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Within the Unica strategy, the Unica Innovation Center remains an important driving force for the innovation of service provision in the broadest sense of the word. The team operates as a separate division that maintains its strategic focus on innovation. It brings together the innovative capacity within the Unica companies while also bringing on board supply chain partners, clients and other market parties, as well as developing its own services to tie in with the traditional activities of Unica.

An excellent example in which (new) technology is embedded in the company is the Building Insight platform, an online application in which numerous building functions are managed and analysed. Building Insight gathers data from building management systems, sensors, smart meters, access control systems, weather systems and apps for smartphones. On behalf of building owners, these data sources are combined in clearly designed dashboards with real-time models that anticipate expected changes. The rollout in 2022 of new modules means that an integrated platform is now available for digital building management.

As well as developing its own platform, the Unica Innovation Center also assists in tackling specific issues for its clients, in which innovation can make the difference. For the National Archive for example, an innovative system of climate control was developed. This means that while complying with the strict conditions and requirements for archiving, further steps can be taken towards sustainability. On behalf of Fashion for Good, an initiative in Amsterdam aimed at establishing a sustainable fashion industry, the user comfort of the listed building was measured in which the initiative is accommodated. Based on those measurements, the building conditions were optimised in line with the organisation’s sustainability ambitions. User experience is also the central element in the support provided to the DeLaMar theatre. Data from the building management system, sensors, online ticket sales, marketing systems and surveys have all been combined in an integrated dashboard that gives the Amsterdam theatre a greater insight into costs and an understanding of the theatrical experience of its visitors.

The clusters themselves are also open to the use of new techniques. Boele Fire Protection was the first in the Netherlands to market a solution for the remote management of sprinkler installations. By eradicating the need for two-weekly tests on location, huge savings can be achieved in costs, travel movements and CO2 emissions. In developing this service, the expertise of sister companies was utilised, for the realisation of an industrial computer (PLC), the equipping of a control room and the securing of the system according to the highest cybersecurity standards.

In 2023, Boele Fire Protection will also be launching an expansion of its Battery Power Supply, a battery system that supplies a sprinkler pump. This solution, introduced in 2021, will be expanded to include an Energy Storage System (EOS) in which the energy required by the battery will be internally generated and stored. The knowledge of the Unica Energy Solutions cluster is essential to this innovation programme. Smart Savings, an application that transmits a digital signal when a fire-retardant component is penetrated, is another innovation from Unica in the fire safety domain. Unica Fire Safety is investing heavily in reinforcing its expertise and creating support for changes in the sector. The cluster is regularly represented at international conferences such as the ESFN conference held in London in 2022.

Where innovation has already taken flight in the fire safety domain, there is still much ground to be made up in the industrial sector. Many industrial manufacturers continue to use tailor-made automation applications, specifically designed for their manufacturing process. Industrial automation specialists Pro-Fa Automation are currently developing a generic platform that offers far greater flexibility in the form of a web application and makes use of the latest IT techniques. In refrigeration technology, too, with companies like PCT Koudetechniek and Van Kempen Koudetechniek, Unica has access to considerable innovative capacity. Various knowledge areas are investigating how heat, as a by-product of refrigeration systems, can be used to support sustainability processes.

After the first two editions were focused on product innovations, the Innovation Challenge 2022 was aimed at the labour market. Although a less tangible element of the supply chain, it is an area that represents an urgent problem for the sector. With that in mind, Unica called upon its suppliers to come up with innovative ideas for increasing the labour capacity of the sector. The winner was De Harde Leerschool, a foundation that offers a valuable programme in which (young) adults with limited job prospects or education are given a new opportunity to participate in society via the sport of rugby. There are numerous other opportunities for encouraging candidates to transfer into the technical sector and Unica wishes to tap into that potential in collaboration with De Harde Leerschool.