As last year, the E52 High Tech Peak Awards again go to nine individuals who in the past year have made a particular contribution to the field of high tech innovation, or for whom we have great expectations in 2017. One Peak, four Stars and four Blasts.
Every day we portray one of the award winners.
Today: Rob van Gijzel
What: Peak Winner
What for? As the mayor of Eindhoven he has put Eindhoven as a city of high tech innovation on the map – no, he has put it on all the maps – and thus made the region even more attractive to talent from all over the world.
Being the very first European Digital Leader it’s not very strange to see Rob van Gijzel on top of the charts for the High Tech Peak Awards 2016. He has, according to the jury, not only convinced the city of the importance of innovation, but also gave its residents a first taste of the results.
It took Rob van Gijzel a few weeks in September to say goodbye to all the people, institutes and organizations he was involved in. And wherever he came, he was honoured as the man who had succeeded in profiling Eindhoven as a smart society. As the place of innovation, where top talent feel at home and where high tech is always in the city-DNA. The jury of the High Peak Tech Awards therefore did not have any difficulty this year to appoint the big winner. All arrows pointed to Van Gijzel from the first moment.
The peak goes to the man who has learned the people from Eindhoven to be proud again. Proud of their hometown and – maybe just as important – to show this pride to the world. When he took office as mayor, the city was all doom and gloom. The crisis hit the city like a sledgehammer and especially the dismissals at Philips and DAF hit hard. Obviously those were not the days to brag about being an Eindhovenaar. We whispered about our roots as we walked around in Den Bosch, Maastricht and Amsterdam. On top of that, there was a certain innate Brabant modesty. Van Gijzel “If we were enthusiastic, we would clap with our hands in our pockets That does not help of course.”
Immediately after taking office, Van Gijzel made appointments – and deals – with the large corporations and knowledge institutions: we are going to solve this together. And so it happened. In subsequent years, he traveled the country and the world; and with every foreign trip he became more aware of the special position which Eindhoven had taken. Of course, “high tech capital of the world” is an equally uncontrollable term as “the smartest square kilometers of Europe”, but simply by stressing this continuously with pride, authority and belief, the world was willing to believe what he said. What also helped, of course, were the facts. Along the road more and more proof rolled in to substantiate these propositions.
Despite his emphasis on Eindhoven as a city of Technology, Design and Knowledge, he never forgot about the importance of people. “Humanized Technology” is what he called it. Hence his choice of being a “smart society” rather than just a smart city. And that’s why he never stopped convincing the citizens of Eindhoven that for every single foreign knowledge worker whom the city could attract, there was a new job for 6 to 10 Eindhovenaren.
Van Gijzel’s ambition has always been paired with his impatience. Nothing ever went fast enough, there was always something or someone who stopped progress, zo he felt. While it was sometimes difficult for the people around him, this enabled the city – both in the country and in the international spectrum – to keep moving forward. Recognition from The Hague, pretty much on the day of his departure also in a financial way, was a good example of this.
Since mid-September Van Gijzel adheres a fairly low profile. That’s good for his successor John Jorritsma, because he certainly is not giving him any unwanted advice (at least not publicly), but it is also a waste of all the energy that now just cannot find a way out. In recent months, Van Gijzel has thought hard about his future. Friend and foe alike find that quite long, considering his impatience and ambition. Perhaps Van Gijzel was just waiting for that one extra line on his resume: winner of the High Tech Peak Award in 2016. We’ll soon know what Van Gijzel’s next steps will look like.