The Hague Awards, which took place last week, is a yearly event that honors 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, stated in the Hague, we have a special relationship with the sea and they are really proud of the beautiful beaches. They offer the inhabitants and the 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 them the world’s environmental challenges are very close to home. They are highly aware of the fragility of the 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. Sid Vollebregt, founder of Elemental Water Makers stated that 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. In his 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. Vollebregt said that last year, their efforts, were flown in by the king of Dubai to receive the Global Water Award.
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. Huisman concluded that thereby they create a network that can be used to operate our underwater drones. And they can even live-stream what they see. All this is being developed in The Hague.
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 that 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, they want to create a positive impact and motivate event organisers that come here to do the same together with us.