The building of Fieldlab Campus Heijendaal

Context and relevance

Heijendaal Campus in Nijmegen is home to Radboudumc, HAN (University of Arnhem and Nijmegen) and Radboud University (RU), three major education and research institutions. The three institutions currently organise their logistic processes autonomously, however they see opportunities to bundle flows of goods and reduce transport flows to, from and on the campus. They also have the ambition for these on-campus flows to be innovative and emission-free. By working together, pooling goods flows, and implementing sustainable logistics, Radboudumc, HAN and RU expect to reduce CO2 emissions, have a positive impact on safety and quality of life, reduce fine particles, reduce traffic pressure, and improve the quality of logistics services for on-campus users.

To achieve this, in 2017 KennisDC Logistiek, HAN, RU and Radboudumc came to talk about a more sustainable and liveable campus. In 2019 the three parties entered into an agreement “Innovative bundling of goods flows Heijendaal. The involves setting up a Living Lab in which room is made to experiment and apply innovations in a ‘real-world’ environment. The Living Lab will be implemented through research and sustainability programmes. Other stakeholders can also join the agreement. The HAN started the research project Sustainable Supply Chain Management in Healthcare (SSCMH) together with funding partner NWO. Eight consortium partners, including the three Campus Heijendaal partners work together in two field labs (Campus Heijendaal and Buur&Zo in Deventer) with the aim of: supporting the creation, development and implementation of Next-Generation concepts for sustainable healthcare logistics, paying special attention to last mile solutions. By working closely with all stakeholders and using a transdisciplinary research approach, we ensure that the developed knowledge and solutions will contribute to resolving societal challenges and, at the same time, have sound business potential.

Responsible Innovation is an integral part of the research and innovation process. Furthermore, the transfer and application of knowledge is a two-way process, and implementation and scalability will be an integrated part of the research process. The Heijendaal fieldlab aims to develop a blueprint for cost-efficient, consolidated, and emission-free last-mile solutions that can be transferred to other (healthcare) organisations. A possible distribution structure could comprise a two-stage consolidation, where goods are first delivered to a logistics service provider outside Nijmegen for consolidation, before transportation to the last mile hub in Nijmegen, from where it is distributed to the various campus locations using zero-emission vehicles. Fieldlab Campus Heijendaal will also be used to develop (or improve existing) logistic concepts for waste reduction and reverse logistics, paying special attention to hospital waste.

Impact of Covid-19

In the past two years, the Covid-19 crisis strongly impacted the day-to-day Heijendaal fieldlab operations and research activities. Research activities (and thus the underlying timelines) came under pressure. Especially those research activities in which the Radboudumc was actively involved had to be cancelled or postponed. The Radboudumc supply department was preoccupied with the procurement of corona material, and therefore hardly able to assist in our research. Furthermore, HAN and RU needed only limited amounts of goods due to their closure and/or online focus. Research on optimizing freight flows was therefore difficult, almost impossible.

In addition, Covid-19 changed the way members of the multidisciplinary Living Lab-team work and engage with each other. Working fully remotely has proven to be a challenge. The physical distance of remote work can quickly turn into emotional distance which in turn, has a negative impact on the Living Lab’s performance. We are still searching for the best strategy regarding “remote working” and are pleased that currently, the restrictions are over, so a hybrid way of working can be developed.

The process of doing research and gaining output

The progress of the project has been delayed and influenced by the fact that holding a digital interview with someone you have not previously met, is not as effective as meeting in person. Furthermore, the people to be interviewed were less willing. At the time, although the research was deemed important, managing the Covid-19 crisis was more important. This resulted in cancelling of or delays to planned interviews. Research activities (exploration, diagnosis, improvement, monitoring) had to be held at a distance, via telephone for instance. However, the time made available was used by the researchers to fine-tune the research methodology, do extra data-analysis, develop a newly-needed questionnaire, and doing literature study. Hence the output was also delayed.

Recommendations and follow-up research

In the past two years, the project has evolved by conducting research into innovative solutions for a healthy city. The website was developed as part of the NWO SSCMH research project. It was designed to share knowledge, connect people, and make people enthusiastic about the project. It brings together the knowledge and expertise needed to develop and improve last-mile solutions for a vital city. Information is available about the field and lab research taking place in both field labs. Visitors can also find publications by and interviews with the researchers. The website shows the cohesion and cooperation between the fieldlabs and the various lines of research. An important goal is to share knowledge to attract new partners to enthusiastically join the programme in order to scale up the concepts.