Integrated and area-based working

In the Netherlands we are having to contend with complex social challenges. Take the energy transition, the nitrogen problem, grid congestion, or climate change, for example. At a local level these social challenges become intertwined, which is why at TNO Vector we are committed to integrated and area-based working.

TNO Vector patroon animatie still

What is integrated working and why should you do it?

A practical example of integrated and area-based working in a district is greening. More greenery in a district helps to:

  • Slow down water runoff during heavy rainfall in order to prevent flooding
    Retain water in times of drought
  • Combat extreme heat
  • Reduce noise pollution, as a kind of natural sound barrier.

This is the idea behind integrated working at district level: in the example above a single measure is a solution to four different problems. At a time like this, when problems are starting to pile up, the benefits of working in this way in a district or area are clear to see.

Our vision of integrated working

At TNO Vector we embrace integrated thinking and working. This approach opens up a host of new opportunities for governments, businesses, and social initiators. A house or car can be transformed into a tool to support the energy transition. Houses (and gardens) can be used to promote climate adaptation, by means of greening. A home battery or electric-car battery can help avoid overloading of the power grid. This way of thinking, that is integrated working.

Application in agriculture

Integrated thinking can also help solve social problems on a larger scale. Take the example of agriculture. TNO is collaborating on innovations in the area of bio-based building materials. Waste streams from agriculture can be used for other purposes, offering the entire sector opportunities to develop alternative earning capacity.

In order to be successful, parties from different sectors need to work together more effectively. The production of raw materials should match the need for semi-finished and finished products, such as insulation wool, sheet material, or biocomposite. At TNO Vector we help coordinate risks and uncertainties between parties and support them with their choices.

How do you approach integrated collaboration?

To make a success of integrated collaboration, active participation is needed – by all stakeholders, at all levels. Take the example of grid congestion and the use of home batteries and car batteries. This requires active participation on the part of the user, who uses his or her car as a battery. It also requires the participation of someone else, who uses energy when it is generated during the day. But energy suppliers also have a role to play here. Through the use of variable tariffs, they can make energy cheaper to use when there is a lot of electricity available.

In this way, communities of active users, businesses, and governments are developing around energy networks. The social challenge of climate adaptation also brings different parties together. They are collaborating with the aim of reducing heat, drought, and flooding. Integrated collaboration is developing in this area too and the different parties are learning from each other.

This way of looking at integrated working and the creation of communities around a social challenge is new. TNO Vector aims to achieve a deeper understanding of this approach.

What does integrated and area-based working deliver?

Killing two birds with one stone is the main thinking behind integrated and area-based working, but this philosophy also delivers more:

  • For a start, it saves on costs. Building a road on a dyke is perhaps the oldest example of integrated thinking in our country. The cost of a road on a dyke is lower than the cost of a road and a dyke.
  • The returns are also often greater. Here again, a dyke (or dam) is a good example. The Delta Works were originally designed to prevent another flood disaster. However, the bridges also opened up the Zeeland islands to each other and to the rest of the Netherlands. The project therefore had benefits in two different ways.
  • There are also advantages when it comes to the law. A green neighbourhood is often a quieter, safer neighbourhood, for example. Noise and safety standards are less likely to be breached.

Integrated and area-based working therefore offers effective and efficient solutions to the complex social challenges facing the Netherlands today. It calls for a different way of thinking, from all parties: governments, citizens, businesses, and community institutions, as well as knowledge organisations like ours.

Integrated working and the thinking behind it is relatively new. TNO Vector is embracing this method and this innovative way of working by gaining more in-depth insights and in this way is contributing to a sustainable future for the Netherlands.