Top down innovation in The Netherlands

Top down innovation in The Netherlands

Top down innovation in The Netherlands

Back in 2010-2011 the Dutch coalition government introduced a new policy with the intention to restore The Netherlands back into the top five knowledge economies. Since holding fifth position in 2012, the Netherlands has since slipped to eighth place in the Global Competitiveness Index. The main elements of the ‘top sector policy’ were defined as follows:

  • Create an excellent climate for entrepreneurship and innovation
  • Move from specific R&D grants and subsidies towards more general tax benefit schemes such as Innovation Box, WBSO and RDA
  • Focus efforts on developing nine top sectors:
    • Agriculture and Food
    • Chemical industry
    • Creative Industry
    • Energy
    • High Tech Systems and Materials
    • Life Sciences and Health
    • Logistics
    • Horticulture and propagation materials
    • Water
    • Excellent research directed by top sector needs
    • Enhance public-private partnerships

The government has stated an ambition to spend 2.5% of the total Dutch GDP on R&D by 2020. In 2010, we were investing 2.02%[1]. Another action the government took was to get the various public authorities, companies, universities and knowledge institutes to formulate their joint research ambitions into roadmaps.  

Implementation of policy

The top sector policy was introduced at a time when the government was focused on reducing the budget deficit. As a result Dutch ministries were facing cuts in their budgets and national subsidies to incentivize R&D co-operations were heavily reduced. Universities and knowledge institutes were under a lot of pressure financially.  The policy also reduced the opportunities SMEs had to work with partners on subsidized programs. As a result the top sector policy has not always been positively received.

But the question we should be asking is do the top sectors bring any value? My answer to that is definitively positive. Since the implementation of the policy there has been a tremendous effort to consolidate the research ambitions of companies, universities and knowledge institutes into joint roadmaps.

A substantial amount of money for university research has been directed towards topics relevant to the top sectors. Cash contributions from companies to universities and institutes are now supplemented by an additional 25% from Dutch government (the so-called TKI-toeslag). This has led to more intense and aligned public private R&D partnerships. The scientific community has to respond to the many technological challenges in problems industry is facing. The industry has to learn that they have to inspire rather than to dictate to the scientific organizations.

Driving European innovation

For an R&D intensive technology company like NXP, innovation is vital if we are to remain industry leaders. R&D partnerships with companies and knowledge institutes all over Europe is therefore of utmost importance. The decision of the minister of Economic Affairs to invest over 50m Euro per year to allow R&D actors in the Netherlands access to European programs that need partial funding from participating countries, like Eureka programs and the newly defined ECSEL Joint Undertaking, is therefore very much welcomed. These programs have already proven to be very valuable for R&D in Europe.

I read with interest a recent Dutch paper on technological and social innovation in a competitive market written by authors from Panteia/EIM and Rotterdam School of Management[2].  They claimed that 77% of the total innovation success of a company is due to social innovation and only 23% driven by technological innovation. The general media reaction to the report was to suggest that top sector policy should be redirected towards social innovations.

Without denying the value of social innovation,like dynamic management, flexible organizations, valuable labour relations, I don’t agree that the focus of the top sector policy should be redirected away from technology. I’ll give you the reason why. In one of the top sectors, High Tech Systems and Materials, the large companies, including NXP Semiconductors, have managed to achieve a leading position thanks to high level technological innovations. Based on the strong technological expertise of Dutch companies Brainport, Eindhoven was named as the smartest region of the world in 2011 and to the third best city in Europe for investment.


From April 7-11, 2014, the Netherlands will be the partner country at the HANNOVER MESSE, showcasing the strength of the Netherlands as an innovative country. Companies from the High Tech Systems and Materials top sector will be very visible at the show and will demonstrate the results from some of the successful public- private partnerships.

An example of such a partnership is the world’s first solar family car Stella, which will be on display at the show. Stella finished number one in the Cruiser category of the World Solar Challenge 2013 in Australia. The car has been built by the students of the University of Eindhoven with support of other Dutch companies including NXP, which provided them with the latest automotive solutions.

If you’re interested in finding out more or discussing these issues further please visit NXP at the Dutch Pavilion. Hall 2, Stand D10 and arrange a conversation.


[1] Bedrijvenbeleid in Volle Gang, Voortgangsrapportage bedrijvenbeleid 2013, ministry of Economic Affairs

[2] Dutch Title: Technologisch en sociale innovatie in een concurrende markt: Innovatie- en concurrentie monitor topsectoren 2012

Gerard Beenker
Gerard Beenker
Gerard Beenker joined Philips Research Laboratories in Eindhoven in 1980. Since 1989 he had several management positions in the sector IC Design of Philips Research. On January 1st 1999 he was appointed Senior Vice President of Philips Research. From Jan 1999 till Feb 2006, he has been responsible for the sector IC Design in Philips Research, combined with his role as manager of the IC Program and account manager for Philips Semiconductors. In 2006 he established the NXP Research organisation, and was appointed as manager of the NXP Research organisation. In November 2008, he became Scientific Director of NXP and manager of NXP External Relations. In this role, he particularly focuses on developing and managing external relations with scientific, R&D communities and public authorities, reflecting the growing importance of external partnerships for leveraging NXP’s R&D portfolio. He is active in various advisory boards and councils, amongst others he is responsible for the Dutch roadmap Components and Circuits of the topsector High Tech Systems and Materials as well as member of the Technology Committee of the Dutch employers organisation VNO-NCW.

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