The steps of an Innovation-Challenge

A ‘good’ problem

It is not simple to create a problem definition without stepping into defining solutions.


During the problem definition phase we conduct extensive research into the landscape around the challenge to be solved.


The magic lies in reaching possible solution providers worldwide, especially those outside the sector.


In order to properly judge the offered solutions, vast expertise is brought together – both within as outside our team.


The knowledge we generate is captured on our innovation platform. This way the ecosystem keeps up with new developments.

“Working in innovation ecosystems requires different knowledge and skills. An important factor is that access to knowledge and technology is more important than the ownership of knowledge.”


– Rick Wielens

Our Challenges

Our challenges are an invitation to everyone who can be of help to solve relevant problems and questions. Every challenge starts with a well-defined problem, criteria that the solutions need to meet and is brought to implementation or experimentation. Every challenge offers a chance to work together with others; true innovation is done through co-creation.


Cities 4.0

The Cities 4.0 project is the effort of a consortium of 4 European innovation ecosystems to contribute to key elements of the European Climate policy as reflected in the EU Green Deal, the ‘Fit for 55’ package adopted on 14 July 2021. Cities 4.0 will look in particular at the regional and local translation of this package through the proposed European Union’s Mission 100 Climate Neutral and Smart Cities by 2030 (henceforward EU Mission), introduced in September 2021.

Pilot phase


So You Think You Can Build

Wonen Zuid, Area, Domijn, Tiwos, Zayaz, Maasvallei, Thuis bij Antares, ZOwonen, Wonen Limburg and Alwel are currently unable to offer affordable new-build homes for 1 and 2 person households. Together with NCB and Aedes, they are looking for an innovation breakthrough in affordable new construction of 4000 homes for 1 and 2 person households in accordance with PMC 2 and 7 from De Woonstandaard. These are homes with a rental price below the 2021 cap of € 634.


Residential Heating Challenge

Eighteen social housing corporations in the Netherlands – managing and owning over 250,000 houses – are seeking an innovative solution for replacement of the individual central heating systems currently operated with natural gas fueled combination boilers. These corporations represent a subgroup of the 3 million residential dwellings in the Netherlands. The corporations want to make all of these homes natural gas free and CO2-neutral by 2050 with a neutral impact on the energy bills for the tenants.


Retrofit Insulation Challenge

Bo-Ex, Mitros and Portaal, three housing corporations in Utrecht, aim to make tens of thousands of homes more sustainable. Starting with retrofit insulation of these homes. With better facade insulation, the energy bill remains affordable for more tenants and tens of thousands of social rental homes become more sustainable and comfortable. To force a breakthrough in this, we organized an innovation challenge: De Isolatie Uitdaging. We received 40 entries.



The Dutch Ministry of Defense aims for every mission to be successful, with a high priority to securing the safety of their own military staff and of their partners. In preparing to go on a mission it is crucial to understand and chart the environment. The surrounding factors like weather, waterways, sightlines and other variables are of vital importance – the so-called ‘situational awareness’. The MoD wants to evaluate if 3D-modelling can improve this situational awareness. This challenge has been finalized.


University Partner Challenge

The Province of Gelderland actively seeks collaborations with public and private academic knowledge institutes to welcome more talent in Gelderland. There are many opportunities for education partners and international students to settle in Gelderland. The winner of the challenge is MIST Center, who were welcomed by Regional Minister of Economic Affairs and Labor, Michiel Scheffer, to explore a partner program with top employers in the region.



100% Healthy Indoor

Mitros, the largest social housing corporation of Utrecht and Nieuwegein (NL), wanted to search for solutions to guarantee that tenants would have a healthy and comfortable indoor climate after renovation. A house with a healthy air quality without draft, mould of too much humidity. In short, 100% Healthy Indoor. Fresh-R and BRRIT+1 sent in their innovative solutions for a healthy indoor climate and won the Challenge. They have worked on their prototype to showcase that their concept truly leads to housing with a 100% healthy indoor climate.



Gelderland Arbeidswijs

Gelderland Arbeidswijs is een open innovatietraject geïnitieerd door Provincie Gelderland. Het doel is vernieuwende ideeën ophalen om de kloof tussen werken en leren kleiner te maken. Onderwijs + Arbeidsmarkt = Arbeidswijs! De beste ideeën krijgen een prijs en coaching om van idee naar praktijk te komen. In de editie van 2016 stond het thema Duurzame inzetbaarheid centraal. Hoe krijgen werkzoekenden een kans op de arbeidsmarkt in de techniek? Het winnende concept: Talentscouting voor Techniek scout in een pop-up store talent met een handleiding voor de techniek, en verbindt hen op
basis van hun talenten aan werkgevers en opleidingstrajecten.



Employager 1.0

In opdracht van Gemeente Eindhoven schreven wij een ontwerpwedstrijd uit rondom mensen met een afstand tot de arbeidsmarkt. Het resultaat: 44 inzendingen, 5 finalisten, 1 publieksprijs en 1 winnaar! 44 methodes, apps, instrumenten voor een inclusieve arbeidsmarkt. Sandra Beijnes (Projectmanager AutThere bij NVA) over Employager: “In de Employager 1.0 wedstrijd, heeft de organisatie ons enorm geholpen door nog meer vorm en inhoud te geven aan het oorspronkelijk ingestuurde idee. In intensieve en constructieve gesprekken, is er gekomen tot een uitgewerkt idee, op basis waarvan de jury uiteindelijk besloot het AutThere2Work idee te belonen met de tweede plaats.”


“The ESTI-team (former House of Open Innovation) has advised and facilitated us in our 100% Healthy living Challenge. In this challenge our social housing corporation Mitros invited solution providers to come up with innovative solutions to safeguard our housing from draft, damp and mold. ESTI has very professionally guided this innovation trajectory in  their role of independent orchestrator. We have truly valued our collaboration with ESTI; the consultants at ESTI are highly experienced and knowledgeable. It was good to know how committed and reachable the team was. Throughout the entire process the communication lines were short which meant we could switch easily. This has lead us to also organize the Insulation Challenge with ESTI, together with three Utrecht-based housing corporations.”

Gerdi Berkers, Mitros

“Through Mitros housing corporation our organization came into contact with ESTI (former House of Open Innovation). Together with Bo-Ex, Mitros and Portaal we organized the Insulation Challenge, guided by ESTI throughout the challenge. Without the professional guidance of ESTI, this innovative challenge would not have been feasible in such a short time frame. We have experienced Rick and his team as flexible, professional and always capable of bringing us to a higher level. Their experience with these types of trajectories preserves you from having to reinvent the wheel. That made this trajectory very efficient. Also the contact moments felt natural and relaxed, bringing out the best strengths in us as housing corporations. I look back with pleasure to a very successful process.”

Nico van Ginkel, Portaal

“What if the solution is truly understanding the problem?”

– Graham Cross

Susanne Toussaint

Our Program Manager Susanne keeps our trajectories on track and will gladly talk to you.