Signboard outside the High Tech Campus EindhovenImageArkarc/Wikimedia Commons
The Smartest Square Kilometre of the WorldText Indira Zuljevic
When, in April 2016, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited the city of Eindhoven and its High Tech Campus, she was received with these words: “Welcome to the smartest square kilometre of the world. Welcome to the place where open innovation is not intention but daily practice. Where 145 companies with over 10,000 employees from 85 countries show that collaboration is the key to success. And we have changed the traditional customer-supplier relationship in a value chain in which small and large play an equal role in both research and development and production.”

THE PHILIPS ERA

The claim sounded a bit overconfident but looking at the hard statistics, “the smartest square kilometre of the world” may be a correct description. But how did that come to be?

The city of Eindhoven in the Netherlands is directly associated with Philips, one of the world’s biggest electronics companies. In the 1960s and ’70s, the city grew with Philips and was inseparably connected with the company. When, in the early 1990s, the company had to reorganise and move its head office to Amsterdam, Eindhoven found itself struggling with an enormous rate of unemployment. The city was on the edge of disaster and something had to be done.

Dr. Anton Philips' (the founder of Philips) statue at Eindhoven Station
IMAGE Paul van Galen/Government of the Netherlands

TRANSFORMATION

Local government leaders decided to follow the initiative of Rein Welschen, the city’s mayor at the time, to start a new style of cooperation. They encouraged and facilitated government, industry, research and educational institutions to come together and work jointly on projects and common goals. Investment was attracted and organisations like TNO, Holland’s highly rated business-oriented knowledge and innovation research organisation, were brought to Eindhoven.

View of the High Tech Campus Eindhoven
IMAGE HHahn/Wikimedia Commons

These collaborations also gave rise to the Brainport Foundation in 2005, a public-private partnership with its own ambition and strategy, and earned the city of Eindhoven the International Eurocities Award in 2010.

Downtown Eindhoven

In the last 20 years, the city, together with Brainport, has made an impressive transition to an international high-tech hotspot in a global network. The region’s campuses—for example, the Automotive Campus, Food Tech Park Brainport, TU/e (Eindhoven University of Technology) campus and High Tech Campus Eindhoven—are continuing to develop. These sites are bases for researchers, developers and entrepreneurs of hundreds of companies and institutions to collaborate and develop new technologies and products.

To further accelerate this process, in 2003, Philips Research Eindhoven, the part of Philips that had stayed on in the city, opened the High Tech Campus to other technology companies. Massive growth resulted as numerous innovative companies joined the high-tech ecosystem. By 2012 the Campus was strong enough to be sold by Philips and made into an independent organisation. Today, the High Tech Campus is a highly organised dynamic centre, a beehive for the young and knowledgeable. The Campus possesses all the requirements to translate technological innovations into business, specialising particularly in the fields of health, energy and environment.

EINDHOVEN, INDIAN HAVEN

Not surprisingly, Indian businesses are a big part of this highly international conglomerate. The energetic, flexible and young Indian companies and developers form a perfect match with the Campus’s ambition. One of these is Cognizant Business Consulting, a business and technology services corporation with a major Indian component.
Swaminathan Krishnamoorthy, Senior Account Manager at the company, describes his experience at Eindhoven thus: “I have been working and living in the country for the last four years and my company has been in the Netherlands for the last 10 years.

Our country headquarters are in Amsterdam but as business grew we decided to open our second office in the High Tech Campus Eindhoven. Things are looking good in the IT (information technology) sector. With more Dutch entities opening up for outsourcing and offshoring, the presence of Indian businesses here is likely to increase.”
On a more personal and social level, he thinks that Eindhoven is a lovely place to live and work in. “I really like the Dutch people. Most of them are helpful and accommodating. While there are plenty of good things to absorb and inculcate from Dutch culture, the top two on my mind are their sense of planning and their involvement with physical fitness.”

‘ESPOUSING’ THE CAUSE

The High Tech Campus has a very innovative way of finding new start-up companies. Thirty partners of Eindhoven expatriates have been asked to help in the search. Cooperation with the expat partners has come about through the Expatriate Spouses Initiative. Coming from India, Italy and Brazil, these energetic people know the ropes in their homeland, speak the language and are aware of all the pros and cons of starting a business in the Netherlands. Kavitha Vara, an Indian who came to the Netherlands seven years ago with her husband, explains how they work: “We make a long list of about 2000 companies. We make contact with them, conduct a series of interviews over Skype and in the end invite 20 to come to Eindhoven for the final selection round. Ten start-ups are ultimately selected and they are given two months at home to make their arrangements.”

Ladies of the Spouse Initiative Group

The open international character of the Campus combined with local benefits and support, short lines between knowledge and business and, especially, the entire attitude as Kavitha says, of “doing things” is the secret to the success of the High Tech Campus. And the success of the Campus is also the success of Eindhoven, the city which had the courage and vision to open up.

http://www.brainport.nl/en/ http://www.hightechcampus.nl/