Autonomous drones and completely new ‘senses’: Technical talent on stage during the Precision Fair

Why are we writing about this topic:

How do you find young talent that can potentially strengthen your tech company? For many, it is a struggle. The Young Talent Program puts new talents on stage and connects them with companies.

The Brainport region is known for tech giants such as ASML, but also for the up-and-coming talent present in the region. The precision fair takes place on November 16 and 17, where the high-tech manufacturing industry gathers. Mikrocentrum offers young talents and their start-up technology projects a stage there through the Young Talent Program. “It started as a hobby project, but we are now a full-fledged start-up looking for customers and investors,” says Sieuwe Elferink, who will pitch his innovation at the fair on behalf of the student team MultiRotorResearch (MRR).

“The high-tech manufacturing industry is facing a major shortage of personnel. It is therefore very important to introduce young talent to companies and ensure that this up-and-coming talent ends up in the right place,” says Merel Hartman, Ecosystem Manager at Mikrocentrum. Graduates, PhD students and start-ups pitch their best projects at the fair. In this way, companies and visitors can quickly and efficiently inform themselves about ground-breaking technological projects. “Companies get the chance to spot future employees and partners, and young people learn to further develop their power (soft) skills and make contacts.”

Boost Your Talent Award

The Young Talent Program consists of several awards. One of these is the Boost Your Talent Award, which Mikrocentrum awards together with the KIVI engineering association. Start-ups and student teams send a 30-second pitch in advance and hold a three-minute pitch on the day itself. A jury consisting of, among others, Bert-jan Woertman and Richards Hulskes decides who will ultimately be the big winners. Among other things, aspects such as design and underpinning of the proposed innovation are examined.

The winner of this prize will receive a training budget of 5000 euros and also a budget for a marketing campaign via Wevolver, also of 5000 euros. In 2021, Jette Bloemberg from TU Delft was among the award winners. She is developing a special needle for prostate surgery.

The Wim van de Hoek Prize

The Wim van de Hoek Prize is organized by DSPE. This is a trade association for precision mechanics. The candidates are nominated by their teachers. The award goes to a graduation project by students from various universities in the Netherlands and Belgium.

Connections

“Last year I was able to participate in the second edition of the program and I noticed that the audience started a conversation with the young talent immediately after the pitches to make deals,” continues Hartman. “It’s great to see that connections are actually being made between the young people and the business world.”

“It is also fantastic to see how young people step out of their comfort zone and grow in presenting their ideas. Last year, for example, team HART was still sweating on the podium and this year they took the step to participate again. I am really looking forward to all the new innovations and ideas this year.”

Smart, autonomous drones

Sieuwe Elferink is a 22-year-old student of technical computer science at Fontys University of Applied Sciences in Eindhoven. He is participating in the Young Talent Program at the Precision Fair and will talk about his student team MultiRotorResearch (MRR). The team focuses on the development of smart, autonomous drones that can learn human flight behavior to fly even better in difficult conditions, which is useful for, for example, bridge or agricultural inspections.

“I have been involved in robotics from a young age,” he recalls. “When I was twelve, I had turned my quad bike into a self-driving vehicle. I used a technique based on artificial intelligence which enables the quad to learn human driving behaviour. It worked surprisingly well and I thought I would do more with it. Eventually, I started focusing on autonomous drones. What started as a hobby project has grown into a full-fledged student team. There is great interest from potential customers, we have secured grants and are in dialogue with several investors.”

In addition to giving a pitch, the team also has its own stand at the Precision Fair. They use visual material to demonstrate exactly how the autonomous drone works. “We would like to draw attention to ourselves in front of other companies on the stock exchange. One of the most important things about starting a business is getting to know people who can help you along. You can have such a great idea, but if nobody knows you exist, you won’t get very far.” The team is already working with two parties: a drone manufacturer and a party focusing on analysis software for the agricultural sector. “But we are happy to add more partners to our list. For example, we will continue to focus on infrastructure inspections. We hope to meet new potential partners at the fair.”

Completely new ‘senses’

Gijs Horsten, a 21-year-old ICT student at Fontys Hogeschool (and soon also student at Eindhoven University of Technology), also participates in the program. Horsten is part of the TU/e ​​start-up team HART, which uses ‘human augmentation’ to develop new ‘senses’. The first step was a sleeve with which you can feel vibrations on the skin and interpret them as patterns. Meanwhile, the team is working on a new prototype: a compact, further developed follow-up version of the first sleeve.

“This can, for example, be used by the visually impaired. With the help of the sleeve, they can receive information that they normally do not receive. We are also looking at other applications. For example, I am investigating how we can apply our concept to the gaming world. The possibilities are endless. We are satisfied as long as we can make a big social impact.”

HART also hopes to make itself known to the outside world at the Precision Fair. “Exposure is always good. We have to show people what we can do and try to arouse their interest. This will be my first pitch for me. It is quite exciting, but also educational. I want to tell you a little bit about our new design and the whole process behind it. In the end, I hope to make new contacts at the fair and find new business partners who can help us further.”

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