Registration Now Open for the first NL Startup Competition!

Rotterdam, 18 December 2023: Today marks the official launch of the first NL Startup Competition, an exciting initiative organized by UPSTREAMErasmus Enterprise, and MT/Sprout in collaboration with the Port of RotterdamErasmus University and City of Rotterdam. This groundbreaking competition offers startups the opportunity to showcase their ingenuity in four pivotal categories: Social, Energy Transition, Digital, and Circular, with the chance to win prize money and other exclusive rewards.

The NL Startup Competition is not just about recognition; it’s about rewarding innovative solutions. The winning startup will receive prize money to further fuel their groundbreaking ideas. In addition to the monetary prize, the competition offers exclusive rewards, including mentorship opportunities, access to a network of industry experts, and potential exposure to investors interested in supporting innovative ventures.

With the Port of Rotterdam as a key partner, the NL Startup Competition benefits from a unique collaboration that enhances the competition’s impact, aligning it with the principles of sustainability and economic vitality.

Startups are encouraged to submit their solutions in one of four categories, reflecting the pressing challenges and opportunities in social, energy transition, digital, and circular economy practices.

Beyond the competition, the NL Startup Competition provides a supportive ecosystem for entrepreneurs, offering mentorship, networking opportunities, and a chance to connect with like-minded visionaries.

Lars Crama, Upstream Festival: NL Startup Competition shows the power of collaboration in fostering innovation. Together with Erasmus Enterprise and MT/Sprout, we are providing a platform that not only recognizes groundbreaking ideas but empowers startups to drive tangible change. It’s not just a competition; it’s a collective journey towards a sustainable and impactful future.

Liesje Goldschmidt, Erasmus Enterprise: At Erasmus Enterprise, we believe in the potential of every startup to make a difference. NL Startup Competition goes beyond traditional recognition, offering not only a chance to win substantial prizes but also providing invaluable support and mentorship. We’re excited to be part of this initiative that empowers innovative entrepreneurs and propels their ideas towards impact.

About NL Startup Competition 
The NL Startup Competition is initiative led by UPSTREAM, Erasmus Enterprise, and MT/Sprout in collaboration with the Port of Rotterdam. It aims to support and showcase startups addressing key challenges in social impact, energy transition, digital advancements, and circular economy solutions. 

About Erasmus Enterprise
Erasmus Enterprise is a collaborative community dedicated to empowering visionary entrepreneurs in a playful way. The dynamic ecosystem offerings include: Early-stage startup & scaleup network, qualitative (university) reach, a vibrant entrepreneurial community, incubator programs for nurturing innovation, investor opportunities and a talent pool for fostering growth.

Upstream (on 28 & 29 May 2024 in Rotterdam) connects change makers who drive the transition to a digital, carbon neutral, circular and inclusive new economy. We invite entrepreneurs, investors and bold corporates to share, connect and create meaningful innovations for sustainable growth. 

Register before 15th of April 2024 here.

Thriving Together: Ease2pay’s Collaborative Path with Erasmus Enterprise

In a celebration of innovation and collaborative spirit, Ease2pay, founded by Gijs van Lookeren Campagne and Jan Borghuis, has been honored with the Erasmus Enterprise Community Award during the Opening of Entrepreneurial Year 2023. This award highlights the strong sense of teamwork and shared progress while being part of the Erasmus Enterprise community in the last year. Gijs van Lookeren Campagne and Jan Borghuis remarked, “We have never felt as at home as in the past year being part of Erasmus Enterprise.

 Ease2pay Self-Service solution

Ease2pay was founded in 2017 by Jan Borghuis and Gijs van Lookeren Campagne. Their mission is to create a self-service platform, where services can be used at any time of the day. For Ease2pay, self-service is not just a matter of convenience; it’s an essential driver of the energy transition, particularly in sectors like charging stations where it’s vital for profitability and consumer control. Their all-in-one app allows users to effortlessly interact with services like ports, car parks, and petrol stations. Simplifying self-service options for users, driving us towards a more sustainable society. 

