Register directly for the 2023 SME Challenge

Sea level rise and an ever-growing population are putting increasing pressure on deltas worldwide. New knowledge and innovations are needed to provide a safe and sustainable way of living in delta areas. Many of these innovations, which could positively impact society, are being developed by start-ups and other small & medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Deltares develops knowledge on a variety of technical water and soil-related topics using modern experimental facilities available on its own campus in Delft. With the SME challenge, Deltares offers 80 hours of free access to the Hydro and Geo facilities and laboratories to test design concepts of innovations. Think of innovative solutions in the field of coastal protection, soil protection, energy supply, monitoring or measuring instruments. The possibilities in the facilities are endless.

SMEs or start-ups can apply for the SME Challenge - laboratories until the end of September 2023. Participants can get access to our laboratories to test their design concepts there. Watch the video below (Dutch).


At the geochemistry and microbiology lab, a lot of experimental research is done on, among other things, the biodegradation of (future) contaminants, think of PFAS, microplastics. Research is also conducted into microbial corrosion of steel infrastructure and development of new monitoring techniques for organic and microbial contaminants. It also studies (geochemical) processes in, for instance, sediment applications and the composition of organic material. The lab also has facilities for performing anaerobic microbiological research, DNA/RNA analyses (at population and gene level), hydrogen analyses and the measurement of nutrients and also greenhouse gases both in the lab and live in the field.

The physical lab also does provide a playing field for research into new (measurement) techniques. There are a number of standard measuring instruments that can be used for different purposes. With minor adjustments to instrument or (water,soil) sample or other sample preparation, nice results can be obtained.

Case study T&K SME challenge

T&K Service collaborates with Deltares in innovative soil remediation projects. To tap a new market, micro-organisms are selected and grown in a bioreactor for the degradation of aromatic compounds. With the SME Challenge, a bioreactor has been made available to T&K to investigate whether a population of bacteria can be acquired that can break down contaminants such as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes (BTEX). T&K can then add a biological step to its chemical oxidation method for these contaminants.

We can thus improve the effectiveness of soil remediation and significantly reduce costs.

Nanne Hoekstra, Soil and groundwater quality expert at Deltares

Hydro facilities

The Scheldt Flume, also known as Scheldt flume, is a transparent Plexiglas flume where innovative coastal and offshore designs can be exposed to waves. Examples of innovative initiatives that can be tested include; artificial reefs, coastal and bottom protection and rock settlements.

The Water and Soil Flume is frequently used by our partners from the marine and energy sector and dredging and mining industry. The large-scale facility is the go-to research flume for soil-related R&D projects and innovations. Unique features of the water and soil flume include; the rail system motor car, the 'clay factory', the hexapod platform, a Plexiglas flume and the availability of numerous measuring instruments. Examples of innovative initiatives that can be tested include; (deep sea) cutting and suction heads, anchors, sprayers, plume dispersion, 'bubble screens', monopile installation, stability and so on. The Atlantic basin can be used for coastal, river, port and offshore projects.

Case study Weco SME challenge

Weco is een startup bedrijf gerund door drie jonge en enthousiaste afgestudeerden van de TU Delft, Universiteit Wageningen en Utrecht. Hun product is een Wave Energy Converter. Om de volgende stap naar de praktijk te maken, schreef het bedrijf zich in voor de mkb challenge van Deltares. Toen ze waren geselecteerd, kreeg Weco toegang tot de Scheldegoot. In de goot werd het gedrag van het apparaat getest. Luc Hogervorst, medeoprichter Weco over het project: 'We waren erg blij dat we onze Wave Energy Converter bij Deltares konden testen in de Scheldegoot, waar het mogelijk was om zowel golven als stroming op te wekken.'

At Deltares, we learned a lot about our Wave Energy Converter, which allowed us to take the next step in the design process..

Luc Hogervorst, co-founder Weco

Field facilities

Deltares has unique in-situ geophysical measurement and monitoring techniques for the subsurface and surface, on land and at sea. Applications of the techniques include mapping (determination of subsurface structure), detection of (un)natural obstacles and risk mitigation in construction projects. These techniques make it possible to monitor innovations in the field, on a large scale.

We also have facilities at our disposal where we can conduct controlled experiments. In addition, Deltares continuously measures water quality at a number of locations in the Netherlands. At Vuursteentocht and Vinkenloop, for instance, nutrients in surface water are measured with high time resolution. These 'controlled' locations can be used by SME initiatives, for example, to test new measurement techniques.

Case study WaterQi SME challenge

The WaterQi is a device that generates very small bubbles to increase the amount of oxygen in ditches and lakes. In addition, the WaterQi produces concentrated 'foam' through the bubbles. The SME challenge provided an opportunity to investigate which contaminants were collected in the foam. Among other things, it was found that the foam had a higher concentration of PFAS than the water at the inlet. So this could be a promising solution to improve water quality. With the WaterQi, we are working on ecological restoration and improving water quality with nanobubbles'.

The research at Deltares produced recommendations to increase the effectiveness of the method.

Ben de Vos, WaterQi

Geo facilities

Deltares' Geotechnical Laboratory specialises in performing complex, advanced standardised tests (such as cyclic triaxial, compressive and shear tests) and developing and conducting non-standard experiments in order to determine soil parameters under specific conditions or conduct experiments in conjunction with the execution of large-scale field experiments.

The GeoCentrifuge is a special facility. Because gravitational forces (g-force) can be generated up to as much as 150 g as the centrifuge spins around, actual sizes can be scaled. The size of the machine means that structures such as dykes, railway tracks and wind turbines can be tested and effects such as subsidence and climate change measured in the ground.

The Geohal houses a large number of generic set-ups that enable scale tests of soil and soil-construction interaction. Here, we can determine the static and dynamic properties of soil and soil-construction interaction under conditioned conditions and validate and optimise soil-mechanical designs with the results.

Related initiatives

This year, SLAMDAM will have the unique opportunity to test their inflatable barrier in Deltares' Delta flume. A test has already been done to see if the barrier fits in the flume and how long it takes to set up and remove the barrier. The real wave tests will be carried out this autumn and are going to show what wave heights the barrier can withstand.

Register directly for the 2023 SME Challenge

SME challenge 2023

Facility Dates
Field facilitiesQ1: Apply between 1 January and 31 March 2023 (closed)
Geo facilitiesQ2: Apply between 1 April and 31 May 2023 (closed)
LaboratoriesQ3: Apply between 1 July and 30 September 2023
Hydro facilitiesQ4: Apply between 1 November and 31 December 2023

We warmly welcome innovative SMEs to our experimental testing facilities to collaborate on innovative developments and solutions. To apply, download the application form. Fill it in with information about your company and innovation and send it to Madelief Doeleman.

SMEs or start-ups can apply for the SME Challenge - Laboratories until the end of September 2023. Participants can get access to our laboratories to test their design concepts there.

With our experts, we take the latest techniques and innovations a step further and thus, also together with SMEs, we come closer to solutions for societal challenges.

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