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The COVID-19 crisis had a profound impact on society and the global economy in 2020. So many things that we had previously considered perfectly normal suddenly turned out to be much less self-evident. Both personally and professionally, 2020 was therefore a year of ‘grinning and bearing it’. TNO, nevertheless, responded quickly and effectively to the new situation. What exactly TNO did and what it achieved in 2020 is set out in its 2020 Annual Report.
With its Brains4COVID-19 programme, TNO was truer than ever to its slogan, ‘Innovation for life’. Early in the year, many TNO employees unleashed their brainpower in search of solutions to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. This led to a series of inspiring projects, including an accelerated coronavirus test based on LAMP technology, the PUPPY home delivery arrangement, re-use of facemasks, an international COVID-19 passport, and much more. "COVID-19 also shows how things can happen much faster than we sometimes think," commented CEO Paul de Krom. "That’s something we need to remember for the future."
TNO realised a good financial result in 2020. Thanks to increased government funding in recent years, it has been able to grow after an earlier period of retrenchment, and to build up a sufficient volume of work. However, the volume of work is now starting to become a matter of concern, because orders from parties in the private sector are declining as a result of the economic crisis.
Through the development and deployment of key technologies in such areas as AI, the impact of TNO became tangible during the year in countless innovations. The Annual Report describes ten important game changers. One is ‘predictive twins’, digital replicas of physical structures that can be used to predict physical reality. Another is Quantum Inspire, a partnership between TNO and Delft University of Technology that makes quantum computing accessible to everyone. And thermochromic coatings can be applied to windows to smartly save energy.
Innovations make their biggest impact when they reach the market. To speed up that process, TNO launched the Technology Transfer Programme (TTP) in 2017. The aim is to get an innovation or a new technology to market within a year of its being registered with the TTP, either by licensing it to an existing company or by setting up a new one. Nine spin-offs were set up in 2020. Three years after the start of the programme, TNO celebrated the launch of the twenty-fifth spin-off, together with State Secretary Mona Keijzer of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy. You can read all about the 25 spin-offs here.
In 2020, a TO2 evaluation committee set up by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy started the four-yearly evaluation of applied research institutions. The evaluation was completed in early 2021 with a positive result: the committee found TNO’s research to be of high quality across the board and in some areas even world-leading. According to the committee, the fact that results are widely used by its clients and partners means that TNO does indeed make an important contribution to solving societal problems.
TNO was fortunately able to continue to count on many clients and partners in 2020. The Executive Board is very grateful for their confidence in the organisation during this complicated period. But none of this would have been possible without the ongoing commitment, versatility, and creativity of TNO’s own people. The Executive Board would like to thank everyone for their trust in and efforts for TNO. We look forward to continuing our cooperation in the coming year.