Rotterdam Hub Pioneers Breakbulk Evolution

Innovation Dock is Landing Place for Breakbulk Innovation


By Malcolm Ramsay
Located at the heart of Rotterdam, the Innovation Dock building is exploring some of the latest trends in breakbulk, driven by the concept of cross-sectoral collaboration.

The Innovation Dock at RDM Rotterdam has been developed by the Port of Rotterdam, and the unique building features more than 7,500 square meters of space, dedicated to supporting start-ups and research and development departments of established multinationals. RDM Rotterdam operates alongside its sister initiative M4H, and together they are part of the Rotterdam Makers District, the best spot in the region for the innovative manufacturing industry.

“RDM and especially the Innovation Dock is about innovation and using new technologies. Our focus is on manufacturing companies that facilitate the energy transition, for example hydrogen and offshore wind,” Jouke Goslinga, program director at RDM Rotterdam, told Breakbulk.

Previously the site of a shipyard, the building has seen extensive renovation in recent years with Dutch architecture practice Groosman Partners adding a suspended office environment with an additional 1,000 square meters of office space to support a new generation of innovation.

“We want to attract entrepreneurs who make the real difference in supporting these trends with technologies like electrification, robotics, AI/digitalization, IoT etc.,” Patricia van Bergeijk, communications advisor for RDM Rotterdam, noted, highlighting hydrogen, offshore wind, smart logistics and waste-to-value as major trends under investigation by participants that are directly impacting breakbulk operations.

High-profile companies such as Ampelmann, Studio RAP and Concr3de are existing members and as lockdowns ease this year, RDM is eyeing renewed growth, with new members bringing a range of skills and expertise.

The buildings original roof trusses give clearance of 20 meters height, allowing companies to explore not only the latest digital solutions and software development, but also providing adequate space for high tech prototyping and test facilities.

Distro Platform

A clear example of the benefits the hub can bring was demonstrated with the successful rollout of the Distro new energy platform. Bringing together 32 companies at the RDM site this platform works with solar panels and battery storage to allow users to trade energy between themselves in a local market.

“Next month we will launch Distro permanently,” van Bergeijk noted, indicating the speed of development possible at the site due to the collective approach of members and the rapid turnaround from idea to reality.

Developed by S&P Global Platts and Blocklab, a subsidiary of the Port of Rotterdam Authority, the new platform not only demonstrates a new model of collaboration, but also highlights the important role that sustainability plays for the sector.

“This is the first time in the world that blockchain technology, artificial intelligence and high-frequency commodity trading have been combined in a single platform,” the company said.

The collaborative spirit extends beyond the energy that users of the site share, with RDM organizing regular events, and while these have been understandably limited due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the schedule is already looking busier for 2021.

“Every year we organize the Future Flux Festival. We invite all entrepreneurs and education institutions in the Innovation Dock, RDM and M4H to showcase their innovations during this festival,” van Bergeijk explained, adding that the aim is for the festival to be held in the first week of July, pandemic restrictions permitting. 

Based in the UK, Malcolm Ramsay has a background in business analysis and technology writing, with an emphasis on transportation and ports.

Image credit: RoyBorghouts Fotografie