A wonderful mix of variegated interior design and industrial rawness makes up the new “NIRAS Green Tech Hub” north of Copenhagen. In the 5,000 square meters hub, green entrepreneurs don’t just get an office space but also studios for audio and video production, a drone workshop, maker space with 3D printers and storage and production facilities. And with a six-meter headroom, there should be plenty of space for ideas both practically and figuratively.
“This is the mindset everyone should be affected by when they step inside: inspiration for creative solutions and high ambitions,” says Sophie Bech, who is the director of the new, green entrepreneur hub.
At the same time, she wants to ensure that the impressive surroundings do not merely end up as a far-fetched CSR strategy for impact and innovation in the international consulting firm. The place must lead to superclass professional content and partnerships, where entrepreneurs and NIRAS bring new, concrete and green solutions into the world in a joint effort. Solutions that can support both parties’ future business – and in the long run become a core part of the well-established company.
“The concept is, that entrepreneurs who reside in the hub work in the same areas as NIRAS. In that process, we need to ask ourselves: What is it that the startup needs from us – not what NIRAS needs from them. Because in the long run, it is two sides of the same coin,” says Bech.
Validation through partnership
One of the new residents of NIRAS Green Tech Hub is the startup BuildCode. With a combination of 3D scans and a digital platform, the startup’s core product ‘SiteMotion’ is a shared tool for construction managers, architects and engineers who use it to track the entire process on a construction site in real-time.
“Today, total registrations of an entire construction site are too expensive, but with our technology, we make it possible to make the registrations on an ongoing basis at a manageable price. It almost creates an X-ray of the buildings with all the specific data available in the future – which becomes particularly relevant when the construction industry enters the circular economy,” says Martin Haurballe, founder and CEO of BuildCode.
In the hub, he has received valuable coaching from both his co-entrepreneurs and experts from NIRAS. At the same time, the new office space has helped establish a partnership with the large consulting firm.
“We have become a part of some projects where NIRAS sees an advantage in using a system like SiteMotion. A collaboration that has come as an extension of us residing in the hub,” he says.
For a young startup, a partnership like this validates the solution. A validation that can help the new software platform make its way into, even more, major construction projects. However, Haurballe does not see the partnership as a freebie given to him simply because he is a resident. Sure, it has made the dialogues with the consulting company easier, but the partnership has only become a reality because it adds real value for both parties.
“As entrepreneurs, we benefit from using each other in the hub, but we also get something from NIRAS, and NIRAS gets something from us – and that’s exactly how it should be if sustainable business is the aim,” says Martin Haurballe.
Engineers and entrepreneurs move the needle together
As part of the concept behind ‘NIRAS Green Tech Hub’ the residing entrepreneurs get 30 hours of free advice from the company’s experts included in their lease. An important first step in ensuring the experts’ involvement in the startup residents, so the hub does not become its own silo next to NIRAS, but an integrated part of the company.
“The idea is that we should start merging more and more. Either by hiring the entrepreneurs in the hub as subcontractors for some of our projects, use our experts in their solutions, or maybe even by building something together,” says Sophie Bech.
What the next step in bringing the two parties closer together will be, she does not yet know. Perhaps an accelerator based on customer challenges. Maybe a program for international startups. Or maybe NIRAS’ employees should also be able to make an internal startup in the hub, where they can be exposed to the entrepreneurial mindset. The overall vision, however, is crystal clear: NIRAS Green Tech Hub has to become a part of NIRAS’ core business. This way, the entrepreneurs do not only inspire each other but also influence the company.
“I believe that the link between the company and startups, with their innovations and design thinking and LEAN mindsets, can move something on the green agenda; it is riskier to work with startups, but they are also the ones who can push our boundaries,” says Sophie Bech.
About: Niras Green Tech Hub
- NIRAS Green Tech Hub can accommodate up to 100 entrepreneurs on its total of 5.000 square meters. 2,500 square meters is for storage and assembly with the possibility of easier production and technical work while the other 2,500 square meters is an open office landscape with common facilities and networking areas.
- The lease is 1200DKK or 2200DKK (depending on the startups generating revenue or not) incl. coffee and administrative costs. 30 hours of free consulting assistance from domain-specific NIRAS engineers is included in the lease.
- NIRAS works with the following sectors: Construction, Data & Digitization, Energy, Food, Ports & Coasts, Infrastructure, Environment, Pharma & Life Science, Planning & Mobility, Development Aid and Water. All entrepreneurs with tech solutions related to these areas can apply for a seat in the hub.