Innovation is in our DNA

In charge of the Amsterdam ArenA and Innovation Arena are two men with the same first name and the very same mission: Henk Markerink, CEO of the Amsterdam ArenA and Henk van Raan, Facility Director of the ArenA. Together, they discuss their ambitions, the world of stadiums and, of course, their newest project: Innovation Arena.

What would you like to accomplish with Innovation Arena?
Van Raan: “In 2020 the Amsterdam ArenA organizes the UEFA European Football Championship. At that moment, we want to be the most innovative and sustainable stadium in the world. To realize this ambition, the ArenA has to be reconstructed and that is why we have launched Innovation Arena.”
Markerink: “We are asking the world: come and share your ideas! Innovation Arena is a platform for innovators. With this platform we aim to collect ideas, products and services that can be implemented in our stadium.”

What makes the ArenA an ideal playground?
Markerink: “You can think of the ArenA as a small city. That makes the stadium a unique location to develop and test innovations. Every issue that plays its part in society, such as health, safety and traffic, is also dealt with in the stadium. Thanks to its small scale, your applications can be tested here quickly and easily.”
Van Raan: “The stadium has equal ratios to the city. This makes it possible to easily scale up the applications. If you can make it in the ArenA, you can make it anywhere: in other stadiums, in the city and even in the rest of the world.”

Why is innovation so important to the Amsterdam ArenA?
Markerink: “Innovation is in our DNA. Ever since laying down the first brick in 1993, we have been occupied with innovation. We build the ArenA with a very young team: the average age was 25 years old. Which was also clearly noticeable in the result. For the first time in history, a stadium was not just used for sports events, but also for concerts and dance events. Back in the day, that was revolutionary.
Van Raan: “We are living in an ever changing world. The visitors, event organizers and stakeholders have different demands than 20 years ago. We need and want to move along. It is also what the world expects us to do.”

What is the ArenA offering the selected innovators?
Van Raan: “We are offering a stadium with the best connectivity in the world. I often visit stadiums abroad and I find that things are never as well organized as they are in the ArenA. The sensors and the networks are already here, what we need now are the applications.”
Markerink: “You should not forget that the Amsterdam ArenA is an icon. Other than the unique testing possibilities, we are offering innovators exposure. Stadiums worldwide will keep an eye on what is happening in the ArenA.”
Van Raan: “Exactly, adding the fact that we are working towards a momentum: the 2020 UEFA European Football Championship. Innovation Arena does not just stick to the pilots, the platform is actually connected to a real project: the reconstruction of the stadium.”

What role do the strategic partners play that are already connected?
Van Raan: “We have chosen to collaborate with other parties to gather more knowledge. The strategic partners working with us at this moment are the city of Amsterdam, Huawei, KPMG, KPN, Microsoft, Smart City and TNO. They have more means, more power and more innovative knowledge at their disposal than we do. In our turn we can offer them both a showroom and test lab combined.”
Markerink: “Participants of the Innovation Arena will become part of the growing network of the ArenA. We have something to offer for both larger companies and smaller start-ups. Smaller organizations work faster and are more flexible, but they often lack thrust. Larger companies usually have the power, but often have such complicated infrastructures that they lose in their inventiveness. We would like to bring both larger and smaller companies together, so they can benefit from one another. All the knowledge and expert’s assessment combined, gives us the opportunity to develop the best solutions for the ArenA of the future.”

Why did you choose to collect the innovations through an Open Call?
Van Raan: “Innovation Arena has a whole new interpretation of the traditional process of a reconstruction. Usually only a few parties have a say in the reconstruction of a stadium. In our case we would like to tear down those traditional walls, and invite all the relevant parties to become part of this process.”
Markerink: “That is why we formulated challenges that reflect on the most important themes based upon our 2020 vision. We will look for the best specialists of each challenge with our Open Call. The first Open Call will stay opened until March 6, 2016.”

You are working towards a momentum in 2020. What can we expect?
Van Raan: “The past five years we have worked hard to make the stadium climate-neutral by 2015. And we did it. For 2020 we have set ourselves some new goals. We are aiming for 20% cost reduction and 20% income growth, but also for a satisfied costumer, who will be facilitated from door to door.”
Markerink: “But we can not realize this on our own. To concretize these ambitions, we are calling out for help from innovators worldwide. So here it goes: Solve one of our challenges, or create your own challenge and help us in building the stadium of the future!”

Do you have a great idea for the ArenA of the future? Read all about the Open Call on
Innovation Arena