The Synergy between Erasmus Enterprise and Ease2pay

What sets the Community Award apart is the connection between Ease2pay and the Erasmus Enterprise community. As one of the pioneering scale-ups, Ease2pay found its home in the Erasmus Enterprise building over two years ago on the Erasmus University campus, a hub of entrepreneurship and innovation. Here, they have been able to engage directly with students, immersing them in their transformative work. Furthermore, in the past years Ease2pay has contributed significantly to the startup community by participating as coaches in the Erasmus University Challenge and engaging in insightful speed dates with budding entrepreneurs. These experiences provided valuable perspectives on overcoming challenges of starting a business, leaving a lasting impact in our entrepreneurs’ ecosystem.

This dynamic connection between Ease2pay and Erasmus Enterprise showcases the power of collaboration and support in advancing innovative ventures. Erasmus Enterprise combines essential elements for a thriving startup environment, uniting resources and multi-disciplinary expertise from Rotterdam and Delft, offering an ideal and thriving environment for entrepreneurial journeys. This partnership, then, underlines the essence of Erasmus Enterprise: fostering an environment where entrepreneurs can thrive, innovate, and make a positive impact on society. It is through seamless interactions and collaborative events that we create dynamic network spaces, driving meaningful impact in the entrepreneurs’ community.

Join the Erasmus University Challenge and be part of a vibrant community where academia, students, government, companies, and organizations collaborate to drive innovation, entrepreneurship, and co-creation! 

Click here to learn more about Erasmus University Challenge!

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Bridging the Aid Gap in Education: TeachBuddy’s Award-Winning Solution

In a world where education should be equal, there are still unequal access and availability of extra learning resources. This reality struck a chord with Thijs Nederlof and Rik Roosenstein, leading them to establish TeachBuddy in 2020. Their commitment to addressing educational inequality has recently earned them the Startup Award during the Opening of the Entrepreneurial Year 2023.

The Challenge and TeachBuddy’s Solution

TeachBuddy was born from a pressing need observed by Rik during his time as a tutor: he couldn’t help but notice the high costs associated with commercial tutoring agencies. Recognizing that this financial strain was a hurdle for many parents, Rik delved into research to understand the root of the issue. Through extensive research, he uncovered the “aid gap” in schools, where students requiring extra support were not always receiving it due to factors such as time constraints from teachers, students’ reluctance to seek help, and the prohibitive costs of external support.

Inspired by the success of peer tutoring at Laurens Lyceum in Rotterdam, Thijs and Rik envisioned a platform that could automate and regulate the organization of peer tutoring programs, making tutoring among peers more accessible while, at the same time, relieving the burden on teachers. TeachBuddy is currently operating in two schools in Rotterdam and six schools throughout the Netherlands.

Fostering Entrepreneurial Growth and Impact

TeachBuddy’s entrepreneurial journey resonates with the values of Erasmus Enterprise, a vibrant and diverse community that thrives on supporting entrepreneurial minds. At Erasmus Enterprise, we believe in empowering entrepreneurs to shape their own path and define their version of success. Much like TeachBuddy, we recognize that entrepreneurship is about driving positive change and impact, and that startups require a nurturing environment to grow. Our focus is on combining resources, knowledge, and networks to propel startups forward, ensuring they reach their full potential. With TeachBuddy’s dedication to creating a fairer education system, we see a shared commitment to societal improvement through entrepreneurial endeavors.

In this context, TeachBuddy’s well-earned Startup Award highlights our shared purpose. This achievement not only celebrates TeachBuddy’s achievement, but also illustrates how their journey aligns seamlessly with our dedication to supporting aspiring entrepreneurs.


Are you prepared to transform your vision into a tangible force for positive change? From idea to thriving business, we are here to fuel your entrepreneurial journey! Join our vibrant community and explore our Startup Voucher.

Click here to learn more about the Startup Voucher and start your entrepreneurial journey today!

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Driving Impact: IMcoMET Game-Changing Technology

In the ever-evolving landscape of healthcare, innovation has always been the cornerstone of progress and development. Erasmus Enterprise, recognizing the importance of innovation, recently held an event to celebrate the official Opening of the Entrepreneurial Year 2023. The highlight of this event was the acknowledgment of exceptional entrepreneurs whose contributions have significantly impacted their respective domains. Among the remarkable entrepreneurs celebrated, IMcoMET was awarded with the ‘Next Frontier Award’, presented by Jan Peter Balkenende (Former Prime Minister of The Netherlands). This award carries special significance, as it recognizes IMcoMET’s pioneering efforts and potential to lead the way in uncharted entrepreneurial territories.

