National Icon competition 2014

During the Innovation Conference in November 2014, Dutch Minister of Economic Affairs Henk Kamp announced four winners of the National Icon competition. These four innovative projects were selected by a panel of judges out of the 165 projects submitted.

The four winners


Bioneedle is a new form of vaccination, with applications for both people and livestock. Instead of having to use needles, syringes, and vials, Veterinarian Gijsbert van de Wijdeven has developed a system in which Bioneedles, which come prepared with the proper dosage of a given vaccine, are injected using a vaccination gun and then promptly dissolve in the skin. This ensures a swifter and more hygienic procedure, reduces the risk of error, and allows for more effective distribution in developing countries. The Bioneedle system meets the standards of the World Health Organization and has the potential to improve childhood vaccination programmes worldwide. Even today, more than 1.2 million children die every year from infectious diseases that could have been prevented. The Bioneedle system could also aid in combating pandemics like Ebola.

Hybrid potatoes

The potato is the fourth largest crop globally, in terms of production. Yet no major innovations have been made in potatoes for some 60 years; the main variety in Europe today is still the bintje, introduced by a Dutch schoolteacher in 1904. But now Solynta has introduced a new breeding technique, using seeds instead of seed potatoes, which allows genetic material to be diversified and improved. This makes it possible to boost the nutritional value of potatoes and to cultivate different varieties, which in turn leads to greater efficiency in storage and transport and a lower incidence of disease.


QuTech in Delft is working on the development of special nanochips to create quantum bits, which can exist simultaneously as both a one and a zero. This gives computers exponentially more computational power. It also makes it possible to 'teleport' information: data disappears at the sender's end and appears at the receiver's end without travelling the distance in between, making interception impossible. There is great interest in this technology due to its potential applications in the security field, telecoms, matter and pharmaceutical research, and energy storage. Quantum Technologies has great prospects in Europe, and there are plans to launch a major Dutch-led investment programme. See the video on this project on YouTube

Cultured stem cells

Every organ in the human body has its own specialized stem cells, to replace damaged tissue. Hans Clevers, MD PhD, with the Hubrecht Institute, has developed a technique to identify these stem cells and replicate them unlimitedly in the laboratory. This enables Clevers to grow miniature organs or 'organoids' outside the body, and to regenerate organ tissue inside the body. This discovery offers great benefits for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, as well as other diseases. Cancer medicines can, for instance, first be tested on cultured tissue from a particular tumour, before being used to treat the patient. At the newly-founded HUB Center for Organoid Technology, Clevers and his team are working to further develop this patented breakthrough technology and refine it for clinical use.


Each of the National Icons will be assigned a minister to support their further development and to serve as an ambassador for the project for the next few years. The idea is to remove as many obstacles as possible to allow the National Icons to realize their potential and achieve their ambitions, both in the Netherlands and beyond.


Dutch National Icons are groundbreaking, innovative projects that help address larger social issues. Through the National Icon Competition, the Dutch Government aims to inspire the country to keep innovating and to show the world what we do well.

The 2014 Innovation Conference, organized by the Netherlands Academy of Technology and Innovation and the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, has as its theme the dynamic and sustainable delta, with a focus on urban areas. Worldwide, cities are the motors of our economies and soon, the majority of the world's population will live in urban areas. Cities also attract creativity, innovation, talent, and capital. How will we live and learn in our cities in the decades to come? How will we live and work, create and govern? The Conference will conclude with the start of the Innovation Relay of 2016, during the Dutch Presidency of the European Union.