No SME request is beyond the reach of the Enterprise Europe Network, which helped a Swiss company find a way to grow plants on walls by matching it with a Dutch horticultural innovator.
Zurich-based Hydroplant AG supplies plants to top Swiss hospitals, banks and restaurants from seedlings cultivated in water. The plants are mounted in an acrylic glass installation that features a water reservoir, passive watering system and a special mat on which they can grow.
To capitalise on expanding demand for plant-covered walls that look good as well as release healthy oxygen into the environment, owner and managing director Moritz Küderli asked the Network to help find a partner. "We had been searching mainly in the building industry, but the Network quickly pointed us in a different direction," said Mr Küderli.
After finding Mr Küderli's Technology Offer in the Network database, Ernst-Jan van Hattum, Network innovation and technology consultant with Euresearch in Bern, introduced him to Quick Plug B.V. This Dutch company supplies seedlings and plant cuttings - known as substrate - to leading European growers. For Hydroplant, Quick Plug cultivated Verticalis 1.0, a new substrate (slightly adjusted for colour and thickness) for vertically grown plants with their own automatic watering system.
"Innovation is all about making the right strategic connections at home and abroad," explains Paul Asselbergs, a Network innovation specialist at Stichting Syntens, now known as 'KVK', in The Hague. He has matched Quick Plug with new partners in several different countries.
In this case, Syntens promoted the Network services to Quick Plug and made two technology offers for the company's technology. These included the specialised substrate materials for the horticultural sector. Quick Plug also received information and advice from the Dutch Network Partner and participated in regional innovation projects.
This Dutch-Swiss link-up has been fruitful. According to Küderli, Hydroplant boosted its turnover by 12% in 2013, attributing a sixth of that figure to Verticalis sales. The two companies are also developing a new and larger product, known as Verticalis 2.0.
"We are just starting to export our products, with active matchmaking support from the Swiss Network Partner," says Mr Küderli, who also praises its "exemplary customer service".
"The seeds have been planted for a long-term collaboration," adds Quick Plug CEO Erik de Ruiter.