I believe we need to do more to build attractive ecosystems across what’s called the StartupDelta. That means tax incentives, but also access to qualified talent, supply chains as well as attractive and affordable facilities. The Netherlands is a great test market for many industries, being compact, connected, tech-savvy and relatively affluent. If it works here, it will work in much larger markets. Foreign venture capital and angel investors are increasingly finding that establishing a company here as a portal into other European markets makes more and more sense. As serial entrepreneurs start their second and third companies here and share their knowledge and experience, I think we will see more second and third-round investments in startups. Remember that best VC’s are excellent judges of the innovation capacity of startups.
I’m frequently in various parts of the United States. I must say if I bring up the subject of co-creation and ask if they know any examples, High Tech Campus Eindhoven is mentioned repeatedly by US academics.
I was really surprised when talking with the person credited with coining the term open innovation, Professor Henry Chesbrough of Berkeley, California. He asked me whether I knew that the best example was the High Tech Campus. I think it also has to do with changing attitudes in both the public and private sectors – the Brabant Development Agency (BOM) is doing more investment in startups, Philips has put innovation at the centre of its revised mission, and the Mayor of Eindhoven has led the outreach abroad to explain that his region encourages collaboration in high-tech.
So I conclude that the success of Eindhoven has got out in many foreign circles. Now we need more places in the Netherlands to reach the benchmark achieved by the High Tech Campus. Because there are other important sectors where we have expertise, such as energy and logistics. You can see that areas like the Port of Rotterdam now understand that this collaborative approach is the way forward. But they are still several years behind in their development of a local trusted ecosystem and active implementation of the triple helix partnerships.
Let me finish by sharing an important concern.
Although less of a problem in high-tech, I notice that there is a general trend in the Netherlands to reduce the budgets of R&D, something that has been showing up as a downward trend since 2009. It used to be on average 6.6% of sales turnover. It’s now dropped to an average of 2.4%. This is puzzling, bearing in mind all the talk about the importance of innovation. It is true that the efficiency of R&D is increasing, unnecessary management levels have gone, and innovation with trusted partners has meant less duplication of effort. But I believe we need to put more investment back into R&D back to levels of at least 5-6%. If not, we will face some serious challenges in 5 to 10 years when foreign competitors who are investing much more now will start to reap the benefits. Remember you cannot schedule innovation – you need time to discover it.
The report (in Dutch) can be downloaded here.