IMcoMet’s Techonology: M-Duo Technology®

At the heart of IMcoMET lies a technology that transcends conventional boundaries: M-Duo Technology®. This innovation allows for non-invasive extraction of interstitial fluid, a valuable substance containing crucial information about an individual’s health. Using small needles working in pairs, one injects a carrier fluid while the other collects it along with important signals from the local area. What’s impressive is that this fluid can be continuously extracted without the need to remove the needles.

Furthermore, IMcoMET is also leading the way in personalized skin cancer diagnostics. They’re developing a wearable skin patch that uses the same M-Duo technology®. Alongside this, IMcoMET has developed a therapy for cancer treatment, targeting the signals that cancer cells use to protect themselves from the immune system. Their technology aims to physically remove these signals, potentially improving the success rate of treatments and reducing side-effects. This represents a promising step forward in cancer therapy.

IMcoMET’s vision extends beyond innovation. They are on a mission to enhance the precision and efficiency of skin cancer diagnostics. By leveraging their technology, they propel us towards personalized medicine and accelerate biomedical research. Their ultimate goal? To markedly improve therapy outcomes for skin cancer patients.

A testament to Entrepreneurial Potential 

IMcoMET’s journey is a testament to the boundless possibilities within the healthcare sector. They have demonstrated that innovation, when combined with purpose and precision, can redefine the standards of care and open new horizons for medical advancements. The ‘Next Frontier Award’ from Erasmus Enterprise holds immense value in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. By honoring and celebrating trailblazers like IMcoMET, we not only highlight on exceptional work but also provide a platform for sharing knowledge and inspiration. These awards serve as a catalyst for the growth of enterprises and the cultivation of a community of visionary thinkers.

As we look ahead, we cannot wait to witness IMcoMET’s continued growth and the positive impact they have on the future of healthcare. We truly admire their perseverance and hard work to enhance the accuracy and efficiency of skin cancer diagnostics, propelling us towards personalized medicine and advancing biomedical research. In our eyes, their journey is an inspiration for all those who dare to turn innovative ideas into reality.

So, are you ready to turn your vision into reality and make a positive impact on the world? This is your chance! Be part of the entrepreneurial community and discover our Startup Voucher to gain access to our extensive funding network. What’s holding you back? 

Click here for more information about our Startup Voucher. 

Erasmus University Challenge winners 2023 announced

Over €12.000,- awarded to students driving positive societal impact through entrepreneurship at the Erasmus University Challenge

On 21st September the Grand Finale of the 2nd Edition of Erasmus University Challenge took place at the Excelsior Stadium and it was bigger than ever. Adding to the existing categories of Ideation and Prototyping was a new Start Up Category, for more established ventures. This year’s competition saw a record number of 74 teams participating, bringing a focus on logistics, energy transition and making societal impact.

Team ReRun were announced as winners of the Ideation category, with their idea of recyclable running shoes. Habbi won the Prototype award with their solution hydroponic farming solution for a more sustainable planet. For the first time the Start-Up award was won by Playful for their initiative with their creative app solution to reduce craving such as smoking. As Ed Brinksma, President of Erasmus University, said “The finale was a great showcase of our vibrant student entrepreneurial community. All of the 15 finalists presented innovative forward-thinking ideas and I am looking forward seeing the impact they make.”

Member of the Jury, Saskia Mureau, Director Customer Digital with Port of Rotterdam shared her thoughts on the huge task faced by the finalists “What an amazing thing to be part of, I can’t believe how well all the finalists did with their pitches, it was very cool way to see the future of entrepreneurship”. Saskia joined in the student fun, awarding a year of free beer, coffee or tea to Nacalu Crafts. Other winners included The Audience Award of €1000, voted for live and won by Accuselect. The category winners were awarded cash- Ideation won €3000, Prototype €4000 and Startup €5000.



