Innovation

Port Authority takes next step with M4Havens development after 10 years of RDM Rotterdam

05 July 2019
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With sixty startups, RDM is now full. But startups grow and need more space in the long term. That is why the Port of Rotterdam Authority is working to develop M4Havens opposite the RDM site. Scale-ups will soon be able to relocate there. CEO Allard Castelein: ‘We have more than enough space and energy for innovation.’

Allard Castelein, CEO Port of Rotterdam, during RDM 10 years.
Speech Allard Castelein, CEO Port of Rotterdam, during RDM 10 years.

At one time, the RDM site was wrapped in secrecy. Submarines were built there, which, by definition, needed to stay out of sight. ‘And look now. It’s ten years since we made this site available for innovation’, explained Allard Castelein from the Port of Rotterdam Authority in his opening speech during the Future Flux Festival. ‘Why? Because the it’s not the strongest or smartest that survive, but those best able to adapt to the environment. And that environment is changing. We are facing two important transitions: digitisation and the energy transition.’

Scale-ups to M4Havens

The innovation ecosystem started with one startup ten years ago. ‘We’re now full with some 60 startups. That’s why we’re going to create more space for innovation on the opposite side of the river on the M4Havens site’, announced Castelein. While RDM continues to be the place for startups - from idea to prototype - M4Havens will become the place for scale-ups. Companies that have outgrown the startup phase will find a site here where they can combine living, working and manufacturing. ‘We have more than enough space and energy to support more entrepreneurs to realise their ideas.’

RDM is also an important site for Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences, stated Chairman of the Board, Ron Bormans. ‘We need to train students for a future that we do not yet know. We do this first of all by telling them all about the past and present. It also applies: “if you don’t know the future, join the future”. The future is created on our site. We are proud that we are able to be a part of this.’

Most relevant port

Bart Kuipers, port economist at Erasmus University Rotterdam, values the ecosystem created at RDM. ‘The entire port is an ecosystem, which in turn is comprised of smaller ecosystems. The innovation ecosystem is an example of this. Innovation is needed to guarantee that Rotterdam is still the most relevant port in ten years’ time’, stated Kuipers, referring to the growing size of container ships. This growth will lead to congestion in the port. ‘Innovation is needed to resolve the problems that flow from this. My favourite innovation is Pronto, the tool that predicts vessel arrival times.’

One of the most impressive innovators is André Schiele, Professor at TU Delft. After various innovation projects using robot technology in space travel, he is now working on projects that have more direct impact on society. One example is a technology that compensates for the swell movement of waves. ‘We developed this for the offshore industry, but we can also use it for the construction of offshore wind farms’, stated Schiele, who thanked the Port Authority for the facilities available in Rotterdam.

The same but different

How will RDM look in ten years? ‘Exactly the same and yet totally different’, stated Castelein. ‘It will continue to be an innovative ecosystem with the same atmosphere and energy. But then with other innovations based on other technologies. Startups that are successful in making the next step will have to leave this site at a certain point. That’s why we have created space for them with the development of M4Havens.’