Triple Helix: The Strength of the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area


Ton Jonker MBATon Jonker MBA
Amsterdam Economic Board
The Netherlands

Global Business Hub

The  Amsterdam  Area  economy  is  thriving,  even  in  these  difficult economic times.  2.2 million  people  generate  91  billion Euro’s  in added  value.   Together  with  Mainport  Rotterdam  and  Brainport Eindhoven,  the  ‘North  Wing’  (of  which  the  Amsterdam  Area  is part)  represents  80  per  cent  of  the  economic  activity  in  the Netherlands.   The  Area  bounced  back  from  the  recession extremely well, and stands a strong chance of continuing to grow as an internationally-esteemed region for business. The strength of the Amsterdam Area in a nutshell:

  • Amsterdam  is  traditionally the  principle Dutch trading  centre. The  proximity  of  the  world-wide  highly  rated  Amsterdam Airport, Schiphol, with its global network of connections, and the  high  concentration  of  (financial)  corporate  service providers  in  the  city  (many  with  (world)  headquarters  in Amsterdam)  are  just  two  factors  that  create  an  excellent foundation.
  • The  strength  of the  area  is  not  that there  are  merely  one  or two  dominant  sectors,  but  instead  a  fully  developed  network economy. The Amsterdam Area can therefore offer companies all  that  this  era  of  globalization  demands  in  a  compact  area: logistics,  financial  and  legal  services,  supported  by  creative industries  and  ICT.  The  Amsterdam  region  is  an  outstanding European  hub  when  it  comes  to  international  internet  traffic powered  by  the  Amsterdam  Internet  Exchange.  The construction of super-fast data networks make the region very attractive  for  IT  companies,  financial  services,  and  institutions working  with  large  data  streams.   This  enhances  the  rapid development of new niches. In this way, the Amsterdam Area makes  a  significant  contribution  to  the  strength  of  all  strong sectors  across  the  whole  of the Netherlands  –  R&D  in Food Valley  or  Brainport,  (world)  headquarters  and  logistics  in  the Amsterdam Area.
  • Amsterdam  is  home  to  three  colleges  and  two  leading universities  as  well  as  esteemed  institutes  such  as  the Duisenberg School of Finance and initiatives such as THNK, the Amsterdam School of Creative Leadership. Eighteen per cent of  the  highly-educated  population  of  the  Netherlands  lives  in the Amsterdam Area
  • Both the city and the region boast a high level of facilities, an impressive range of culture and attractive living and recreation spaces, such as the green landscapes surrounding the city. The Amsterdam  Area  is  characterised  by  variation:  for  tourists, students,  international  knowledge  migrants,  congress  visitors and,  of  course,  for  anyone  who  just  fancies  being  an ‘Amsterdammer  for  a  day’,  likes  visiting  the  beach,  or  feeling the wind in their hair while sailing on a lake. The open culture, the  multilingual  population  (180  nationalities)  and  relatively favourable house prices, in combination with easy accessibility, ensure that Amsterdam provides a special proposition

Together,  these  are  trump  cards  that  allow  the  Area  to compete  in  the  Premier  League  of  Europe’s  regions,  maybe even  directly  below  London  and  Paris,  and  above  competitive regions such as Madrid, Frankfurt, Milan and Brussels. It is vital that  the  Amsterdam  Area  remains  active  amongst the  leading regions in Europe. As an economic centre that is attractive to international  companies,  as  a  dynamic  region  with  sufficient employment  and  as  an  innovative,  sustainable,  and  creative region,  that  leads  the  way  in  developing  new  products  and services.

The Amsterdam Economic Board Joins Forces

Local  and  regional  governments,  knowledge  institutions,  and  the business  community,  all  see  the  opportunities  of  the  Amsterdam Area.   Concluding  a  long-term  process  to  intensify collaboration, they joined forces at the end of 2010 to determine a united course for the area’s development. The Amsterdam Economic Board was established  to  facilitate  this  process.   The  Board  is  a  stable, ambitious  managerial  collaboration  in  which  all  parties  work together  to  chart  a  successful  course  for  the  area  and simultaneously  cooperate  to  implement  strategy  and  bundle financial resources.

By focusing on innovation and competitive potential of seven main sectors in the region, as well as on several generic aspects of the business  climate,  the  Board  plans  to  significantly  improve  the regional economy.

Working together on  knowledge  and  innovation  the  Board views the Amsterdam Area (as part of the ‘North Wing’ area) together with the Eindhoven and Rotterdam regions as the most important driving  forces  of  the  Dutch  economy,  and  is  therefore  keen  to address its responsibility fully. By facilitating collaboration between the  Amsterdam  Area,  national  government  and  other  successful regions  in  the  Netherlands,  the  Board  wishes  to  contribute  to maintaining and strengthening The Netherlands’ ‘earning capacity’. The  Board  wants  to  invest  in  the  correct  drafting  of,  and interaction  between  all  policy  agendas,  alongside  joint implementation of the agendas where this offers added value.

Spearheads of the Amsterdam Economic Board

The Board has established core groups for each of the seven main sectors in the Amsterdam Area: ICT/e-science, Creative Industry; Financial  and  Business  Services;  Food  and  Flowers,  Tourism  and Congresses; Logistics and Red Life Sciences. Each core group has drafted a development strategy, which has resulted in the creation of a wide range of innovative and connecting initiatives which are given structure and priority by the Board.

