The Brainport Region will receive 7 million euros extra for internationalisation of education. Minister Kamp (Economic Affairs) promised this amount of money during the speech he held on the occasion of the opening of the new academic year. Kamp: “The Brainport top technology region brings together cutting-edge knowledge, manufacturing and open innovation. This entire region is a stimulating, innovative environment for talent from all over the world.” This is his complete speech:
“We’ve just spoken to STORM Eindhoven. After a ten-hour wait, last night they’ve crossed the border into Kazakhstan. They had to call off their plans for Uzbekistan due to the death of President Islam Karimov. But today they were able to visit Taraz University in Kazakhstan, to show their electric motorcycle. For the locals, electromobility is a novel concept, they told us. For the students they meet of course it’s not. They are full of admiration for their Dutch peers for embarking on this adventure.
Your theme today is ‘Dream, Dare, Do’. Personally, I’d describe myself as a do-er, but we couldn’t do without dreamers like the members of the STORM team. Their dream was to ride an electric motorcycle around the world. Spreading the word about electromobility and the end of the fossil fuel era.
Of course, they’re not just dreamers. They also ‘dared and did’: they built the STORM Wave. They left Eindhoven on the fourteenth of August and in eight days’ time, on the thirteenth of September, they’ll arrive in China. That’s the kind of dream that gets you places.
When the government took office in 2012 it faced major challenges. The main one was getting the economy back on track. One way of achieving this was by making better use of the cutting-edge knowledge in this country. So as to develop applications relevant to society, tap into new revenue streams and make the Netherlands more competitive.
To achieve those goals we need bold scientists and entrepreneurs, working together to turn dreams into new products, services and revenue models. People, in short, like the STORM team. And for people like them, Eindhoven University of Technology is a hotbed for innovation.
And your university is not alone in this regard. The ‘Brainport’ top technology region brings together cutting-edge knowledge, manufacturing and open innovation. This entire region is a stimulating, innovative environment for talent from all over the world. Talent that is crucial to the region’s business community. That goes hand in hand with an internationally attractive business climate, with good amenities like international education.
So it’s a pleasure to be here at the opening of the academic year. And I’m delighted to announce that the government has decided to support Eindhoven and the ‘Brainport’ region in strengthening its international dimension. It’s a decision that testifies to their special significance for our national earning capacity. This support will take the form of a contribution of 7 million euros from my ministry to further develop international education.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The government’s efforts to tackle the economic crisis have been successful. In 2015 the Dutch economy grew by almost 2 percent and similar growth is expected this year. In terms of size, it’s back to where it was before the crisis, and we’re back in the leading group in the eurozone.
The government is stimulating economic growth in many different ways. For instance, we’re supporting companies that want to innovate. Some of this is financial support. But we’re also encouraging partnerships between businesses and the academic and research community. SMEs in particular have benefited from the government’s initiatives. Like the Future Fund. It provides loans to innovative and rapidly growing start-ups and SMEs.
The Future Fund also helps finance research facilities. Because research and innovation are essential to increase labour productivity and create new products and markets. And that’s what we have to do, if we want our economy to grow sustainably.
This government has also worked hard to promote closer cooperation between public-sector researchers and businesses, especially in the top sectors. One consequence is that businesses have invested more in public research. Our target for annual investment in public-private partnerships was 500 million euros. We achieved that easily. So I’ve now raised the target to 800 million euros. Businesses contribute about 40 percent of the investment, and most of the funding goes to universities and research institutions.
Another key aim of the government was to get scientists and businesses to focus more on the economic and societal applicability of their research findings. Which is exactly what the top sectors are increasingly doing. We also have a National Science Agenda, which identifies broader questions for scientific research. Questions that relate to societal challenges – like the need to save energy and generate renewables – and that also contribute to economic growth. We’ve called this approach ‘Global challenges, Dutch solutions’.
A great example of a successful public-private partnership is Photon Delta. This initiative could lead to a breakthrough in computer processing speeds, and to substantial energy savings. So with a new technology, Photon Delta has the potential to provide new products and jobs, as well as to resolve the challenges facing society.
Here in Eindhoven you’ve shown time and again that partnership between business, research institutions and government delivers the best results. The ‘Impuls’ programme is a good example. Together with companies in your region, you invested 100 million euros in creating PhD places. This enabled 278 people to set to work in long-term research programmes. To provide more scope for this kind of initiative, an amendment to the allowance scheme for Top Sector Alliances for Knowledge and Innovation will shortly be presented to parliament. It will enable research institutions to apply directly to the Netherlands Enterprise Agency for allowances from 2017 onwards, enhancing the scheme’s bottom-up character.
