Delta and Delft Integraal often write about innovative ideas that offer big promises for the future. But what has happened to such ideas a couple years on? What for instance has happened to the company, Hansje Brinker, which measures the deformation of dikes and other infrastructure?
It is of the greatest importance for the Netherlands to ensure all dikes are in proper order and capable of keeping the water out. But how does one know that a dike doesn’t deform too much? Currently, such measurements are done by hand. A person must measure at several places to determine if the shape of a dike changes. “We’ve developed a new and more efficient tool to do this with satellite images. We can see in 3D if, how and in what direction a dike deforms. Our tool is very exact: we can see all the deformations in millimeters,” says geologist Pieter Bas Leezenberg, who studied at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and received a PhD at Stanford University. He works together with Hansje Brinker’s founders, Dr Ramon Hanssen and Frank van Leijen (Aerospace Engineering).
Over the past four years, Hansje Brinker has measured the deformations of important structures like the Hondbossche Zeewering, Afsluitdijk and Lauwersmeerdijk. “The latter is very sturdy dike, but at one particular spot deformation is occuring. We can see exactly where this is and how it changes over time. We show in different colors how much deformation there is and in what direction.”
Hansje Brinker is broadening its view and spreading its wings. Currently there’s a second office in Silicon Valley California, where Leezenberg is based. “We see a lot of opportunities in the United States. California is swampy and has dikes. There’s also an even bigger market for us here: dams. There are a lot of dams containing drinking water; they keep the water in instead of out like dikes, but it’s based on the same kind of technology.”
A lot of start-ups had a hard time the past four years because of the financial crisis. “That caused no problems for us at all. Our only problem is that we cannot find enough highly qualified engineers to help develop our technology. When we find more engineers, we can take on more projects and get more clients. We started out as a spin-off of TU Delft and received a subsidy in 2007. Now we’re on our way to being fully operational, making the cash flow break-even with offices in Delft and California.”