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01 April 2021

A successful 2020 and a promising start to 2021

In a unique year, major steps have been taken in the development of Unmanned Valley. The field lab for sensor technologies and applications at the former Valkenburg naval air base – 16 kilometers north of The Hague in the Netherlands – really came to life last year. 2021 has got off to a promising start.

“At Unmanned Valley we offer start-ups, scale-ups and others the space to innovate and grow, and work on building a major economic cluster,” states Theo de Vries, programme manager at Unmanned Valley. “Thanks to a wide range of partners we got a flywheel going last year and are now gaining a lot of traction. Our priorities for 2021 are to further develop the housing and test facilities and to strengthen the connection between business, educational and knowledge institutions and government. We have made a promising start to the year.”

A successful 2020: from paper to reality
In mid-2020, the Dutch Central Government Real Estate Agency (‘Rijksvastgoedbedrijf’) successfully redeveloped the first 3,000 m2 of business space in multi-tenant building ‘Building 356’, and the first companies – all active in the field of aerospace, drones and sensors – took up residence at Unmanned Valley. At the end of 2020, the field lab had over 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 realised. This has considerably improved the accessibility of Unmanned Valley and fulfilled a major location requirement of companies and educational institutions.

Last year, Unmanned Valley’s indoor and outdoor testing facilities were used more than 300 times, both by Unmanned Valley-based companies and by others. The facilities were used for a range of drone-related development, demonstration and training activities, both day and night, for example to develop drone shows. Unmanned Valley has also been used several dozen times for testing sensor-based innovations such as unmanned vehicles and airborne energy systems.

Promising start of 2021: expanding facilities, innovation subsidy scheme and making connections
There is a clear need for centrally located tailor-made accommodation and good test facilities. Together with the Dutch Central Government Real Estate Agency, we have therefore accelerated the development of 1,700 m2 of new business space. Interest is high; 70% of the space has already been reserved or leased. The new cohort of tenants is expected to move into the new units in the second quarter of 2021.

In order to be able to go on offering space for seminars, product presentations, meetings and other business events after the pandemic, the central facilities are being further developed.

To further support the growth of the drone and sensor-based sector, in 2021 the opportunities for indoor testing will be expanded, investments will be made in safer and wider use of the outdoor flightbox and efforts will be made to realise a BVLOS test corridor to the sea.

Start-ups and scale-ups can make use of the innovation subsidy scheme, which will be opened in the second quarter, for the further development of promising innovations. The subsidies amount to a maximum of 25,000 euros, and companies that wish to make use of the scheme should ensure that their activities contribute to the business climate of Unmanned Valley and to the creation of new high-tech jobs.

Various companies are active at Unmanned Valley and the field lab has partnerships with educational and research institutions at all levels. In 2021, the collaboration with parties such as the MBO College Airport (part of the ROC of Amsterdam-Flevoland), Leidse Instrument Makers School, Leiden University of Applied Sciences and Inholland University of Applied Sciences will be further fleshed out, with the aim of making the connection with the agendas of the companies.

Unmanned Valley is a joint initiative of Delft University of Delft and the municipality of Katwijk. It has been made possible by the Dutch central and regional government as well as the EU’s Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and should eventually grow into a seedbed for high-tech activity.