For everyone involved, the finale was a chance to see the huge progress made by the teams since the program began in April. “I was really impressed by all the participants and seeing the teams grow and improve together throughout the process has been a highlight” observed Han Go, Director & Co-Owner of Go-Tan “What an impressive challenge to be part of!” with Marie- Jose, owner of BREYTMANS BV saying “As a jury member it is nice to see how hard all the teams involved have worked, and I was really glad to be part of celebrating their achievements. All of the participants should be very proud of themselves.”

The 2023 Erasmus University Challenge has been a huge success. For the winners, they have the chance to make international impact at Berlin’s Stage TWO competition. This year with double the participants and double the entrepreneurial fun of the 1st edition, it has been a clear demonstration of how bright the future of innovation is. 


The Erasmus University Challenge is initiated by Erasmus Enterprise. Photos, videos and more information about the competition can be found at or email

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Erasmus Enterprise Kicks Off Entrepreneurial Year 2023 with Grand Awards Ceremony and Impactful Roundtables

Erasmus Enterprise, a dynamic hub for innovation and entrepreneurship, celebrated the official opening of the Entrepreneurial Year 2023 with a spectacular awards ceremony and impactful roundtables. The event was an exceptional gathering of visionaries, leaders, and change-makers in the entrepreneurial landscape hosted by Ernst Hoestra.

The highlight of the evening was the recognition of outstanding entrepreneurs who have made remarkable contributions to their respective fields. Three prestigious awards were presented, showcasing the extraordinary talent within the Erasmus Enterprise community:

Erasmus Enterprise Community Award


Ease2Pay, led by Gijs van Lookeren Campagne and Jan Borghuis, was honored with the Erasmus Enterprise Community Award. The award signifies the deep sense of belonging and collaboration that Ease2Pay experienced within the Erasmus Enterprise community in the past year. Gijs van Lookeren Campagne and Jan Borghuis expressed their gratitude, stating:

"We have never felt as at home as in the past year being part of Erasmus Enterprise."
Jan Borghuis
Co-founder Ease2Pay

Startup Award


Thijs Nederlof and Rik Roosenstein were recognized for successfully launching their startup, Teachbuddy, and were presented with the Startup Award.

Next Frontier Award


The Next Frontier Award, presented by Jan Peter Balkenende (Former Prime Minister of The Netherlands), was bestowed upon IMCOMET. This award recognizes IMCOMET’s pioneering efforts and potential to lead the way in uncharted entrepreneurial territories.

The awards ceremony was followed by three engaging roundtable discussions moderated by Sheila Struyck, featuring influential voices in the fields of sustainability, smart cities, digital society, urban challenges, and the entrepreneurial generation. Distinguished participants included Caroline Nagtegaal (European Parliament), Inge Merkelbach (BIG’R), Ilja Linnemeijer (Business Unit Leader Zuid-Holland PwC), Sabine Biesheuvel (BlueCity), Martijn Hamann (Endeit Capital), Liduina Hammer (InnovationQuater), Adriana Hoppenbrouwer (The Fabricant), Jasper van Ouwerkerk (McKinsey & Company), Laura Rosendahl Huber (RSM), Michael Dooijes (ScaleNL), Ras Lalmy (YES!Delft), Julie Knoeff (Graduate Entrepreneur), and Karen Maas (Impact Centre Erasmus).

The official opening of the Entrepreneurial Year concluded with an exhilarating countdown, moderated by Allard Castelein, and was followed by a sustainable-driven networking session. Attendees enjoyed refreshments from Vet&Lazy and sustainable bites served by chef Tessa van der Geer, fostering meaningful connections among like-minded entrepreneurs.

Erasmus Enterprise is excited to embark on a new entrepreneurial journey in 2023, fostering innovation, collaboration, and societal impact.

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Technological Revolution: The Future of Entrepreneurship

Are uncertainties about your future career leaving you concerned? Did you know that the technology’s impact on our lives is revolutionary?
Embrace the idea that it’s never too late to pursue your dreams and transform your hobby into a thriving business. Whether you wish to retain your current job or explore new horizons, starting your own business can offer exciting opportunities and become a valuable source of supplementary income. So, why not take that step towards a fulfilling and rewarding journey? The possibilities are endless!

