'Applying for subsidies is a discipline on its own'
A few years ago Arno Hermans came up with the idea that you could also print sport mouth guards with a 3D printer. He wrote down his idea and discussed it with his business partner Victor Beerkens. They decided to investigate whether the plan is technically feasible and whether there is a market for their product. Their company 3DMouthgard was born. The entrepreneurs receive, with the aid of Subsidiefocus, subsidies for the feasibility study and prototype testing.
Hermans: "I've always been interested in technological developments such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality and 3D printing. And when I was watching a sports game, the idea came to me. There are more than 250,000 hockey players in our country and more than 12,000 rugby players. They all have to wear mouth guards. Countless opportunities, but we needed financing."
Through his network Hermans gets in touch with a Subsidiefocus consultant. He informs Hermans about the MIT feasibility subsidy; it allows SME owners to conduct a feasibility study, possibly complemented with industrial research or experimental development. "Subsidiefocus' consultant took care of the entire preparatory process and we sat down to discuss matters a few times. He stayed in touch with the subsidy provider and eased our workload. We were very pleased because applying for subsidies is a discipline on its own. It is not a matter of simply adding it to your tasks as entrepreneur. The application was granted at the start of July. We received € 50,000 for a feasibility study, which we are currently conducting."
The entrepreneurs are researching whether their plan is technically possible and whether there is material that is safe and comfortable. For this purpose they work with fine chemicals concern DMS and two university colleges. The partner list is growing steadily. "We are currently performing tests with two hockey clubs and we are talking to the Dutch Rugby Union and two professional hockey players Robert van der Horst and Teun de Nooijer. The feasibility study will expire in March, so it will have to be completed by then."
The entire project actually revolves around two important matters: the material and the supporting ICT, summarizes Hermans. "We want to digitize and automate the entire process. With a small scanning device, linked to a laptop, we make a scan of the upper teeth. You can download that scan onto an app and after you have paid, our 3D printer finishes the job. You will then receive the mouth guard at home. Especially between the scanning and printing process there is a complex ICT system. Fortunately we were able to find a partner. The goal is to make the mouth guard part of the club wear. You will be able to choose the colour and have the logo printed on it."
Sport Innovator Prize
To finance the practical matters a start-up requires, Subsidiefocus registered 3DMouthguard for the sport innovator subsidy. "And successfully so: we received € 10,000”, says Hermans. "We are now using that money to research whether our idea can be patented. It also allows us to lease the scanning device for a longer period, enabling us to test the system longer and in a more thorough manner."
It's the entrepreneurs goal to deliver the mouth guard starting from next sport's season. In Hermans' opinion the options are endless. "We are now focusing on hockey and rugby players, but maybe we will expand to kick boxers, handball players, and so on." 3DMouthguard already received two subsidies, but it doesn't end here. Hermans: "We stay in touch with our Subsidiefocus consultant because he helps us tremendously. He researches relevant schemes and when we should apply. He is very diligent and looks beyond the present, he also takes the subsequent process phases into account. To summarize, Subsidiefocus thinks with us about the future and we value that immensely."
To find out more about Subsidiefocus, email Roy Hoven or call him on +31 (0)73 646 5475.