Now that is has become clear in the course of last week that the Dutch government will not immediately favour Brainport as the third axis of the triangle Seaport (Port of Rotterdam) and Airport (Schiphol Amsterdam Airport), I think the time has come to stop looking expectantly towards The Hague and start developing a solid initiative ourselves.
By Christian Curré
The southern part of The Netherlands has always had to do/arrange things slightly differently, because the Estates of Holland have always been the dominant and self-centred part of our nation. You could even argue that part of the story of our identity has been saturated with a feeling of ‘we’ll manage for ourselves, we can’t expect much from the West’. If, however, we are able to link this feeling to a healthy dose of conviction, a strong network and a good idea, the region could well be on to a winning story after all.
This night, I wondered how someone like Rupert Murdoch would think of our attempts to put Brainport on the Dutch map. Our begging at the municipal funds for a few additional tenners a head and participating in contests for the best city here or the most promising city there. I think he would shake his head annoyed and in disbelief with a look that said ‘better remain a civil servant, then’. Which is not to say that our civil servants do it all wrong, by the way, but perhaps it is true that a certain malaise has crept into the innovation programme, a malaise that is neither desired nor opportune.
I feel we are overlooking the most obvious solution: Do It Yourself.
The Eindhoven region time and again runs into one major obstacle and that is the Minister of Infrastructure and the Environment, Melanie Schultz. Solutions and funding for accessibility? Schultz blocks or does not push through. Railway infrastructure, express train services to neighbouring countries, rail cargo? Schultz. Innovative spatial planning using new instruments and load balancing? Schultz. Brainport status awarding? Exactly – Schultz. True, she speaks on behalf of the entire cabinet of ministers, but all these issues are the portfolio of her multifaceted department. No stays no and our status at their offices is not easily changed.
Back to Rupert Murdoch, but also local tycoons such as Anton Philips and Hub van Doorne. If you are convinced that you are on to something good, something that can grow and flourish, you simply act on it. You start, you work, you fail, you adapt, you improve, you are successful, you learn, you grow. This should be the way for Brainport as well. I feel we are overlooking the most obvious solution: Do It Yourself.
As Eindhoven Brainport, we are not at all that dependent on the other mainports. We stand for knowledge, innovation, design, development, adding value. Surely it cannot be the case that the Dutch government, which is always full of valuing the knowledge factor and the triple helix (government, knowledge, companies), would at the first opportunity to show their colours choose to act on a very old reflex, which is to value and preserve only that which is tangible? Of course, those aeroplanes and passenger streams cannot be overlooked, nor can those ships and cargo containers, but surely that is not all there is to an international, modern service economy?
No. I think we should mobilise our own capital and where appropriate enter into new collaborations. The regions of Düsseldorf/Ruhr Area and Maastricht/Aachen are around the corner and have similar ambitions, there are European development funds for collaboration programmes such as this and let’s not forget – we have enormous brainpower. Smart city becomes smart society. Furthermore, our very own Brabant Development Agency (BOM) was in the news recently as doing better than its European sibling agencies, so clearly we have the network and know-how already.
Stop focusing on Schultz and her postage stamp logic
And we do not need any fancy pyramid constructions or similar at all – we are talking about capital that only needs to be alternatively labelled, allocated and accounted. All knowledge workers, all company stock value, certainly all patents and also all expected gains will present a unique opportunity, led by the major stakeholder parties in both the private and public (regional) sectors, to gather monies into a parallel, cooperative contributor fund aimed at added value, to enable Brainport to show in an entirely new and independent way how an innovative region can create a flourishing and buzzing environment for working and living.
The international money markets have never been this favourable to refinance our innovative power as safely as possible in an alternative fund, while at a knowledge high, so we can feed the social, spatial and cultural domains again in a refreshing manner via the public-private route.
Stop focusing on Schultz and her postage stamp logic and stop showcasing yourself as the prettiest girl in an otherwise rather dull classroom – Eindhoven, start telling your own story, full of bravura, determination and… safe in the knowledge of a well-filled purse in pocket. Unlock yourselves!