Johan Cruijff Arena
SNAPSHOT2022 Jan 24, 2022

Johan Cruijff ArenA: Amsterdam’s living laboratory for innovative digital solutions

Aurelie Favresse

With 55,000 seats, the Johan Cruijff ArenA is the home base for Ajax Amsterdam and the Dutch team. A formidable football temple - but far more than that as well.

With 55,000 seats, the Johan Cruijff ArenA is the home base for Ajax Amsterdam and the Dutch team. A formidable football temple - but far more than that as well. For example, it’s a place where you can attend concerts and business events. Moreover, the ArenA hosts a unique ecosystem for technological innovation. As a partner, Gumption Netherlands wants to discover synergies and launch concepts there.

What does a football stadium have to do with innovation? We put that question to Sander van Stiphout. As Director International and Innovation Program Manager, he outlines the big picture. “Stadiums have their hands full dealing with challenges in terms of mobility, crowd control, safety and sustainability”, he says. “Just like cities, but highly concentrated in time and space. Not coincidentally, the Johan Cruijff ArenA is located in a very bustling part of the Netherlands. The stadium is thus a perfect living lab for studying what innovations can contribute to our smart city.”

From improvement projects to living lab

The municipality of Amsterdam is an important shareholder. In 2013 it launched the idea of making the ArenA a sustainability icon of the city. “That fit in perfectly with our ambition as a state-of-the-art stadium”, Sander explains. “Social responsibility is a core value for us. We took up the challenge and launched several improvement projects. For example, together with the caterer, we found solutions for reducing the mountains of waste. We also invested extensively in green energy. We’ve been carbon-neutral since 2015.”

“Thanks to these projects, we realised that as a stadium, we can bring about change that really has an impact. And that we can create sustainable value for the city. Moreover, we’re a perfect showcase for private partners. The idea of a test laboratory for innovation partners took shape in 2015. We created a learning environment where partners can test concepts in close consultation with the stadium and the government. With the experiences acquired they can then upscale them in other environments. In the ecosystem, you can make contacts, facilitate collaboration, and develop innovative ideas. So far, I haven´t seen any other set-up like it in the Netherlands.”

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Thanks to these projects, we realised that as a stadium, we can bring about change that really has an impact. And that we can create sustainable value for the city.

Further developing solutions together

Today the platform has 30 partners, including universities, research organisations, providers of ICT and telecom services and construction companies. “All of them add value to the ecosystem”, Sander emphasises. "They can use the living lab, with access to our data sources. We look at what’s on the roadmap there together and we help them to further develop solutions. That’s essential because we like being part of the success.”

How our partnership started

"Every year, we also organise a Challenge on a particular theme. The most recent edition generated 329 submissions from 38 countries. That’s how in 2019, we got to know iXpole, a company from the Gumption group. They have strong references for VIP hospitality and sponsorships at large sports clubs in Europe. This year they implemented their solution for the certificate holders of the ArenA as well. That was the start of the partnership with Gumption. Today we’re looking with interest at the skills of Geosparc, another Gumption company that has a passion for mobility and smart cities. Onwards to the next big thing!”

Discover Johan Cruijff ArenA’s living lab: https://www.johancruijffarena.nl/nieuws/innovation-lab/

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