The pastoral, scenic Netherlands is not the first country that comes to mind when discussing innovation, startups, or cyber warfare. The quiet country has been diligently building a high-tech scene, with the goal of becoming a prominent player on the European stage.
Still, the Netherlands remains a small figure in the high-tech world. Local enterprises raised a mere €169 million in 2014 a drop in the bucket compared to Israeli high-tech, which raised $4.4 billion in 2015.
The innovation charge is being led by the government and the private sector in Amsterdam, The Hague, and the southern city of Eindhoven, which has been fighting its tranquil image.
The Israeli angle
But the Dutch startup story has an Israeli touch. The two countries are currently celebrating the two-year anniversary of the signing of a joint statement on economic development; on Thursday, The Hague played host to the Israel-Holland Innovation Day devoted to ‘smart cities’ facilitating coordination and cooperation from local industrialists and government officials and representatives of Israeli companies like MobilEye, Checkmarx, and Cellint.
Another sign of the growing importance the Netherlands attributes to the ‘startup nation’ can be seen in the appointment of an innovation attaché at the Dutch Embassy in Israel. That role has been filled in the past few months by Dr. Racheli Kreisberg an Israeli born in the Netherlands which has been working alongside new ambassador Gilles Plug.
“This cooperation is necessary,” said Kreisberg, speaking to “Globes”.
“I know this field has been developed in other embassies, like in the British Embassy in Israel. But when it comes to the Netherlands, I am only the third to occupy this role, which was opened three years ago.”
Kriesberg, a PhD in molecular microbiology and biotechnology, has been promoting innovative ventures at the European Union in recent years. That experience and her Dutch past allows her to integrate the needs of the two countries.
What are the big challenges for the Netherlands and what is Israel’s comparative advantage?
“When you talk of challenges, you cannot forget that Holland enjoys many advantages that Israel does not, or else how could we initiative cooperation? But let’s put aside those advantages for a moment. Israel’s strengths revolve around the startup scene. Here and they understand this in Holland innovation begins in the army and spills over into the universities.
“Essentially, Israel and the Netherlands are similar in that they both have relatively-small domestic markets, which force them to seek other, external markets and deal with competition. Israel faces geographic pressure desertification, water shortages. Holland does not face such an issue, if anything, it deals with an abundance of water and yet the situation is similar because both are handling local difficulties and the need to break out, making them turn to innovative solutions.”
Kreisberg added: “The Netherlands has incredible potential in terms of interfacing with the world it is interconnected. It has an airport, a seaport, and equally important it has the direct connection between Europe to North America because 11 of the 15 trans-Atlantic cables pass through it.”
What led to the cooperation between the nations?
“The ‘innovation days’ we host focus on prominent topics last year we looked at ‘the aging challenge’ and now we are highlighting ‘smart cities’. The warming ties can be seen through joint ventures between large companies like Orbotech and startups and in the arrival of senior government officials to Israel, like Neelie Kroes (who manages StartupDelta, a public-private initiative to promote the Dutch high-tech scene).”
The Dutch aspirations are apparent in The Hague. The city, known to Israel as the home of the International Criminal Court, is also the center of investment in a field familiar to Israelis security. The Hague Security Delta the largest European cyber center operates there with government support. It is a massive hub that offers startups a home and the opportunity to benefit from the diffusion of ideas as well as the strategic location.
Amsterdam smartens up
But you cannot discuss the Netherlands without looking at Amsterdam, where a multitude of startups are focusing on developing technologies for smart cities. “The city has already been trying to act like a smart city,” explained Kreisberg, “You can see it through the development of technologies for efficient energy consumption and management advanced by charting the city and examining demand by area while balancing the need for privacy.”
Kreisnberg believes the Dutch path towards innovation will depend in part on cooperation from Israel. “It requires a tripod of training, projects, and funding. After the Innovation Day on ageing, a joint venture was founded by Philips and Teva called Sanara Ventures, to invest in medical devices. There are projects in Israel that interest the Netherlands and we can train people from there. The venture capital front is also more developed in Israel than in Holland, where people are still wary; but I believe the field will develop and the funds there will be even bigger. To some extent, the pension funds there have already started investing in innovation.”
The author was a guest of the Dutch embassy.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on February 5, 2016
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