Entrepreneurship amongst students, smart links to other organisations and cross-overs between science and business: Martijn Ridderbos likes fanning the flames of these initiatives.
“Economic development of the region is extremely important for the Leiden University. This is perhaps less embedded in our DNA than is usual with technical universities but we see it as our civil duty to make a significant contribution. The spin-off from universities for the region is huge. For every euro invested in a university, the region gains 4.7 euros.”
Support and Promote
“As an executive, I am aware that consultation bodies rarely produce anything concrete. In contrast Economie071 is different; it is not just talk, but also action. The board consists of people who support and promote each other. It is apparent that now the time is ripe for working together instead of border fighting for who attracts a specific company into their district. The charm of this region is that the municipalities complement each other beautifully, each with their own strengths. The arrival of a joint retail vision brought about by Economie071 is a great leap forward for the region.”
“As a university we become involved with regional initiatives easily, even if this is only due to being a large land owner. Whether it is a discussion about the connection between the A4 and A44 motorways or a widening of the Plesmanweg road, we take our seat at the table because these roads run across our land.
We have strong ties in the city of Leiden. Although we are headquartered in Leiden (the second branch of the university is in The Hague, note), the Leiden municipality should not be the only one feeling responsible for student housing. We have to work with others for this as well.
In the Leiden region. We are now well aware of how we can help each other. As a university, we have a colossal international knowledge network at our disposal that we would like to make available to the region. For example, should a museum wish to work with China, we have a number of Chinese language students who are able to help them.”
Innovation and Entrepreneurship
“Even within a large institution such as the university, people are able to grasp and develop new initiatives quickly. Five years ago we were amazed at the fact that so few students started businesses. Eight student entrepreneurs thought about this and held a barbeque with representatives from the business world. The Vrijplaats was born, students and entrepreneurs came together to exchange plans and ask questions. That led to the founding of the student-entrepreneur association LUGUS, which currently has 120 members. Meanwhile the centre for innovation and entrepreneurship became an Economie071 project with the Hogeschool Leiden and Leiden municipality as partners. This gained momentum and eventually resulted in PLNT. LUGUS is also a part of this. That is what I mean, not just talk, but also action.”
PLNT the Pre-Incubator
“Using PLNT we not only want to educate entrepreneurs, but also intrapreneurs: people whose entrepreneurship is in their entire attitude. The people who start successfully at PLNT are able to expand to the next location. I think of the incubator Area071 in Leiderdorp and BioPartner or the Poortgebouw on the Bio Science Park. PLNT serves as a pre-incubator.
My dream is that companies register with PLNT themselves because they want a group of students think about a problem and the students in turn also want to learn something about being in business. Students are smart and have access to all kinds of scientific knowledge. That is why we like to give them a prominent role in bringing the business and university worlds closer together.
When companies start beating down the door at PLNT, a flywheel is set in motion. Students receive a lot of information and become keen to dig deeper, discover more. They learn so much more than by only attending lectures.”
Intersection with the International Network
“As a university we are a local intersection with the international knowledge network. Our scientists work all of the world with other scientists. Furthermore we also focus on our own region, you seek out what your need. As an example, with Delft and Rotterdam we have been able to form Medical Delta. Together we have all of the science necessary. It is partly due to this wide range that we rank high on the international list of universities. That has an impact on our global cooperation with other universities and scientists, as well as having an impact on the Bio Science Park and the LUMC.
We are open to making many more connections, including in relatively new areas. It is important for the MBO studies to have good internships, so that there is a good connection between education and the labour market. Internships are also just as important at HBO and university levels. We have therefore become part of the MBO initiative.”
Success Gives Rise to Energy
“Working together with the joint partners of Economie071, we have been able to make decisions quickly about the regional Expat Centre, PLNT and the retail vision. Now that the engine is running, the rest will be easier. When a new proposal is received, it is very likely that you will hear what a brilliant idea it is and that we should do it together.”