“The strength of innovation is speed”

Alma Wolhuter-Slabbert, education manager 

“I see innovation as being open to new opportunities. Opportunities you can take up and make your own. When it comes to innovation, you don't wait for a manager to tell you what to do: all you need is something to aim for and an answer to the question 'who's going to do it?’


Our innovation department, De Groeifabriek, is located on the Brightlands Smart Services Campus in Heerlen, where we collaborate with start-ups or knowledge institutions such as universities of applied sciences and universities. Internally, we're sometimes called 'APG's nursery', a place where big and small ideas are born. One example is the Life Certificate app for people receiving pensions abroad. At the moment they still have to physically go to an embassy or consulate every year. With the app, a QR code and a selfie, they can provide proof of life from the comfort of their armchair. The great thing about this app is the speed at which it's getting off the ground. There has been a need for a more customer-friendly system for pensioners abroad for some time, but Covid-19 suddenly makes something like this urgent.

Innovations like these not only make the business and pension members happy, they also make a name for themselves outside APG. The pension world sees us as a front runner. The jury of IPE (European publication for institutional investors and pension funds) that presented us with the golden award in the category 'Pension Fund Achievement of the Year' in 2019 even referred to APG as an influencer.  


The successes are also offset by failures, such as an experiment to tackle loneliness among the elderly through a kind of dating app. Things went wrong as early as the exploratory stage. The guinea pigs we found through an old people's organization were anything but lonely. A matchmaking dashboard for our HR department with data from external and internal channels also failed to make the grade. It's a good idea until you're confronted with reality: lack of time and privacy challenges. That's when you have stop, because the strength of innovation lies mainly in speed. From idea to research, construction, validation and decision. One week we turn left and the next week we turn right, but always at high speed. That's what I enjoy.”



The jury referred to APG as an influencer