Brainport Smart District has major ambitions

Wina Smeenk connects knowledge of experts with experience of citizens

A super-smart residential and business area bursting with new technologies for transport, health, energy generation and storage, and circular construction. The first phase of the Brainport Smart District in Helmond is due to be completed within the next two years. Participation manager Wina Smeenk connects the knowledge of experts with the experience of citizens. At CWF2019, she co-organises three workshops.

Brainport Smart District has major ambitions, says participation manager Wina Smeenk. The term ‘participation’ refers to the fact that the future residents fully participate in the preparations and realisation of the new district. “All products, systems and services we design for the new residential district must be compatible with the lives of the future residents,” explains Smeenk.

Residents’ needs

Using a fancy term, that collaboration in Brainport Smart District is also called the ‘quadruple helix’, as in addition to residents it also involves government, businesses and knowledge institutes. But the focus is on the residents’ needs, emphasises Smeenk. Residents of Brainport Smart District will, for example, retain ownership of their personal data and they decide for themselves with which persons, institutes and/or companies they share these data.

‘Creative thinking means activating the other half of your brain’

With her innovation and co-design agency Wien’s ontwerperschap, Smeenk supports joint ventures, organisations, teams and professionals in establishing, facilitating and implementing innovation processes. At CWF2019, she will give three workshops, all related to Brainport Smart District. “The first residents will move into their new homes within the next two years. The dreaming and thinking we wish to encourage during the workshops may yield useful ideas. Realising innovative ideas takes years, but we may be able to already take them into account in the infrastructure.”

One of the workshops focuses on the question of how you can design a residential district where cars are banned. Wina Smeenk gives the second workshop together with an Architecture student of Eindhoven University of Technology.


During the third workshop, Smeenk and Terry de Zoete, manager mobility of Brainport Smart District, together with participants address the question of how you can organise the logistics of such a state-of-the-art district in a smart manner. For example, what do you do with all the packages that are delivered to people’s doors these days? Can this be organised in a more smart and ecologically friendly manner? Smeenk: “During the workshops we want to appeal to the participants’ creativity. To that end, we will be using biomimicry, which is learning from nature to realise sustainable innovations. I myself like to use the ant world as an example. Ants are extremely efficient logistics planners. Biomimicry also helps you stay away from thinking in terms of language, for creative thinking means activating the other half of your brain. That’s what this workshop seeks to do.”

‘Ants are extremely efficient logistics planners’

Imagination required

According to Wina Smeenk, the Creativity World Forum is an ideal location for ‘her’ workshops, because designers are particularly good at facilitating the thought processes envisaged. “My passion is to connect the knowledge that experts have with the experience that citizens have. The strength of designers is that they speak the experts’ language and ask them the right questions. But empathy is also a crucial factor: how can you, as a designer, empathise as much as possible with the people who will be living in your designs? And finally, designers are good at putting the imagination to work – and innovation always requires imagination. In my work and workshops, I combine expertise, empathy and imagination. I want to bring experts, residents and designers together.”

The strength of designers is that they speak the experts’ language’

Spanner in the works

Smeenk is very enthusiastic about the commitment and contributions of the future residents of the Brainport Smart District. “They have the will and they have the ideas. But it is difficult for them to realise these ideas themselves. They need designers, architects and urban planners for this. But they also depend on the authorities.” And it is often the authorities that put a spanner in the works, says Smeenk. “Our systems and bureaucracy sometimes obstruct things. For instance because there is a badger somewhere. Or we have to address the PAS nitrogen programme and nitrogen resolutions. These things are frustrating. But residents still want to contribute ideas, because they realise that living in the future must change.”

Meet Wina Smeenk at day 2 in Helmond >

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