While traveling through America or Asia, CEO Peter Wennink often gets asked why his company ASML is practically the only one able to make those very complicated chip machines. His answer is invariably: the regional network of suppliers and research institutes. Wennink: “If someone asks me what ASML actually is, I can just say that we build machines that can make the most advanced chips. But what we really are is a collaborative knowledge network, we are the system architect that’s always on the lookout for partners who can perform certain tasks better than we can. And then we bring them together.”

Wennink made his remarks that last Friday at the farewell celebrations for Rob Gijzel as mayor of Eindhoven.

Wennink calls this way of working the main reason why ASML has a global market share of over 90% in the most advanced machinery. “We can only perform the way we do thanks to that supply chain, this is essential.”

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That network is broader than just ASML with its suppliers and customers, Wennink says. “It is also working with the university and the regional society, represented by the municipality of Eindhoven.” According to Wennink, Rob Gijzel has played a decisive role, for example by making good use of the moments that matter. “Such a moment was the crisis of 2008. When the extent of it became clear, Van Gijzel didn’t need more than one day to get all the stakeholders together at one table and since then we have been meeting on a very regular basis. It was crucial for the maintenance of the network.”

“Because of what happens here, one can become Brabander”

The uniqueness of it really belongs to the region, says Wennink, who grew up in the west and worked in and around Amsterdam for a long time. “Because of what happens here, one can become Brabander.”

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Author profile picture Bart Brouwers is co-founder and co-owner of Media52 BV, the publisher of innovationorigins.com.