Ladies and gentlemen,
As Chairman of the Innovation Cluster Drachten, I welcome you to a milestone for our cluster of companies. This is a joyful event!
A special welcome to Sander de Rouwe, Provincial Executive Member of Fryslân for economic affairs, and Tjeerd van Bekkum, the Mayor of the Municipality of Smallingerland. We highly appreciate the presence of representatives of the provincial and local authorities that helped to found the Innovation Cluster. The third person I would like to mention is Nieske Ketelaar, Alderman of Smallingerland, who is not present today, but who supported the cluster from its early stages. Two other strong supporters of this initiative from the start are present: Jan Hoeksema and Meine van Dam. We thank you for your confidence.
That so many people show an interest in this event is amazing. This turnout and the people present in the audience show that the collaboration between educational institutes, local and regional authorities and companies has improved, which is wonderful!
This occasion gives us the opportunity to share a few thoughts on innovation, entrepreneurship and competitiveness with you. It is the story of how companies, partly driven by their own interests, collaborate with knowledge institutes and facilitating authorities to promote innovative developments in the Northern Netherlands.
Let me briefly tell you about the history, about knowledge sharing and attracting and retaining employees, and about what our collaboration brought us so far.
Research, development and knowledge sharing, together with a vital manufacturing and service industry are the pillars of our economic position in the past and this will continue into the future. However, other regions in the world are also focusing on innovation with an inexhaustible ambition to gain their share of prosperity. This forces us to be more differentiating than ever before if we want to remain competitive compared to other regions in the world. It also requires companies to collaborate more closely on a local and regional scale. We can compete more effectively on the global market if we join forces. This calls for a change in approach and attitude and for going the extra mile to serve our common interests.
This is the reason we set up the Innovation Cluster in 2013. We wanted to unite high-tech companies with an HTSM profile, companies that are leading in their market segment, operate internationally, are knowledge-intensive and run their own R&D. The head offices of these companies are often located somewhere else in the world, which means that these companies are used to going the extra mile to prove themselves. The cluster focuses on what the partners want to realize bottom-up and on opportunities for new products or services. Outside the region, people are hardly aware that the cluster shows an above-average concentration of cutting-edge technology and knowledge-intensive activities. The awards won by the companies is evidence of their leading role.
Resato won the Erasmus Innovation Award
Philips Drachten won the Industrial Excellence Award
Neopost won the Logistica Award
VDH was the winner in the measurement and control technology industry
Ziuz was voted company of the year
With our focus on content, which may be a specifically Northern characteristic, we often remain unnecessarily and unintentionally modest and therefore less visible outside the region. Regional promotion and putting our companies on the map is one of the challenges for the cluster.
Who wants to lead in cutting-edge technology must realize that the days of independent innovation are over. In the past, companies could protect their knowledge, but nowadays companies must share knowledge to be successful in realizing new technologies. They can no longer go it alone and need to be aware that there is more knowhow outside their company than inside. This means that they must actively look for knowledge within other companies. They must collaborate to create cross-fertilization in order to increase the chance of accidental discoveries. This calls for a different attitude and way of thinking and the setup of competitive knowledge development. Our collaborative partnership has the additional advantage that it also enables smaller companies to work on larger innovations. Individual companies usually have insufficient clout and financial resources to work on competitive knowledge development.
The second challenge that ICD supports is facilitating open research collaboration and gaining faith in chain collaboration.
Attracting and retaining
Unknown means unloved, but if this region wants to become a high-tech hub, the center of cutting-edge technology in the Northern Netherlands, it is crucial to attract top talents and retain them. The present cluster of fifteen companies offers a breeding ground with plenty of career opportunities that will increase further in the coming five years. We aim to expand our cluster to 25 knowledge-intensive companies in which professionals work together and talents can switch between companies to build their careers. We want to offer a career within the cluster as a natural way to share knowledge in our own interest and that of the region. To realize this we are intensifying our contacts with institutes for senior secondary vocational education, universities of applied science and research universities. This growing process has meanwhile already yielded surprising forms of collaboration.
What is the result of collaboration?
