Collaborating in the TU Delft ecosystem: NS & OperationAIR, a bright light in dark times

After the uncertainty and distress early on in the COVID-19 crisis, we now see a new future taking shape. A future where innovations to cope with the many new challenges are being developed at an accelerated pace. Also, this future shows that the obvious idea that a crisis results in more focus on one’s own problems, does not hold true. Most collaborate more than ever.

© NS

A striking example of solidarity and tackling challenges together, is the collaboration between OperationAIR and X!Delft partner Dutch Railways (NS). NS is a long-time partner in the X!Delft initiative, in which several of most innovative companies in the Netherlands innovate together in the TU Delft ecosystem. Needless to say, the impact of the pandemic on public transport has been significant. OperationAIR (Assist in Respiration, is an initiative of the TUD, where students under supervision of prof. dr. ir. Jaap Harlaar develop a respiratory ventilator as an emergency solution for the shortages caused by the coronavirus pandemic. They reached out to NS and at breakneck speed and in a very pragmatic way, a working prototype was developed that is now ready for scale-up.

Whereas the NS may seem an unusual partner in the manufacturing of medical equipment, they ended up playing a crucial role. The company may not have specific know-how of medical equipment, but it does have many engineers and mechanics that cannot only design, but also make complex parts. In less than a week, NS managed to set up a complete production line to manufacture the power source of the OperationAIR device. In the workshop, where the mechanics typically modernise trains and repair air-conditioners, doors and wheel sets, Laszlo Bakker and his team are now able to manufacture several hundreds of power sources a week. The Dutch government has already placed its first order for 80 of these.

At X!Delft, we always pursue collaborations and connect – sometimes unexpected – partners in the TU Delft ecosystem to jointly develop tomorrow’s ground-breaking technologies. A bright light in these dark times is the observation that such collaborations between companies and universities not only seems to work for solutions in the more distant future, but that jointly innovating can also bring answers to today’s challenges! Let’s hope that the current crisis will soon be a distant memory. At the same time, let’s not miss the opportunity to keep accelerating innovations by working together on many of the other challenges that we face as academics, companies and society as a whole.