(foto Bram Saeys)
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Brainport Eindhoven is doing well. The region is economically successful, the appreciation from the outside is high, nationally as well as globally. But at the same time there is still much room for improvement, said Simac-director Eric van Schagen on Tuesday at the The New Horizon. This mainly concerns the social aspect and the necessary level of facilities, he said. Van Schagen addressed large companies in his speech, but also SMEs, the government and the inhabitants. “Brainport as a concept is fabulous. Also for the future. But only if everyone pays sufficient attention to the social agenda, its economic success can continue.”

Eric van Schagen
Eric van Schagen (foto Bram Saeys)

Van Schagen, who is also chairman of VNO-NCW Brabant Zeeland, was asked to reflect on the success of the Brainport region. He did so from the national perspective, but also from that of the large companies, SMEs and the inhabitants. He had a message and an appeal for all groups.

Van Schagen refused to fall into the trap of jubilation. “Yes, Brainport is successful, and I, too, like to hear people from another part of the country say on the radio that they want to become the second most innovative region in the Netherlands – behind Eindhoven of course. But we shouldn’t be over-confident because of that.”

This region, with six industrial multinationals, dozens of beautiful medium-sized companies, its excellent educational institutions, offers a lot to be proud of, said Van Schagen. But success also brings responsibilities, at all levels. “Let’s focus primarily on the level of the facilities that are essential to remain successful.” Maintaining the educational and care systems is his foremost concern. But it doesn’t stop there. “Large companies indicate that regional facilities are under pressure. Facilitating growth opportunities must, therefore, be a priority as well.”

That focus, according to Van Schagen, isn’t restricted to larger companies. “SMEs often feel that Brainport is not offering them enough. Here too problems are often felt more heavily than the benefits. It would be good if the SME sector would receive some more support from all of us. Let’s offer these companies a good starting position. At the same time, of course, they also have their own responsibility. The SMEs themselves could be smarter and more innovative. Really, not everyone can be a successful entrepreneur – the greater my appreciation for the ones that do succeed.”

Just like the SMEs, the inhabitants of the Brainport Eindhoven region are critical from time to time. “Less so than about ten years ago, but we must still be careful that we keep everyone connected to the successes of the region. We need to invest more in our social agenda because it brings continuity and is good for our future economic success.”

Eric van Schagen concluded his story with a series of specific messages.

To the large companies: “Support social initiatives at a local and regional level. Put more money into this. Too often, unfortunately, this consideration has become part of a corporate marketing policy instead of a truly felt local commitment to our own region, which is also of great importance to these large companies.”

To the SMEs: “Continue to innovate and professionalize. Invest the profits in innovation and choose your strategic position cleverly”.

To the inhabitants: “There are countless opportunities for lifelong learning. Make use of this because it is the best guarantee for wellbeing in the rest of your life. Our educational institutions are happy to help, the need to constantly develop yourself is not limited by your age.”

To the government: “Stop communicating via the media. Twitter is exciting but not at all constructive. Perform your tasks in the place intended for that purpose and don’t let yourself be fooled by distracting discussions on social media.”

And finally to everyone: “We have achieved great prosperity, let’s cherish it, but at the same time let’s make sure that everyone feels part of it. Giving always feels better than having to receive. If you can give, you can live. Success tastes better together!”