In an exceptional year, major steps were taken in 2020 in the development of Unmanned Valley. The field lab for sensor-based technologies at the former Valkenburg naval air base – 16 kilometers north of The Hague in the Netherlands – really came to life last year, and 2021 got off to a promising start.
“At Unmanned Valley, we offer startups, scale-ups and others room to innovate and grow, and we are building an important economic cluster,” says Theo de Vries, program manager at Unmanned Valley. “Thanks to the collaboration with a wide range of partners we started a flywheel last year and we are now gaining a lot of traction. Our priorities for 2021 are the further development of our housing and test facilities as well as the strengthening of the link between the business community, educational and knowledge institutions and governments. We have made a promising start to the year.”
Successful 2020: from paper to reality
Mid-2020, the Dutch Central Government Real Estate Agency (‘Rijksvastgoedbedrijf’) successfully redeveloped the first 3,000 m2 in multi-tenant building ‘Building 356’. The first companies, all active in the field of aerospace, drones and sensors, have since moved to Unmanned Valley. At the end of 2020, the field lab had more than 70 jobs. The companies already established in Unmanned Valley have the ambition to grow to 150 jobs.
In collaboration with the municipality of Katwijk and bus operator Arriva a new public transport connection has been realized. This has significantly improved the accessibility of Unmanned Valley and fulfills an important location requirement of companies and educational institutions.
In 2020, Unmanned Valley’s indoor and outdoor test facilities were used more than 300 times, both by companies located at the field lab and by others. The facilities have been used for a range of drone-related development, demonstration and training activities; during the day but also outside the uniform daylight period, for example for the development of drone shows. Unmanned Valley has also been used dozens of times to test sensor-based innovations such as unmanned vehicles and airborne energy systems.
Promising start to 2021: expanding facilities, innovation subsidy scheme and making connections
There is a clear need for tailor-made, centrally located housing and excellent test facilities. That is why, together with the Dutch Central Government Real Estate Agency, the development of an additional 1700m2 space has been accelerated. There is great interest; 70% of the available units has already been reserved or rented. The first tenants are expected to move to the new units from the second quarter of 2021.
To provide space for seminars, product presentations, meetings and other business events post-corona, the central facilities are also being further developed.
To support the growth of the drone and sensor-based sector, the opportunities for indoor testing will be expanded in 2021, investments will be made in a safer and wider use of the outdoor flight box, and efforts will be made to realize a BVLOS test corridor to sea.
For the further development of promising innovations, start-ups and scale-ups can appeal to an innovation subsidy scheme that will be opened during the second quarter. The subsidies amount to a maximum of 25,000 euros and the companies that want to use the scheme must contribute with their activities to Unmanned Valley’s business climate and create new high-tech employment.
A variety of companies are active at Unmanned Valley and the field lab has partnered with education and research institutions at all levels. In 2021, the collaboration with parties such as secondary vocational school MBO College Airport, Leiden Instrument Makers School, University of Applied Sciences Leiden and Inholland University of Applied Sciences will be further developed, with a focus to connect to corporate agendas.
Unmanned Valley is an initiative of Delft University of Technology and the municipality of Katwijk – made possible by the Dutch central and regional government as well as the EU’s Regional Development Fund (ERDF) – and will develop into a breeding ground for high-tech activities.