In his final days as Minister for Economic Affairs, Henk Kamp made a quick visit to Eindhoven on Monday March 6th. At the invitation of BZW, VVD, and Eindhoven Airport, he made a stopover on the way from Venlo to The Hague. Of course this had to do with the elections and the Brainport Action Agenda, but it can’t be said that only compliments were given.
Kamp put an end to the aspiration of Ben Arends, chairman of the BZW in Eindhoven, to steer the establishment of Invest-NL to Eindhoven. Kamp: “We are concerned with the development of that foundation and the financing of promising projects. Therefore it is necessary to have contact with the ministries of Economic Affairs, Finance, and Foreign Affairs. There are government officials who will be transferred to Invest-NL, so it is obvious that it is done in The Hague. The decision has not yet been made, so it is good that you have shown your interest. But we have to remain realistic.”
Kamp also thought little of the newly acquired status of ‘mainport’. “And I say that not because of Brainport, because it is phenomenal what happens here. I am very impressed by it. But the name mainport, it doesn’t change anything. That it draws attention back here to Eindhoven is not a bad thing, but otherwise it has no meaning.”
Kamp was more optimistic about the opportunities for the photonics industry. Following up on the remarks of Veldhoven Mayor, Jack Mikkers, he confirmed that the Netherlands – and especially the Eindhoven region – has a head start on the rest of the world. “But the American and the Chinese are trying, with billions, to catch up. A lot of money is also needed on our part to quickly turn our research lead into a business advantage.”
Photonics, in combination with the Quantum technology developed in Delft, is a potential successor of ASML. But he also had plenty of praise for ASML. “I travel quite a lot in the Netherlands, but everywhere I come across ASML’s suppliers. What an incredibly wonderful company it is, the heart of the global chip industry. Veldhoven is indeed, the center of the world.” In order to maintain this position, a greater investment in innovation is necessary, says Kamp. “Look at South Korea, where 5% of GDP goes to innovation. With us, it is 2%. Also great, but not enough.”
Kamp has concerns about filling all the high-quality job vacancies. “The Netherlands has a huge discrepancy between job seekers and vacancies. High-quality personnel are desperately needed but we don’t have these people. So we have to recruit people from abroad to come to our country, but we need to do this better than we have previously done. And in such a way that there aren’t many people unnecessarily left on the sidelines. Fortunately, our universities and HBOs are growing significantly, and in recent times, this also applies to MBO.”
When asked about the road network, Kamp had good news, as well as a reflection. “Funds are set aside, research is underway, also in consultation with the province of Brabant. We must continue to invest in roads, but we also realize that we have another requirement. Autonomous driving, manual driving, electric driving, all these developments move very quickly. That means that if you invest in infrastructure, it also needs to suit these new situations.” With that, there is much to anticipate about what will happen in and around the Automotive Campus in Helmond.”