Frederik Peters has been working for Aexus for 3.5 years as Business Development Manager. Frederik is also an innovation scout within Aexus. In addition to his work at Aexus, Frederik has been active in Dutch politics for more than 15 years (Provincial Council of Gelderland). Frederik is also active in the executive association of a political party.
What is innovatiescouts.nl?
Innovatiescouts primarily helps governments to get started faster with new proven technology. Governments often conduct a lot of experiments (pilots, pilot projects and living labs). Every municipality in the Netherlands applies things like this. But that hardly ever leads to up-scaling or follow-up projects. This has to do with the fact that these projects are completely isolated and that regular procurement of actual tooling or solutions takes place via the regular tendering route.
So what happens is that there is a “scale-up gap”. So when we talk about up-scaling with technical parties who are in that phase, they don’t find a way in with governments and they have trouble getting in. In addition, governments do not know how to find such parties and how to deal with them. They often end up in tenders and a real scale-up has no time, inclination and/or resources to participate. Such a tender can take months with the risk that the scale-up will not be selected after all. They don’t have that kind of time. This causes frustration on the part of the authorities. They do want to innovate, but do not have access and do not know how to deal with fast-growing scale-ups, and then they put it on the market via Tenderned, for example. The result is that the same companies keep responding to the call for tenders.
Innovatiescouts responds to this by saying: let’s not sit on the side of the scale-up, but on the side of the government and start with: what problem do you have that you want to solve? And from that perspective, we explore how we can do that in a new, different way than governments are doing until now. At an early stage, we bring real examples from abroad to the table in order to inspire and refine the scouting criteria. Based on these scout criteria, we will look for proven technologies and parties who are eager to grow, who are just entering the market, as it were, but with a proven technology that could very well be interesting.
Those technologies you people bring up, do these always come from partners of Aexus?
Almost never. In addition, we have drawn a clear line between Aexus Business Development and Aexus Innovatiescouts to prevent and exclude possible conflicts of interest. As innovation scout, we are on the side of the authorities and our loyalty therefore lies entirely with them. We have our own database of over 200 scale-ups and they were found by innovation scouts. Aexus Business Development is separate from these activities. The parties we found come from all over the world: Israel, US, UK, Scandinavia. All can be of interest to governments and we validate these parties completely independently. We are talking about a number of months from the first contact to the implementation of a new technology.
What is your benefit to Innovatiescouts with your link to the Provincial Council?
It is a double-edged sword. First and foremost, I will not be sitting at the table on behalf of Innovatiescouts because of a conflict of interest. So the Provincial authorities are a little unlucky with me in that regard. This does not apply to municipalities. I can join in at municipal level. What I notice is that people really like the fact that I have been active in politics and public administration for 15 years, so I understand how things work and proceed within governments. They like that a short explanation suffices and that I can quickly assess the direction a process needs to take. So I bring in that expertise, plus the network of 200+ parties we have.
How long has Innovatiescouts been around?
We’re actually very young. It’s like a sort of start-up within Aexus. We started in the spring of 2021 and we already started with the first municipality running a pilot in the summer. We are currently working with many more municipalities, regions and provinces where we have already made progress. So it’s going tremendously well, despite its short existence.
Do you visit governments regularly in person or is everything done remotely?
It always helps to physically visit a government and that is often the traditional way municipalities work. In the Covid period, we do a lot online, but we still see things progress best when you meet in person. It is important to build a relationship of trust with governments and we prefer to do that face-to-face. As an innovation scout, I am also on their side of the table.
Do you have a great example of a municipality that you helped as an innovation scout?
The great thing is that we are breaking through old ways of working. I was asked to visit a municipality where I knew the innovation manager from before. This is a small municipality with far too much work for the innovation manager. During our conversation, he mentioned that they had a problem with their IT systems in terms of support and no one understood how it works. At that time, I was already working with YesElf as a partner of Aexus. My contact at the municipality was interested in the platform and wanted to get in touch with YesElf. This eventually led to the implementation of YesElf’s platform at the municipality for a small fee. In doing so, we remove almost all IT support from the municipality through automation. The fascinating thing about this is that the municipality I’m talking about is very small as a municipality, but they do now collaborate with a Slovak scale-up in the field of artificial intelligence. Normally all the red flags should be flying and yet they do it and are insanely satisfied because they could never have done this themselves, could never have validated it and had never come into contact with this Slovakian party. This saves the municipality tens of thousands of euros per year.
When does a government choose Innovatiescouts?
Even before a municipality decides to launch a tender, it is already interesting for them to work with Innovatiescouts. This allows them to explore the market in a new way and it could lead to solutions that are below the tender threshold. And that immediately gives the municipality an advantage. Another advantage for the municipality is that they can immediately speed up as soon as the amount is below the tender limit. The municipality itself does not have that kind of expertise and sensitivity about how such a market works. If it does come to a tender, for example because the project is too large, the principles can be defined in such a way that it is more interesting for scale-ups to participate.
How can governments find Innovatiescouts?
I have personally developed a large network within governments over the past few years. So quite a few municipalities and administrators know that I am working with Innovatiescouts. This is reflected in the conversations I have, because my schedule is actually quite full. It is also nice to see that municipalities now recommend Innovatiescouts to other municipalities. Even at conferences attended by municipalities, people talk about Innovatiescouts while we ourselves are not even present. This leads to responses and new municipalities becoming interested in Innovatiescouts. And of course we also have our own website: www.innovatiescouts.nl where you can find the necessary information.
Do you have any more great examples?
Certainly. In the municipality of Hilversum, we put the ‘crowd-o-meter’ live during Corona time. Sometime in May, I received a call from the relevant civil servant asking ‘if I had anything that could help’. We then found a party that had the right technology for this. They installed sensors in the centre of Hilversum using the latest technology from Great Britain and the USA. The municipality needed a good solution very quickly that could not only measure the traffic but could also be used as a city marketing tool in the long term. And which was, of course, completely privacy proof. It was not to be experimental, but really a proven technology. We did the project and made that match and within 12 weeks the technology was operational. And that is exceptional. The great thing is that people who want to go into town can check out how busy the town is from home. The crowd-o-meter is also used by surveillance and the police to predict whether the public in certain parts of the city is growing faster than normal and whether they should proceed to close certain parts during Corona time. A good case study was Black Friday last year. In Hilversum, some parts of the city got out of hand in terms of crowds. As much as three hours in advance, they were able to predict that it would get out of hand and they could already start taking measures to prevent the overcrowding.
This case is now also used in other municipalities.
What are some other benefits of Innovatiescouts?
We are very flexible per project, so you don’t need to set up or have your own organisation. The moment you have a project that is an opportunity for working smart, it is already interesting to start working with Innovatiescouts. We work on a monthly basis for a fixed amount per month. That’s all-in for € 4,000 a month. This gives you access to a network of 200+ tech companies and your own innovation scout working a few hours a week. And you can cancel on a monthly basis. So when the project is finished or governments can continue on their own, our work is done.
What I also notice in various municipalities is that the people responsible for innovation are encountering a lot of resistance within their own organisation. Innovation is wrongly seen as a hobby for a few civil servants and something that does not affect others in their daily practice. Innovation scouts are deployed to stand beside the existing organisation and make the connection between the internal reality and the world outside. Very simply, we start with the question: What are you struggling with now and if we could change something right now to make your life between 9 and 5 a little better, what would that be? That is always our starting point and it closes the gap between the people of innovation and the existing organisation. That works very well.
How can municipalities sign up for Innovatiescouts?
Register through our website innovatiescouts.nl and call me for an appointment.