We believe that we create vitality in the manufacturing industry and the region and thereby continuous employment. A classic case of one plus one is three. We share our findings based on mutual confidence. By sharing knowledge and experience, we bring each other to a higher level. This saves money, gives the region an impulse, and helps us recruit and retain technological talents. We work on solutions for the challenges of the future, for instance in data exchange, alternative energy and healthy ageing. We work on the edge of technology, and enter uncharted territory. This requires a lot of knowhow and money. Take today’s theme: 3D metal printing. Separately, we have insufficient clout and resources to work out the implementation of this type of technology. By collaborating, we are able to push back frontiers.
There are too many examples to mention, but let me just give you a few concrete ones.
Collaboration with knowledge institutes at secondary vocational education level and universities of applied science and research.
ICD does a lot to acquaint young people with our companies to promote technology and technology programs in education. This is a successful initiative. The number of secondary vocational education students that choose technology is increasing and the ICD companies offer these students work internships.
ICD takes part in the ‘Engineer in the classroom’ program: thirty engineers are ready to give classes at schools, guide tours and take part in peer-to-peer coaching.
The companies jointly present themselves at trade fairs and job fairs. They are present at the Company Days of the universities of Twente, Eindhoven and Delft.
ICD organizes inventors’ contests for students at the universities for applied science: NHL Leeuwarden, Hanze University Groningen, Windesheim in Zwolle, and Saxion in Enschede.
The cluster takes part in the Dutch Technology Week and set up a High Tech discovery route in and around Drachten. The latest edition had 5,500 participants.
During Girlsday, the companies offer hundreds of girls a program to acquaint them with technology.
The Technet Go-cart Race, a project in which secondary vocational education students and engineers from ICD companies work together on improving and pimping go-carts for a go-cart race.
The cluster supported students who built a solar boat to take part in the 2016 Dutch Solar Challenge.
Virtually all companies have increasing numbers of interns. We aim for 175 internships per year, which is a lot compared to the 65 we had when we started ICD. ICD also organizes the student carousel that enables students to see even more companies.
ICD has six active knowledge circles that exchange knowledge on certain themes through workshops, lectures and training sessions.
HTSM Master’s Honors Program at universities.
Talent program in senior secondary vocational education that allows talented students to work in teams on projects at ICD companies.
Together with the Hanze University of applied science, Neopost Technologies set up a one-year bachelor’s degree-level program in mechatronics. People with a diploma in electrical engineering at senior secondary vocational education level can enroll in this program to bring their career to the next level.
CIV Healthy Ageing collaboration with regional training centers.
Collaboration in precompetitive knowledge development
You can actually see what we do here because we will officially open the Field lab, the ICD Shared Facility Center. This will allow you to see the 3D metal printer in action. You will see how 3D products are programmed and how we make strength calculations based on powder.
There is also a robotics programming setup for the factory of the future research. Here employees from ICD companies work together with students who do targeted research with the programming setups.
As regards 3D metal printing, ICD collaborates with the University of Groningen, which acquired an identical printer for research purposes. Agreements have been made with a group of companies that will enable the placing of a 3D printer for production at Resato in Assen. The latest news is the agreement with regional training center de Friese Poort about 3D printing. This training center also participates in this investment and it will use the same development and programming software to train teachers and students. Finished training assignments will be printed on the ICD’s machine. In short, we have created a continuous chain from fundamental academic research to skilled operators trained by the regional training center. I am very enthusiastic about this development!
After the official part of our program, we will take a look in our field lab. Back in this room, we will present the operator app developed in the big data project, Resato’s virtual reality approach for their water-jet cutting machines, the IRIS medication-scanning machine developed by ZiuZ as part of a chain collaboration with Varias, the Microsoft HoloLens from YP-Your Partner, the Meccanoid robots we use at schools and the Spider robots of NHL. These are all examples where we work together without boundaries to push back frontiers on knowledge sharing and collaboration.
Dear All, in my story I underlined the importance of the vitality of this region. I call on companies, schools and authorities inside and outside HTSM to start working together. Collaboration makes the Northern Netherlands not just an attractive region to live in and spend your leisure hours in, but also turns it into an economically strong and vital region.
Have an enjoyable and interesting afternoon!
Chair of Innovation Cluster Drachten