Tomorrow is good.

Screen Shot 2016-09-04 at 07.51.59In a weekly column, alternately written by Lucien Engelen, Maarten Steinbuch, Carlo van de Weijer and Daan Kersten, E52 tries to find out what the future will look like. All four contributors are – in addition to their ‘normal’ groundbreaking work – linked to the SingularityU The Netherlands, the organization that focuses on spreading knowledge about technologies that can provide solutions to the problems of our time. This Sunday, it’s Maarten Steinbuch‘s turn.

By Maarten Steinbuch

SU SteinbuchIn early January, I was part of the Dutch Trade Mission to Silicon Valley, the Walhalla for start-ups and entrepreneurship. Together with the Minister of Economic Affairs Henk Kamp, and the Ambassador of StartupDelta Prince Constantijn of Orange and 150 Entrepreneurs and start-ups. We spoke about e-mobility, energy, photonics, robotics and startups. What have I learned and what actions will I take?

The atmosphere in the region can be summarised in three words: speed, mentality, and good pitching. Most inspiring for me was the lecture by Margot Gerritsen, a professor at Stanford, and born in our province of Zeeland. She told us about the university, the major role that Stanford played in the origin of the unique local startup ecosystem, and how scientific staff is encouraged to participate in this ecosystem.

The university has a rule that every scientist can spend one day a week outside the university: participating in companies, advisory boards and so on. If you start a business from your work, it’s subject to the 1/3 1/3 1/3 regulation: of all the revenues coming from patents or shares, 1/3 is for the researcher, 1/3 for the Department, and 1/3 for the university. This is the same as in the Netherlands. If I tell them that we can only own shares without voting rights, to avoid conflicts of interest, I see the incomprehension and disbelief in their faces. The greater the success of your startup, the more successful you are and the more you will be appreciated. Failure is also something normal: you learn from it and it makes you stronger. Finally, there is a wide spread feeling of speed, a sense of thinking big, always becoming bigger and pitching awfully well. In short: believing in yourself and also propagate that belief.

I’m so proud of the young entrepreneurs, students of the TU/e, who are building Amber One: I saw them work, meeting lots of people and telling their story in the best possible way. They summarised their experience quite well with the statement that, after telling that they will need 70 million euros to build their electric car, the reply in the Netherlands is “How’s that possible?”. In the Bay Area, the response is: “cool plan.”

The feeling that the university is a hub, and functions as the basis for economic development in the whole region, has again encouraged me greatly to ask attention for the subject of entrepreneurship, and especially within the universities. In the plane on the way back I sent an email to our Executive Board. In it more or less the content of this column: we need to go faster, and the mentality must change, within our board, our directors of business and especially all the scientists who want to be involved. And there are more of them than we think, and certainly more than now. We have a unique role as a center of gravity for innovative ideas, as motivators of young people, and as a hub in our ecosystem. Let’s get to work!

PS and, oh yes, I had a lovely test drive in the latest Opel Ampere-e (also called Chevrolet Bold), fully electric, affordable and with a 400km range! Cool! Starting this summer, also available in the Netherlands!

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