With the ability to work remotely, we can now earn a living without the pressure and constraints of traditional office settings, even from the comfort of our homes. In the ever-changing landscape of the business world, entrepreneurship has consistently proven to be a driving force behind innovation, economic growth, and job creation. However, in recent times, a new wave of entrepreneurs has emerged, reshaping the traditional notions of business ownership and carving their path to success. This blog explores the rise of entrepreneurship and how it is revolutionizing the way we perceive and engage in businesses.

1. Artificial Intelligence and Automation: AI has already made significant strides in various industries, and its applications in entrepreneurship are vast. From automating processes to enhancing customer experiences, AI can empower entrepreneurs to make data-driven decisions and streamline their operations.

2. Sustainable and Eco-Friendly Businesses: With increasing awareness of environmental issues, sustainable and eco-friendly businesses are gaining traction. Entrepreneurs who focus on green technologies, renewable energy, and sustainable practices are likely to attract a growing consumer base.

3. E-commerce and Digital Marketplaces: Online shopping has experienced tremendous growth, and the pandemic further accelerated this trend. Entrepreneurs who can create innovative e-commerce platforms or tap into niche digital marketplaces are poised for success.                                                                                                       

4. Health and Wellness Industries: The health and wellness sector is thriving, with consumers becoming more health-conscious. Entrepreneurs can capitalize on opportunities in fitness tech, mental health apps, personalized nutrition, and other wellness-related products and services.

5. Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality: These technologies have the potential to revolutionize various industries, including entertainment, education, and training. Entrepreneurs who leverage VR and AR to create immersive experiences can disrupt traditional markets making it more attractive for the consumers to experience things digitally.

6. Personalized and Customized Products/Services: Consumers increasingly seek personalized experiences and products tailored to their unique needs   . Entrepreneurs who can offer customization and personalization will likely stand out in competitive markets.

7. Financial Technology (FinTech): The FinTech sector has been rapidly evolving, disrupting traditional financial services. Entrepreneurs with innovative solutions in digital payments, blockchain, and financial management are well-positioned for success.

8. Remote Work and Collaboration Tools: The shift to remote work during the pandemic has highlighted the importance of efficient collaboration tools. Entrepreneurs who can create seamless remote work solutions are likely to meet the evolving demands of the modern workforce.

As we have explored that the landscape of business is continuously reshaping, and entrepreneurs are at the forefront of driving innovation, economic growth, and job creation. From the boundless potential of Artificial Intelligence to the rise of sustainable ventures and the transformative power of Virtual Reality, the umbrella of entrepreneurship promises an array of avenues for success.

Entrepreneurship enables us to explore our passions, create personalized experiences for consumers, and adapt to the changing demands of the world. As technology continues to revolutionize our lives, embracing the spirit of entrepreneurship can be a powerful way to shape our future and make a lasting impact on the world around us. So, whether you’re a little worried about the future or eager for new horizons, consider entrepreneurship as the gateway to a fulfilling and dynamic journey of possibilities.

A Closer Look at Funding: How Funding Can Help Your Startup?

“Money is like oxygen to a business; without it, it simply cannot survive.” – Sir Richard Branson

What is funding?
Funding refers to the financial support or capital provided to startups or businesses so that businesses can grow and achieve their goals. It can come from various sources such as investors, venture capital firms, government grants, or even personal savings. Startups often need funding for several reasons:

  • Launching and Development: Startups require capital to turn their ideas into reality. This includes developing prototypes, conducting market research, building a team, and refining their products or services.
  • Expansion to Scale-up: Once a startup has established its initial presence, funding becomes crucial for scaling up operations, entering new markets, or expanding the customer base. This often requires significant investments in marketing, infrastructure, and hiring additional staff.
  • Research and Innovation: Many startups operate in industries that require continuous research and development. Funding enables them to invest in innovation, explore new technologies, and stay competitive in the market.
  • Attracting Talent: Startups need to attract skilled professionals and experts to fuel their growth. Funding allows them to offer competitive salaries, benefits, and stock options, making them more attractive to top talent.

How can Erasmus Enterprise help you?

