Climate-KIC’s Business Competition for SME’s stimulates innovation

Using Climate-KIC’s SME Voucher, HKV Consultants, in collaboration with Deltares, set out to develop the ‘Global Flood Observatory’.

A global map of water extents which can be used to monitor and identify high risk areas for flooding. Having such data available facilitates governments, businesses and knowledge institutions around the world to develop a strategy for flood risk management.

SME Programme

Climate-KIC’s Business Competition is designed to help to share the knowledge of partners: universities, research institutions and established companies, with small and medium sized enterprises (SME’s). The winner of the award may contact any of the participating knowledge institutions with a specific question, help carry out tests or in any other way use the knowledge of the connected partners to help further their business’ activities; all provided for by Climate-KIC.

Business Competition

At first contact with the Business Competition, HKV applied as a candidate pitching their project idea for the development of the ‘Global Flood Observatory’. The idea fitted the competition’s theme perfectly, with a focus on innovative products and services in the area of water in the context of climate change adaptation and mitigation. After a fierce competition HKV was awarded a €48.000 SME knowledge voucher to kick-start the development of their innovative idea.

“The award enabled us to start developing the product as it gave the financial flexibility and the connection to Deltares as an external knowledge partner outside of our usual activities with them. The product has always been an idea we were working on, but with the Climate-KIC voucher we were able to really explore the possibilities of a global flood observatory”, says Marco Hartman, Business Developer at HKV.

HKV knowledge entrepreneurs

HKV earned a leading reputation as knowledge entrepreneur in flood risk management. Founded in 1995 with a focus on flood risk, hydraulics, disaster management and regional water management this innovative SME currently has 70 employees. HKV has taken the initiative in the development and practical implementation of many technically innovating and methodological concepts; many of which have found their way into current Dutch and international flood risk management practice.

The product

Perhaps more importantly is that the competition style of the SME awards made HKV approach their initial idea from a completely different perspective. Now looking at the Global Flood Observatory as a stand-alone product which must be pitched to a team of expert judges and potential investors. The interaction between the candidates, listening to their pitches and sitting in on the judges’ feedback during the day were a valuable lesson even if HKV wasn’t awarded the voucher.

The objective of the project was to develop a database and to fill it with global flooding information derived from ESA’s Envisat satellite data. Original Satellite data processing software was adapted so that it can be used with the archived data. A first step was made to adjust the software to enable the use of data from other satellites, such as the recently launched Sentinel-1. The innovative part of the project is that global data on flood prone areas from different institutes and from different sources are combined in a database and made accessible for statistical and spatial analyses. The resulting information could support conclusions related to global impacts of climate change. With satellite radar data it is possible to monitor floods at all times, even at night, and under cloudy conditions.

The SME voucher allowed HKV to explore new ideas which would otherwise be left untouched. It made HKV to think differently and approach opportunities from a pure `product for business perspective, while combating the effects of climate change in high risk flood areas through smart adaptation and mitigation of environmental changes by incorporation in water management projects.

Deltares, partner Climate-KIC

Nicki Villars of Deltares was part of the development team for the Global Flood Observatory, and acknowledges the added value of the SME voucher: “It allows ‘small’ parties to cooperate with and profit from the knowledge and experience that lies hidden within large knowledge institutions who are often too ‘expensive’ for SME’s”. She goes on to explain how this relatively small side project for Deltares, both initiated a EU wide flood research project involving HKV, Deltares and some very large European players; as well as another project in preparation for the integration of new satellite data which are expected to be deployed in 2015.

The SME voucher is an instrument which can stimulate innovation by enabling young, relatively ‘inexperienced’ companies, to connect to large corporations that can help leverage ideas and instigate new project developments.


For more information visit the website of HKV Consultants, Deltares,  or Climate-KIC or or contact them directly via e-mail:

Marco Hartman, Business Developer – HKV Consultants

Lucas Janssen, Director Innovation and Strategy – Deltares

Marjan Heijkamp, Entrepreneurship Coordinator, Climate-KIC the Netherlands