TU/e has no Drivers of Change for DDW 2024

Dutch Design Week will this year have to do without TU/e's Drivers of Change exhibition. The budget made available by the Executive Board falls far short, says Lucas Asselbergs, of the funding needed to organize an expo that “represents all the departments and enables TU/e to showcase its capacity to make an impact.”

photo Christ Clijsen

‘Incredibly important,' are the words Asselbergs uses to describe TU/e's participation in DDW, and in keeping with this, strong disappointment was the sentiment expressed by the board of the Dutch Design Foundation, which organizes DDW, when it fell to Asselbergs, as project manager of Drivers of Change, to deliver the news of TU/e's absence this year. “Drivers of Change is one of the few events at which TU/e showcases itself in the city, at an event that draws important people from across the country. The Queen's presence at the event speaks to its prestige.”

The funding that TU/e is able to allocate this year to Drivers of Change is estimated to cover half the anticipated costs. “With this - non-negotiable - sum we'd have to produce a much smaller exhibition or rethink the venue,” says Asselbergs. He advises against both options. “We could put on a good exhibition on the TU/e campus, but that would severely impede our objective of bringing technological designs to the attention of a broad audience. To do that, we need a presence at [one of] DDW's A locations, as we'd had for years.” TU/e has held major exhibitions in the Klokgebouw, at Strijp-T and at Ketelhuisplein. “The campus simply isn't on the DDW route.”

The second option, a smaller expo, wouldn't do justice to the significant technological designs being produced in every department, and wouldn't be sufficiently high profile. “You wouldn't be making an impact and if that's the case, you might as well skip the whole thing.

Stormy weather

The budget cuts (a term not used in preference to the euphemisms ‘TU/e has hit stormy weather' and ‘we need to prune back our events') come at a bad time. “It's a real struggle to reduce costs, the price of everything has risen.” Every square foot of exhibition space costs money, all the materials and equipment must be good quality (the glasshouses that used to house the exhibition were once ravaged by a storm) and good staff must be paid. “And DDW isn't alone in receiving less funding. Board secretary Eric van der Geer let me know that pruning will have to happen elsewhere too. I think that funding likely to come soon from The Hague will have to be earmarked for the university's core business, education and research; it won't be used to save Drivers of Change,” said Asselbergs. ??wie is hier aan het praten??


Preparations for Drivers of Change were already in full swing. A tendering process was underway to bring a new design agency on board, a complex process given the complexity involved in staging Drivers of Change. A number of potential projects had already been scouted. Asselbergs, head of Studium Generale, spends an average of one day a week organizing the expo - all year long. He has also asked the Executive Board to help TU/e researchers who want to exhibit under their own name, but since the participation fee is 750 euros, he fears his request will fall on deaf ears. “I think this year there'll be precise little of TU/e to see, which is regrettable. We'll miss opportunities to connect with businesses and institutions and to get researchers and designers talking with DDW visitors. At the end of the day, it's a form of valorization.”

Asselbergs is keen to look into whether a biannual expo would make sense. “It's not an easy arrangement to explain to the public, but it may be better than nothing. Whatever happens, TU/e is keen to remain connected with DDW; technological design adds significant value to DDW.”

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