  • Access to Regional Investment Funds: Erasmus Enterprise collaborates with regional investment funds, such as UNIIQ, to provide startups with potential investment opportunities. Through this partnership, startups within the Erasmus Enterprise community can pitch their ideas and business plans to these funds, increasing their chances of receiving financial support
  • Alumni Investors Network: Erasmus Enterprise actively engages with its network of alumni investors who have a vested interest in supporting entrepreneurial ventures. By connecting startups with alumni investors, Erasmus Enterprise creates opportunities for funding and mentorship. These investors can provide capital, industry expertise, and valuable connections to help startups grow.
  • Graduate Entrepreneur Fund: Erasmus Enterprise extends its investment network to all members of its community through the Graduate Entrepreneur Fund. This fund offers financial support specifically targeted at entrepreneurial ventures initiated by graduates of Erasmus University Rotterdam. Startups founded by Erasmus alumni can access this fund to secure funding for their businesses.
  • Erasmus University Challenge: The Erasmus University Challenge is an initiative that aims to support and fund students and entrepreneurs through a competition-style program. Participants pitch their innovative ideas or startups to a panel of judges, with funding prizes awarded to the winners. This financial support enables them to further develop their projects or businesses, providing participants with exposure to a widen their networks, helping them foster connections. Within this network, investors may offer funding, mentorship, and other forms of support like guidance and this guidance boosts participants’ chances of attracting funding, not only within the competition but also in the broader entrepreneurial ecosystem. Hence, by being part of Erasmus University Challenge, participants gain validation, visibility, and a platform to showcase their ideas or startups to a broader audience of industry professionals and the academic community.Find out more about Erasmus Enterprise by following our social media and stay up to date with upcoming events.

SME Data Clinic Zuid-Holland Launch Event unlocks the power of data for Small Businesses

In a bid to bridge the gap between the status quo and what is possible for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with data science applications, the South-Holland SME Data Clinic was officially launched on Tuesday, 27 June. This collaborative effort between Erasmus University Rotterdam and Delft University of Technology aims to empower SMEs in the region by harnessing the power of data science techniques and propelling them towards a more data-driven approach.

The event saw Ed Brinksma, President of Erasmus University Rotterdam, take the stage to announce the commencement of the South-Holland SME Data Clinic. This exciting initiative seeks to unlock the immense value and economic benefits that data science can offer SMEs, enabling them to make informed decisions and compete effectively in the market.

One of the highlights of the event was the insightful keynote speech by Jos Maccabiani, Sr. Business Developer Digital Technology at InnovationQuarter. Maccabiani emphasized the critical role collaboration on data plays in adding value to SMEs. He emphasized that many small companies fail to utilize data effectively, resulting in a loss of competitive advantage. Maccabiani’s advice to SMEs was clear and concise: “Whatever you do…start digitalization today!”

The event also featured an engaging panel discussion titled “Power of Data: If your SME’s data could speak, what valuable insights and surprises would it share to guide your decision-making process?” The esteemed panel, consisting of industry experts, offered valuable insights and perspectives on leveraging data to drive business success. The discussion was expertly moderated by Maaike Blok, Project Manager at JADS MKB Datalab.

The panelists included Frits Corvers, Co-founder of Webtify and Chairman at Jong MKB Rotterdam Rijnmond; Stephanie Wagenaar, Board Member at TLN; and Bart Spée, Policy Advisor Digital Economy at Provincie Zuid-Holland. Each panelist brought a unique perspective on the challenges and opportunities that data presents for SMEs, offering practical advice and examples from their respective fields.

The launch of the South-Holland SME Data Clinic marks a significant step forward in empowering SMEs with the tools and knowledge necessary to thrive in the digital age. By capitalizing on the latest data science techniques, these businesses can unlock new opportunities, make informed decisions, and create sustainable growth. 

As the event came to a close, attendees were left inspired and motivated to embrace the data revolution and unleash the power of data. What is next? Mark your calendars for the upcoming “Let’s Go Session” on November 6, 2023 and stay tuned for more details. 

BIG’R: Academics Creating Impact Through Research

In a world faced with pressing environmental and social challenges, organizations like BIG’R – Behavioral Insights Group Rotterdam – are leading the way in creating positive change. BIG’R is an impact center that combines scientific knowledge, behavioral insights, and practical interventions to make a significant societal impact. At BIG’R, their focus lies on conducting field experiments and studies to apply behavioral insights and scientific knowledge in practice. Inge Merkelbach, Managing Director of BIG’R, explains, “We try to make a positive societal impact with our scientific knowledge, our methods, and we use it by studying behavior and designing interventions, studying them in practice.” This blog dives into the journey of BIG’R, their challenges, successes, and shows how it is possible for academics to create impact through research.  

