IMPACT 2025 - Topsector T&U Innovation Prize 2021

IMPACT 2025 - Topsector T&U Innovation Prize 2021

The third edition of the Topsector T&U Innovation Prize will take place in 2021. This edition will present a selection of international and ground-breaking innovations that contribute to the realisation of sustainable horticulture: CROSS-BORDER INNOVATION.

Cross-border innovation in horticulture

Dutch horticulture will be facing a number of challenges in the future. The following topics are of crucial importance to the sector:

  • Taking steps towards circular agriculture
  • Making the transition towards climate-neutral horticulture
  • Improving the health and safety of our food
  • Contributing to sustainable water consumption

Key technologies such as AI, robotisation, hydrogen technology and ICT play an important role in all of these topics. These technologies help us on all fronts, whether scientific, economic and social, now and in the future, by enabling solutions to issues relating to such topics as the climate, health, production, cultivation and mobility.

What we have observed here is that innovations for the horticultural sector do not necessarily have to originate from the 'traditional' horticultural innovation ecosystem, but that pioneering innovations for the horticultural sector can also spring from other sectors.

In this edition of the Innovation Prize, Topsector T&U (the stakeholder organisation for the Dutch Horticulture and Propagation Materials Top Sector) therefore expressly challenges entrants from other sectors who can 'deploy' their innovations for the benefit of Dutch horticulture to enter this competition. In two words: cross-border innovation!


Examples of cross-border innovation in horticulture

Cross-border thinking

An innovation often has its roots in technology. However, an approach is now needed in which technological innovation (the product or the solution; e.g. the robot or the app), system innovation (the application, e.g. the cultivation system or logistics concept) and social innovation (humanity; partnerships or business cases) go hand in hand.

Cross-border added value

Innovation is defined as a vehicle to cut costs. However, taking the combination of cost savings and added value as a starting point offers new opportunities. So, not only will the deployment of a robot be beneficial in terms of cutting labour costs; it also helps you focus on producing a higher-quality product and less waste.

Cross-border technologies

An increasing focus is needed on the integrated use of a number of key technologies such as information technology, artificial intelligence (AI), robotisation, big data and data science for horticultural applications.

Cross-border knowledge

There is a great deal of development going on in other fields. These developments are often very specific to a particular branch of industry. Perhaps they can also be placed in a horticultural perspective to facilitate improvements in the field of horticulture as well. But how can we make this connection?

Cross-border links in the chain

Innovations are often developed to benefit a specific link in the chain (cultivation, marketing, trade, etc.), but the challenge lies in developing solutions that provide added value to all links in the chain.

Cross-border top sectors

Innovation in the Dutch ecosystem is strongly represented in the nine top sectors. However, connecting, making crossovers and, as a result, learning from each other can lead to new insights and acceleration.

Cross-border Nederlandse missions

The government has developed 25 missions for the Top Sectors and Innovation Policy. Solutions should not only contribute to one of these missions; they should also be implemented in an integral manner.

Cross-border triple helix

Cooperation between research, business and education not only provides different perspectives or solutions, but also connects the current generation with the new generation.


International cooperation has served as a cornerstone for the success of the Dutch horticulture industry for many years. Opportunities for innovation also arise from international connections.


We are seeking cross-border solutions for cross-border challenges in horticulture

In this edition of the Innovation Prize, we are looking for start-ups that are working on:

  • Products and services (TRL Level 6 plus *) that contribute to horticulture with regard to:
    • Taking the next step in circular horticulture
    • Making the transition towards climate-neutral horticulture
    • Improving the health and safety of our food
    • Contributing to sustainable water consumption

This applies to sectors such as propagation materials, cultivation, trade, grading & packaging, marketing, and the integral supply chain, in which the connection by means of cross-border innovation is an important element in terms of both technology and organisation.

  • In cases like these, the product or service is more than a purely technological innovation. It contains components of system innovation and/or social innovation.
  • The product or service is developed by a team that is ‘cross-over’ to the core. Different disciplines, people or backgrounds working together to find solutions.

* TRL Level 6 plus: System prototype demonstration in operational environment, the technology is integrated into the final operational environment. The focus is now on issues such as production and certification.

Nominees for coaching & training

Ten participants selected from among the entrants will be eligible to win a market readiness training course presented by World Startup. They will work on their business model, strategy, marketing & sales and will, of course, obtain guidance in preparing their pitch to the jury.

Entrants will also be eligible for project support by students of Wageningen University & Research via the Academic Consultancy Training programme.

Registration is closed!


The deadline for submitting an entry for the Innovation Prize is 15 August 2020. Entries can be submitted via the registration form on the website of the Topsector Tuinbouw & Uitgangsmaterialen innovation and valorisation programme . Here you will also find all further information. The jury will nominate ten finalists on the basis of the entries. The finalists will pitch their idea online before the jury, on the basis of which a winner will be chosen.

Alle planningen, met name locaties/fysiek/online onder voorbehoud van Covid-19 issues.

The following dates are important:

  • 15 August - Registration deadline
  • 15 August until tot 1 September -Nomination of the jury (possibly through a digital procedure)
  • 1 September - Announcement of the Top 10 (jury)
  • 1 September until 1 Oktober -Voting for the audience award
  • 1 September until 1 Oktober - Training
  • 7 Oktober - National Horticultural Congress + awards ceremony


The third edition of this award is made possible in conjunction with Wageningen University & Research. In addition to the jury prize, an audience award will also be conferred.

Jury Prize

The winner of the jury prize will receive:

  • A voucher worth 25,000 euros for the further development of their solution or concept and/or the resolution of bottlenecks in collaboration with the research staff of Wageningen University & Research
  • Personalised guidance from a T&U innovation broker (20 hours, worth 2,500 euros);
  • A StartLife wild card made available by Startlife Accelerate
  • Media exposure via KAS Magazine (worth 1,500 euros).

Audience Award

The winner of the audience award will receive:

  • A cash prize of € 1,500;
  • A 6-month HortiTech Startup Membership with access to the network, knowledge and facilities of innovation platform HortiHeroes and World Horti Center;
  • Media exposure via KAS Magazine (worth 1,500 euros).
Registration is closed!

Awards ceremony

The Innovation Prize will be conferred at the National Horticultural Congress on 7 October in Bomencentrum Nederland in Baarn, the Netherlands. The nominees will pitch their innovation before a jury of experts. An interactive workshop will be organised by World Startup in which the various innovative start-ups and entrepreneurs will be paired up with one another.