Brabant at the forefront of new solar energy developments with strategic investment

Solar modules and mass customization
14 December 2022

The signing of an agreement between the Province of North Brabant, the Brabant Development Company, and TNO, partner in Solliance, heralds a new phase for the application of solar energy. At the Brainport Industry Campus (BIC) in Eindhoven, TNO is creating a new research line to develop innovative solar energy products. This is part of a strategy in which perovskite also has an important role.

Innovatiecoalitie covenant solar energy
From left to right: Martijn van Gruijthuijsen, Brigit van Dijk - Van de Reijt, Harm Jeeninga. Photographer: Eddie Mol

This involves being able to incorporate flexible solar laminates into components for buildings, infrastructure, and vehicles. The Netherlands is leading the way worldwide with this ‘mass customization’ production concept. The research line was conceived by TNO, and built by industry partners such as MAAN and Duflex, with financial support from the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy.

Running in parallel is the research programme on industrialised manufacturing of perovskites, a promising thin-film material for solar energy applications. The aim is for both studies to also converge on mass customization based on perovskite. Perovskite is a relatively new material for use in solar cells and has potential advantages over conventional silicon. The raw material for perovskite is abundantly available, the material and production costs are lower and the efficiency potentially higher. In addition, perovskite can be combined with silicon cells, for instance, to form a so-called tandem application. This creates a solar cell with a very high efficiency.

Practical steps

The collaboration with the Province of North Brabant will enable practical steps to be taken in developing integrated photovoltaic (PV) components in the coming years. The agreement with the province and the Brabant Development Company marks the start of an innovation coalition in the field of solar energy and offers many opportunities for the business community in Brainport and Brabant to help shape this innovative development. The strategic investment by the province in making mass customization and perovskite ready for the market can reach up to € 4.3 million.


The aim is to make mass customization – the large-scale manufacture of custom-made PV laminates – market-ready. In the research line, which is basically a programmable collection of robots, processes are developed for the manufacturing of flexible semi-finished products with PV functionality in every conceivable size, shape, and electrical power. Component manufacturers can then incorporate such semi-finished products into their own products without significantly changing their production process.

“In Brabant, we’re working on solutions to the societal challenges of today and of the future. Here, you’ll find the knowledge to solve a problem and the smart manufacturing industry to make that solution a reality. With this new collaboration, we hope to make solar energy better, more affordable, and more available, and lay the foundation for increased production in Europe.”

Martijn van Gruijthuijsen

Provincial government administrator

"Innovation is indispensable for realising the energy transition. As BOM, we are therefore fully committed to creating innovative companies, that take solar energy to the next level, ready for market and investment."

Brigit van Dijk - Van de Reijt

Managing director of the Brabant Development Corporation (BOM)

Semi-finished products can be made on the same production line for all possible integrated PV products. This allows existing companies to break new ground and provides opportunities for new market entrants. The research line will also play a major role in the European MC2.0 project led by TNO, which will start in January 2023, with 20 partners from various countries providing input.

Possible to make integrated PV cost-effective

Harm Jeeninga, Market Director for Energy & Materials Transition at TNO: ‘We’ll work with our partners from across the supply chain to demonstrate that automated manufacturing of integrated PV elements is cost-effective in existing and new markets. This will initially involve construction elements in façades and roofing, but we’ve also shown that you can aesthetically and effectively incorporate PV components into the roofs and bonnets of cars or into noise barriers.

Harm Jeeninga

"We’re convinced that integrated PV components can be produced substantially more cheaply by developing this value chain regionally. The introduction of affordable semi-finished products is going to create a completely new market, in which the Brabant ecosystem can play a leading role.”

Harm Jeeninga

Market Director for Energy & Materials Transition at TNO

The Province of North Brabant wants to work with research institutions and the business community to establish several innovation coalitions. Joining forces in these coalitions will make it possible to accelerate innovations, and so provide solutions to societal challenges. A big step towards using any suitable surface to generate sustainable electricity within 10 years.

Research line solar cells
Mass customization research line. Photo: Bart van Overbeeke

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