From collaboration to impact center  

Semiha Denktas, the academic supervisor of BIG’R, drew inspiration from the behavioral Insights team in London, UK, which was the first one to bring together municipalities, governments, and universities. Recognizing the potential benefits for a city like Rotterdam, with its challenges of poverty and great multiculturalism, Denktas saw an opportunity for a Behavioral Insights team. Thus, BIG’R emerged through a collaboration between the municipality of Rotterdam and Erasmus University Rotterdam. “We started out as a team with people from the municipality and scientists that developed the working method through trial and error, reading literature, what steps are necessary and having to learn each other’s languages”, shares Inge.  

The collaboration lasted for four years and, even though it was evaluated very positively, it had to stop when no more funding was available. That is when BIG’R restarted as an independent impact center of Erasmus Research & Business Support (ERBS) at the University. Inge reflects on their journey, stating, “We had a whole strategy developed on how to deal with these questions in practice, and we noticed there was still a lot of need for insights and practices, so we thought it would be a shame to throw it all out.” 

ERBS played a crucial role in supporting the establishment of BIG’R as an independent impact center. Inge acknowledges their contribution: “ERBS really offered us a nice opportunity. They offered us the possibility to restart in a safe space with a lot of support for us to start this BIG’R 2.0, as an independent impact center. Without the ERBS I don’t think we could have restarted, because it would be too big of a risk.” Inge acknowledges the value of being able to experiment with this way of working within the academic setting. 

BIG’R Main Challenges 

One of the main challenges BIG’R faced was effectively putting science into practice and communicating scientific insights to stakeholders with diverse backgrounds. Inge shares that it was challenging to communicate scientific thoughts and insights towards people that are not necessarily used to that kind of language and highlights the importance of bridging the gap, “You have to learn each other’s language. Public policy officials have a very different language than scientists, sometimes also a very different way of thinking.”  

Additionally, combining different research methods and convincing other scientists of the value of unconventional approaches posed further challenges. “I think we were in the forefront and that was a challenge. But fortunately, there’s a growing movement towards more Impact and more multi-method research”, mentions Inge. But with time and hard work, BIG’R was able to get trust and find the right collaborations, completing some projects, becoming known and achieving great successes. 


Creating change   

One of BIG’R’s notable successes was their study on reducing speed limits in Rotterdam. Inge proudly tells, “We recently did a study looking into reducing the speed limit from 50 to 30 kilometers per hour in Rotterdam”. How do you get the motorists to comply with the new speed limit? BIG’R has developed various interventions for this, such as a specific way of placing the speed signs, so that motorists are effectively made aware of their speed.

The image represents the reduction of speed limits from 50 to 30 kilometers per hour in Rotterdam

 “The municipality has taken our advice and started implementing this citywide, making the city safer and healthier for everyone”, shares the interviewee. “So that really gives me a big drive, that you can change something in your city right away and a lot of people will notice, and you can create positive contribution.” 

Inge offers valuable advice for peers in academia who aspire to make a similar impact. She encourages them, “Don’t be scared and be open to methods and new ways of working…”. Scientists are mostly trained in a classical way of researching: how do you conduct a perfect experiment? Inge reflects that this way of working keeps scientists from touching on real, important societal topics that are not easily studied. So, her advice? “Be brave, creative, and willing to make some mistakes. For sure people will comment on your research methods and say they are not perfect. But just do it and try to find the right partners”.  

BIG’R is an inspiring impact center that harnesses scientific knowledge, behavioral insights, and practical interventions to drive positive change in society. Their journey, with the support of ERBS, showcases that it is possible for academics to turn research into positive societal impact and how they are committed to making a lasting impact. ERBS offers ambitious and passionate scientists a safe space for them to valorize their innovative ideas. Despite challenges, BIG’R has achieved significant successes and encourages peers to embrace creativity and bravery in their pursuit of societal impact.