Ton Jonker MBA
Amsterdam Economic Board
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.