Your university looks to work not only with regional partners, but with international ones too. Later today I will sign an agreement guaranteeing financing for the Holst Centre for the coming years. Holst is another fine example of public-private partnership, set up by the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO) and Imec from Belgium. It is one of the showpieces of the ‘Brainport’ top technology region. Supported by the provincial authorities, Holst is working with scientists from Eindhoven University of Technology on new technologies in the field of wireless sensors and flexible electronics. One of its findings is a plaster equipped with a heart-rate sensor.
This university is also yielding some interesting spin-offs. Like MicroSure, which is developing a platform for robot-assisted microsurgery. The stable platform filters vibrations, so that a surgeon can stitch lymphatics with a diameter as small as 0.3 millimetres. Last week, MicroSure received an innovation loan from the Future Fund. An innovation loan is more than just money, it’s a hallmark of quality that helps attract further investment. So congratulations to everyone involved!
There are many more examples. But I think it’s clear that Eindhoven University of Technology and the ‘Brainport’ top technology region are important partners for the government in its efforts to make the Netherlands more innovative and more competitive.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Information technologies underpin a lot of innovation and research. The digital transformation of society is racing ahead; computers and related technologies play an ever more important role in our homes and in the workplace.
Digital technology and robotics hold out the prospect of greater prosperity. To devise, make and maintain IT applications, we need many skilled technical professionals. The government has made it a priority in recent years to attract more young people to the tech industry. The top sectors have drawn up Human Capital Agendas to calculate their personnel requirements and reach deals in which educational establishments and the business community undertake to help train the workers of the future.
The National Technology Pact has a similar objective. It has brought together the worlds of business and education in regional partnerships to encourage schoolchildren and students to opt for scientific subjects and careers. And it has paid off. The number of engineering, technology and IT students is on the rise. Your university scores well on this point. For instance, you’ve teamed up with Tilburg University, the provincial authority and the municipal authority in Den Bosch to train big-data scientists. This month, bachelor’s and master’s programmes will be launched at the new Jheronimus Academy of Data Science. This region alone will soon need three hundred big-data scientists every year.
So, interest in technology careers is growing. But not fast enough. The year 2015 ended with 11,000 unfilled vacancies in the IT sector, 3,000 more than the previous year. That’s a rise of 38%. Across the economy as a whole, the number of vacancies rose by 21%.
Older workers looking for a new job are an important pool of potential talent for the IT sector. And we need to devote special attention to technology teachers. The shortage of science and technology teachers is growing. The education and business sectors are joining forces to make teaching careers more attractive. In this region they’ve launched a pilot scheme involving parallel careers, giving people the opportunity to pursue a career in education and in business at the same time.
All the measures the government has taken to stimulate the economy and make better use of our country’s knowledge have paid off. The Netherlands has risen to the position of ‘Innovation Leader’ on the European Innovation Scoreboard this year. And our country is fifth in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index.
So the Netherlands is doing well. But we can’t afford to rest on our laurels if we want to stay ahead. Other countries are investing relatively more in knowledge and innovation. Our target is to invest 2.5% of our gross domestic product in research and development. We’re not there yet, but we’re heading in the right direction. We’ve already hit the 2% mark. As things stand, though, we’d need another 3.5 billion euros to reach our target.
Investing isn’t just about money. It’s also about making innovation and knowledge development possible. Besides promoting partnerships and helping companies to access finance, that means providing the necessary scope for technological advances. Like drones for instance. They fall under the rules for model aircraft. That’s because when they first appeared, no need was seen for special regulations. Nobody foresaw the massive take-up of drone technology. Now those rules are proving inadequate, and users are running up against their limits. So new regulations on drones are currently being drawn up.
It’s the job of government to ensure that regulations don’t hold back technological innovation. So that companies and academia can do what they’re good at: research, innovation and commerce. That way, we can ensure the Netherlands stays ahead, address the broader issues facing society, and secure our standard of living. Eindhoven University of Technology has shown how academia can contribute to the sustainable economic development of the Netherlands – by working together, unlocking knowledge and engaging with society.
To all those who dream, dare and do, I look forward to your continued input. The STORM team, in any case, is showing the way.”