Deputy Prime Minister Kajsa Ollongren and business delegation leader Henk de Jong opened our Holland Pavilion in presence of the whole delegation.

By Beatrix Bos and Carter Carter Craft
Consulate General of the Netherlands in New York

Cities all around the world are the most vulnerable to climate change. These are the places where population is concentrated and resources, such as water and energy, are consumed. Trends in the US and around the world show how floods, droughts, and storms have greater and more costly impacts on human safety and city infrastructure.

Meanwhile, cities are also major contributors to climate change. The air quality is polluted by the large use of fossil-fueled mobility. Huge amounts of materials are imported as useable materials and then carted away again across the dense urban landscape.

As one of the most densely populated countries in the world, the Netherlands has found ways to use all its land, especially the urban areas. Thanks to multi-functional design, the use of advanced technology, and connected transportation, Dutch cities are on their way to becoming resilient and “future-proof.” Still, improvements are needed at every scale. International collaboration can help shape a better future. What better place to focus on than the city of all cities: New York.

From May 12-15, the consulate welcomed a Dutch delegation of 80 professionals for the Smart Cities New York 2019 conference. The participants were policy, technology, and business innovators. The program focused on three tracks: circular economy, smart and green mobility, and resiliency. In the group was Deputy Prime Minister Kajsa Ollongren from the Ministry of Interior Affairs, who kicked off the mission Sunday night at the consulate general with Henk de Jong of PBQL, our business delegation leader.

There were clear messages to help companies make the most out of the week: do NOT follow the official program; go out to do something rare; meet someone new; and take chances you otherwise wouldn’t. If you are in a room with 100 people for a two-hour event, make sure you say hi to everyone. It is not strange to talk with someone for only a minute. Don’t forget to exchange cards, though, so you can start doing business!

Workshop day

Xander Kotvis of the Revolution Foundation co-hosted the digitalization roundtable in the workshop of the City of Amsterdam on circular economy.

With this advice in mind, Monday began with the Smart Cities New York workshop day at the new Cornell Tech Campus on Roosevelt Island. We hosted four workshops, one for each of the tracks and one on international collaboration and upscaling.

In one workshop, “Unlocking the Potential of the Circular Economy in Cities: Knowledge, Challenges and Solutions from Amsterdam,” participants were split up in several subtopics, such as municipal waste, food waste, product design, and the use of data.

Some interesting recommendations included modular product design and financial models, such as leasing, to ease the reusing process. The circular movement starts with an awareness that leftover food should not become waste in the first place. An economic strategy considers the fact that skilled labor is needed to recover valuable materials.

Amsterdam Smart City has an online platform where you can share the projects you’re working on, read or share news about innovation, and ask all your questions about the circular economy (or energy, digitalization, and mobility) for free.

Smart Cities NYC 2019 expo

The Holland Pavilion was at the heart of the Smart Cities New York expo floor at Pier 36 on the Lower East side of Manhattan. The stand had the look and feel of a park using the recycled furniture of Streetlife, a Dutch company from Leiden that is now producing in the US. As we aimed to keep our footprint during this expo as low as possible, we composted in collaboration with EarthMatter 25 pounds food and other appropriate waste scraps that were produced in the Dutch stand.

Our most important program element to show our Dutch competences was the lunch pitches. In every program track, at least five companies or innovators pitched their ideas for the international audience at the expo. We’d like to highlight a couple of pitches.

Rusné Šileryté of geoFluxus creates an open-source platform for mapping public waste data. It takes public waste data out of the drawer, maps it, and embeds it in geographic space to trace the flow from the waste producer to the treatment or the eventual disposal locations. This helps match government agencies, businesses, and product designers in developing a circular economy.

In the field of Smart & Green Mobility, HERE pitched its HD Live Map that assists autonomous driving. It creates a location platform that combines open data with proprietary information and technologies to offer a uniquely complete location data set, generating new and higher levels of map data precision. Imagine how future delivery drones will need to know every inch of the city to safely deliver packages to the right spot.

Explore local projects

Part of our delegation visited the New York City Parks’ green-roof location on Randall’s Island. They are standing on the demonstration project on resiliency of Metropolder, a Dutch company represented by Brian Schmitt.

To give participants an insight in what is happening beyond the conference and in New York City, the consulate helped set up several site visits. These tours and briefings included visits to and discussions with the New York City Department of Transportation and the New York Public Library.

One visit included the project of the Dutch firm Metropolder on Randall’s Island. On the roof of the New York City Parks and Recreation Department’s building, Metropolder is demonstrating its green roof, which is designed to capture and retain a large volume of rain. All together, more than 25 green-roof technologies from many companies and inventors are piloted here in order to upscale in the near future.

As with innovations in mobility and circularity, we envision a healthy future for the green-roof movement in New York City. Looking ahead we hope to help facilitate more collaborations between Dutch and American parties and partners.