On Tuesday 22 May, the Blauwe Zaal at Eindhoven University of Technology was the place to be for innovative entrepreneurs of all ages who were participating in the finale of the 2018 TU/e Contest.
Before the event was officially opened, a dress rehearsal was held at 12:00 noon, giving participants the opportunity to practice their race against the clock.
They would have just one minute to convince the jury of the value of their idea or prototype. The clock counted down the seconds until a loud beep signalled the end of the pitch. Time's up!
Representatives from partner companies arrived as the finishing touches were being made to the Blauwe Zaal. Loaded with gadgets and promotional materials, they were shown to their stands, where they would spend the day representing their companies.
At 2:15 PM on the dot, the finalists gathered behind the scenes for their grand entrance. As they lined up, the microphone boomed: 'Are you ready to rumble?'
Fifteen minutes later the semi-finals were underway. Before the finalists took the stage, the CFO of KPN Jan Kees de Jager delivered an inspiring monologue about market changes and the key qualities of a leader. He concluded his story with an important piece of advice to all present: 'Replace your fear of the unknown with curiosity.' A great tip worth remembering!
This fourth edition of the TU/e Contest was hosted by Isolde Hallensleben – a role she took on with gusto. Her enthusiasm was palpable throughout the room and her humorous approach was met with laughs from the very start.
As in previous years, the ideas were incredibly diverse: from aids for the visually impaired to smart water bottles and tools to help travellers share their experiences. Other innovations included prototypes to improve sitting posture and a device to analyse breathing while dancing. This interesting mix of innovations essentially forced the jury to compare apples to oranges. After the first round, the jury was given an hour to decide who would continue to the grand finale. This was no easy task. According to the jury chairman and commercial director of Eindhoven University of Technology Bert-Jan Woertman, the jury did not reach a unanimous decision.
During the jury's deliberations, the audience members were given the opportunity to explore the innovation market, network with the participating companies, and vote for their favourite innovation. It was extremely busy at the market; there were groups of people everywhere, admiring the innovations, discussing the prototypes, and taking notes. Remco Verhoeven and Erwin de Jong from Thermo Fisher Scientific were impressed by the first round and the many innovative ideas and pitches held during the thrilling finale.
The hour was over in a flash and the attendees were kindly asked to take their places in the Blauwe Zaal. It was time for the second and final round!
Bert-Jan announced the finalists that would progress to the next round and deliver their final pitch to the jury. However, before announcing the names, he took a moment to praise the valuable contributions of all partner companies in this contest. Met with loud applause, he listed all of the companies that supported this special initiative and thanked them with the following memorable words: 'We are people standing on the shoulders of these giants.'
He then got straight to the point: the competing teams were aWeare and LES in the category Ideation, PlaygroundVR and Ratio in the category Prototyping, and Team Solid and Team T.E.S.T in the student category. The finalists delivered solid pitches and were not discouraged by the jury's critical questions.