The New Dutch Model for Economic Innovation Policy

The Netherlands government is partnering in new ways with Dutch private enterprises and knowledge institutes, working collaboratively through a series of unique initiatives in support of international economic development. Although the primary focus is on developing opportunities in the US, the partnerships will also identify, launch and develop Dutch and European opportunities for US partners. Targeting the fields of sustainability, healthcare, and e-mobility, the “Golden Triangle” approach supports the development of a range of projects, including eco-districts, clean power, technological innovations, and infrastructure improvements. Consul General Bart van Bolhuis discusses this new public-private approach and share examples of projects in development in the Western US.


Introduction by Gordon Feller

We’ve had city leaders. We’ve had enterprise leaders. We’ve had foundation leaders from the independent sector. Other than Chris Vein this morning from the White House, we haven’t had a national government perspective to overlay. I thought this is a good time to ask the Consul General of the government of the Netherlands Bart von Bolhuis to join us here. He’s based in San Francisco. He worries about the whole western part of the United States. He has some amazing things to tell us about what the Dutch government innovation strategy is. Thank you, Bart.

Bart von Bolhuis

Thank you, Gordon. I feel a pity that it’s only the western part of the United States and not including the beautiful city of Vancouver, almost the greenest city in the northern part of America. I feel a responsibility in standing in between you and the reception network event which starts in 10 minutes with Dutch beer and Dutch cheese so I will be brief.

It’s great to see the power of the cities back again: Vancouver, Barcelona, San Francisco, Amsterdam. The cities really coming back as powerhouses of innovation, economy as it happened before in the Netherlands 500 years ago. Carolien Gehrels, the Vice-Mayor, told you something about it this morning. We have a long history in innovation and in cities. We’re a small country with a big impact also here in the United States of America. Over 600,000 jobs are related to trade and investment with the Netherlands. We are the third largest investor here in the US, including companies like Philips, the co-sponsor, and a lot of smaller SMEs. Even more impressive perhaps is the fact that we are, at the moment, the first destination of American investments abroad. More investments go into the Netherlands than to any other country in the world. We’re proud to have Cisco as one of the main investors included. It’s all about innovation and it’s all about the cities.

What’s the secret? What is our secret? I’d like to share with you and it’s quite simple. It’s over there. It’s a cooperation between the government, businesses and knowledge institutes. It’s not something new in the Netherlands. We discovered it a long time ago fighting the water but also in the setup of our food and nutrition system and agriculture. We’re the second worldwide exporter of food products in small countries. It’s all because of this cooperation which leads to managed innovation. Knowledge institutes like Wageningen University in close cooperation with Davis nowadays in creating a food valley here in the Sacramento area. So this is the secret: government, businesses and knowledge institutes sitting together and talking about the focus of their activities, talking about the international focus of their activities as well.

Public private cooperation is for us in the consulate a very important issue as well. A month ago, we signed a partnership Orange Goes Green. It’s all about renewable. It’s all about efficiency, energy storage, electric transportation and smart grid systems, very much focusing on the small-scale solutions, on the urban solutions. We will be in two weeks’ time with the people of Utrecht talking there about eco-districts −the Eco-District Summit− and sharing innovations that we found in the Netherlands.

In San Francisco, I think we will have some interesting projects ahead of us. We were talking with the city board of San Francisco and the America’s Cup about introducing electric transportation over the bay, water taxis and water buses charged by locally-produced renewable energy. We wouldn’t be Dutch if we wouldn’t include electric biking in our program so we were just chatting with the people of the city and one of the projects definitely will be looking at electric biking in San Francisco. As a biker myself, I know the difficulties in all the hills here so electric biking might be a great idea here. We have great technologies in the Netherlands.

Smart cities in the case of Amsterdam and San Francisco are all about creativity and digital. Amsterdam is a great hub for this kind of businesses. An American guy like Mike Lee founded Appsterdam over there, a great incubator. It’s definitely in our plan to connect these two hubs even better than they are connected now. Carolien Gehrels will be in January and it will be the takeoff of a program of close cooperation that will include an Amsterdam House in San Francisco where people can sit and work together, even live together in creative residence. The future of the cities, especially in the case of Dutch cities like Amsterdam, lies very much in creativity. Creative and digital is a great connection.

Our job as an office here is to bridge the gap. Especially for those SMEs, it’s of tremendous importance. It’s great to see that in our cities, you see a lot of startups. In fact, there are very small multinationals by national companies with 4 or 5 employees but active on both sides of the ocean. Connecting those companies and serving them is a great honor for us. If you want to check about our activities, please check or

Now, I think it’s time for some Dutch beer and Dutch cheese so I would like to thank Gordon for the opportunity for us and for the city of Amsterdam to present ourselves. We’d like to invite you for drinks soon.

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