The Leiden region wants to lead the way with new applications of the Internet of Things, where appliances and equipment exchange information through digital networks. Robert Strijk, member of the Economie071 steering committee wants to be counted amongst the national leaders in this. “I want people to say: pioneering work is being done in the Leiden region.”
Preparing for a Different Type of Work
“How will the residents in the Leiden region make a living in the next ten years? With that question in mind, we went to work together with Economie071. We see that trends in ICT innovation and robotics will demand different types of skills in the near future. The way we consume and produce is changing. We must respond to these trends.
We are the most highly educated region in the Netherlands. We also have a wonderful living environment, in close proximity to rail links, motorways and Schiphol Airport. Given these favourable circumstances, we only achieve a relatively moderate economic performance.
One of the reasons for this is that our infrastructure needed a lot of maintenance. We are addressing this now, this includes the Leiden Ring Noord and the Rijnlandroute. We have also brought our regulations governing business parks and office locations into alignment and have developed a joint Retail Vision.”
Entrepreneurship Necessary for Innovation
“Innovation is not about making discoveries, but introducing something new. That being the case, if we want to innovate, we need to have entrepreneurship. That is why I am so pleased with initiatives such as HUBspot, where we can strengthen, coach and inspire starting entrepreneurs. For example, we are able to help with financial support and in contacting other entrepreneurs and scientists.
Scientists often have to look for a needle in a haystack. Entrepreneur Onno van de Stolpe from the biotech company Galapagos has just found that one molecule that makes a difference, using this he can improve the health of a huge number of people. To achieve more of these types of discoveries, we must increase the probability of coincidence. Bringing discoverers and innovators together helps in this.”
Entire Region is the Problem Owner
“At first, the relationships in the Leiden region were difficult. In my view, that was due to the surrounding districts not always being joint owners of the problems at that time. Leiden assumed responsibility for a problem and told the others how to contribute to solving it. Such a system does not work. Only when you acknowledge the problem yourself, can you think about the solution.
We are now busy with this. We are working together with five other districts to expand our university and the six of us are thinking about work placements for MBO (vocational education).
Because the directors of the six districts regularly speak with each other, we have a greater awareness of each other’s interests.
The same applies to the cooperation between educational institutions and entrepreneurs. If we want to have a second cluster next to the Bio Science Park Leiden, we have to do that together. Everyone recognises this because we all have an invested interest in a good business climate.”
Districts Complement Each Other
“Together we have also looked into what the actual strength of this region is, in order to reinforce it further. Our driving force is the international knowledge economy, where the greatest innovations are occurring in the field of Life Sciences & Health. We can distinguish ourselves at European level in this. This also increases demand and thereby employment in other sectors.
We have also discovered through working together in Economie071, that as districts we complement each other greatly. Oegstgeest and Voorschoten are attractive places to live. Zoeterwoude offers much employment at Heineken and at the business park Groote Polder. Katwijk has much entrepreneurship and more available space. Leiderdorp has a healthcare park.
In Leiden, we are fortunate in that by having the oldest university in the Netherlands, we can attract a lot of young talent. These people are able to help us with innovations and new developments.”
Strengthening the Voice of Entrepreneurship
“One hurdle that we come across at Economie071 is that government and entrepreneurs speak different languages. Entrepreneurs want to know: what are we going to do first tomorrow? District councils are more interested in the long term and first want to spend 18 months working out a plan.
We are able to make arrangements with the educational partners and district councils quite easily. However, this often follows a different pace with the entrepreneurs. The entrepreneurs are represented in the Economie071 steering committed by the umbrella organisations. They represent the general business interests, but not always the interests of the individual entrepreneur. In addition, the entrepreneurs are wide ranging: from shopkeeper to multinational. I would like to hear the entrepreneurs voice more often at Economie071. After all, they experience the same problems and see the same opportunities.”
Reflecting on the Long Term
“In 2017 we will be holding two large meetings together with the Rabobank. I have high expectations of these. We want to involve the constituent parts of the entrepreneurs’ associations directly and hear what is happening, both with individual entrepreneurs and their umbrella organisations.
Entrepreneurs are often busy with daily business. But they also want to have access to good personnel in five years’ time. That is why I expressly want to invite them to consider the economic environment in the long term. For this it might be necessary to loosen the view on short term cash a little.
Leader in the Internet of Things
“I see many opportunities in the future for applications of the Internet of Things. Put simply this means that everyday objects become connected through a network and information is exchanged. We have only had a smartphone for a few years and yet this piece of equipment has changed our lives. The Internet of Things will likewise bring about a radical change.
We want to lead in having a vision. I want people to say: pioneering work is being done in the Leiden region. I want us to at least be in the top five cities of the Netherlands.
At the same time, we want to become a player in that innovative field. That does not only have to be in technical innovation, but also in process innovation such as Airbnb. For example, consider a system where a node (a type of transmitter) at a street parking space indicates whether the space is vacant, so that you as a driver no longer have to search through the streets for an available space. For us the question is how we can facilitate these innovations.
Another topic for Economie071 would seem to me to be jobs for people whose profession no longer exists or will cease to exist in the near future. How are we going to retrain them so that they remain actively part of everything?”
Living Pleasurably Needs Employment Prospects
“I enjoy living here and I still want to be doing that in ten or twenty years’ time. Ultimately it is all about a feeling of well-being! As a councillor, I feel responsible for this.
Pleasant living means being able to eat out here, experience nice activities and visit events. Shops and theatres are located here only because people want to work here. That requires us to continue developing the business environment.”