreneurs could use them for. “This is why the robot NAO has become part of my family,” he tells us. His kids are growing up with NAO. Mike demonstrates making the roughly 10,000 euro robot sit down, stand up again, walk, dance, and even play soccer. Since there are several different apps available for controlling it, it can be put to use in various ways. This is because Nao was initially marketed for educational purposes. NAO is a fun way for children to learn how to program. But in the area of healthcare, there’s a bright future for NAO’s big brother too, who can do many useful things there. For example, it could aid in lifting patients into their beds or help with the treatment of dementia.
Be bold, show entrepreneurship and go for it
But what can an entrepreneur do with this? Danny and Mike emphasise that you shouldn’t wait until the technology is here. It’s important for entrepreneurs to already start thinking now about what it can be used for. Much is already possible, but you do need to be receptive to it and see the possibilities and applications. To put it in Van Rijswijk’s words: you have to be bold, show entrepreneurship and go for it!