The  Knowledge  and  Innovation  Agenda for  the  Amsterdam  Area was finalised on 24 June 2011. The spearheads of the Board can be outlined as follows:

  • The  Amsterdam  Area  wants  to  invest  heavily  in  services  in order  to  strengthen  its  position  as  a  place  of  business  for (international)  headquarters.   This  will  involve  improving  the infrastructure  of  expertise,  stimulating  knowledge  valorisation and  services  innovation,  as  well  as  uniting  expertise  regarding finance,  trade,  logistics,  legal  affairs  and  ICT.  Further improvement of the preconditions for a sound business climate (including  excellent  (digital)  infrastructural  facilities)  needs  to result  in  even  more  international  companies  establishing their business  in  the  area.   Other  important  factors  are  high-level cultural  facilities,  a  focus  on  sustainability,  and  an  open, international mindset.

With  the  support  of  ICT  and  the  Creative  Industries,  the ambition  of  the  Amsterdam  Area  is  to  realise  pioneering innovations in various fields. The chance to stand out can be found  in  the  crossovers  between  ICT  and  the  Creative Industries  and  other sectors,  and  as well  as  in  the  application potential of smart  systems.  Another  area  in  which the  region can excel is creative and e-Humanities research in fields such as e-Tourism and Smart Logistics. Full advantage should be taken of this potential through, for example, the creation of a Creative Campus, as a significant follow-up of the Amsterdam Smart City project (awarded by the EU) and by effectively strengthening the position  of  the  Netherlands  with  regard  to  data  storage  and processing. The Amsterdam Area plans to position itself as the world’s first World Smart Capital and to support this claim with a  wide  range  of  events,  congresses,  international  exchange programmes, and knowledge development programmes.

  • The  Amsterdam  Area  wants  to strengthen  the position  of  the Netherlands  as  a  trading  country.  This  will  require  improved chain  management  in  the  logistics  sector  supported  by  ICT (Seamless Connections), and further development of the leading position  with  regard  to  innovations  in  the  agri-food  and horticulture  sector  in  the  Netherlands.  The  Board  has  the ambition to duplicate R&D and the number of new spin offs in the Amsterdam Area.
  • The  Amsterdam  Area  wants  to  strengthen  the  sector  biomedical Life  Sciences  by  investing  in valorization  and  attracting companies  to  the  region,  as  well  as  in  the  research infrastructure  (including  an  imaging  centre  for  oncology  and neurosciences, tying in with the European interest into research in  the  fields  of  ageing  and  Alzheimer’s  disease).   Green  Life Sciences  is  a  new  niche,  rich  in  potential  which  the  Board  is keen to develop through investment in the Green Life Sciences Hub.   This  hub  will  be  a  hotspot  of  collaboration  between science  and  business  that  will  help  to  guarantee  the  leading position of the Food and Flower industry.

Triple Helix Projects

Developments  worldwide  prove  that  the  Amsterdam  Economic Board  is  working  on  the  culture  of  innovation  using  the  right model,  which  is  the  Triple  Helix  in  economic  development involving academia, industry, and government in partnership playing the same end-game of economic growth.

In  working  with  the  Triple  Helix  model,  we  are  inspired  by  the knowledge  created  in  Amsterdam  by  Professor  Loet  Leydesdorff from the University of Amsterdam, one of the founding fathers of the  Triple  Helix  concept.   He  has  written  many  articles  on  the subject.

Success  will  be  experienced  if  the  Amsterdam  Area  can  identify opportunities for growth and effectively leverage limited resources and focus energies around the important innovation assets that are driving the opportunities.

The  Board  is  on  it’s  way  in  realizing  so-called  iconic  projects  -game-changing  projects  to  leverage  the  region.   Examples  of projects  include World  Smart Capital,  Green  Forensics,  Proof  of Concept  Fund,  Almere  Data  Capital,  Amsterdam  Campus,  Open Data Exchange, Seamless Connections, Tracer Center Amsterdam, Lean  and  Green  Amsterdam,  ALOHA  RSV,  and  the  Life  Sciences Fund II.

The  Seamless  Connections  innovation  program  is  aimed  at establishing seamless linkages in and between logistical chains, the further  digitizing of  information,  and  ensuring  the  efficient  use  of the (multimodal) infrastructure. Seamless Connections will literally and  metaphorically  speaking  remove  the  ‘fences  and  obstacles’ between actors in the logistical chain.

Seamless Connections is an example of the Triple Helix in which the business sector, knowledge institutes, and governments, work closely together to innovate the logistical chains in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area, and accordingly remove obstacles in the chain. Besides  the  significant  role  of  ICT,  it  is  of  importance  to  adjust existing rules and traditions. In particular, the turnaround time of logistical  processes  can  be  shortened  by  organizing  paperless transfer in the links of the sector.

We  believe  strongly  that  shared  knowledge  is  the  key  factor  for innovation.  Therefore,  we  foster natural  curiosity  and  eagerness to learn more. We endeavour to strengthen and make better use of  the  knowledge  infrastructure  in  order  to  leverage  the Amsterdam Area to an even higher standard of prosperity and well-being.