Using digital technologies to leverage traditional strengths in tourism and food production.
This inland community, bordering Spain, has suffered the fate of many small, rural communities. As young people left in search of opportunity, its population gradually shrank and its economic base eroded. Tourism based on its 500-year history became Castelo de Vide’s most important industry, but the community was hard-pressed to compete with coastal cities and towns to the west. To create a sustainable future, the city decided to re-connect its economy to the world. It developed a wireless broadband network to serve businesses, citizens and tourists and put its municipal IT “into the cloud” to reduce costs and expand capabilities. This new infrastructure has made the community more attractive to residents from nearby cities who seek a higher quality of life. Castelo de Vide has also succeeded in attracting numerous film and television productions, which can take advantage of its unspoiled beauty while remaining connected to the network. The city’s newest project is the City of Books, which will provide local booksellers with an online sales portal while providing a hub for Portuguese and Spanish publishers to distribute their products and build an audience.
The Eindhoven Region, south of Amsterdam, is a very successful place. Officially designated in Dutch as Samenverkingsverband Regio Eindhoven (SRE), the region has long been the industrial center of Holland, with 730,000 inhabitants and a workforce of 400,000. Its major cities are Eindhoven (pop. 212,000), Helmond (88,000) and Veldhoven (43,000).
Eindhoven generates €24 billion of GDP and €55 billion in exports, one-quarter of the Dutch total. It absorbs 36% of all private Dutch R&D spending and is home to globally recognized companies including Philips, the healthcare, lighting and consumer product giant, and ASML, maker of photolithography equipment for the production of silicon chips. Eighteen percent of all Dutch automotive jobs are in Eindhoven, and nine percent of all life technology employment. The Eindhoven University of Technology, with more than 7,000 students, is considered one of the top three research universities in Europe. The High Tech Campus Eindhoven founded by Philips houses over 80 companies employing another 7,000 residents.
Yet the region faces major challenges, and its ability to rise to them will determine whether its success can continue.
Eindhoven is a manufacturing center in a high-cost country. By focusing on producing high-value, technology-based products, it is in competition with fast-growing manufacturing centers in nations with much lower costs. Many are striving mightily to perfect the complex manufacturing capabilities that have made Eindhoven successful, which creates unceasing pressure for the region to boost productivity. Foreign competitors are also seeking to raise their own game in R&D and knowledge creation, and Eindhoven, which generates 50% of all Dutch patents, needs to stay ahead of the curve.
At the same time, however, Eindhoven is saddled with Europe’s demographics, in which a low birth rate and aging population is reducing the regional labor force. To win the battle for the talent that provides its competitive advantage, the region must make itself economically and socially attractive to knowledge workers from around the world.
The Brainport Model
Eindhoven’s answer to these challenges is a public-private partnership called Brainport Development (www.brainport.nl). Its members include employers, research institutes, the Chamber of Commerce, the SRE, leading universities and the governments of the region’s three largest cities. A small professional staff meets regularly with stakeholders to identify their strengths, needs and objectives, then looks for opportunities for them to collaborate on business, social or cultural goals. Any stakeholder of Brainport has the opportunity to create new initiatives or partner with other stakeholders. Their work is based on a strategic plan called Brainport Navigator 2013 (with a 2020 version in the works funded in part by the Dutch government). It calls for focusing on five key areas for development: life technologies, automotive, high-tech systems, design and food & nutrition.
It sounds simple enough, and little different from strategies and collaboration groups at work in cities and regions around the globe. It could even be derided as a “talking shop” in which endless meetings take the place of action. But that would be a mistake.
Take healthcare. The region already has about 825 businesses active in the health sector, which employ 17,000 people. To drive further growth, Brainport created a project called Brainport Health Innovation (BHI). Its goals are to foster increased well-being for the elderly and chronically ill, to reduce healthcare costs and increase productivity, and to do so while generating economic opportunities for the region.
The total cost of regional healthcare is forecast to rise from €17bn now to €25bn by 2020, in large part because of the need for 100,000 new healthcare workers to meet demand. BHI’s conservative goal is to improve productivity by 1 percent per year, which would reduce demand for new personnel by 25,000 and save about €750 million. Meanwhile, BHI’s work expects to generate 150 new companies employing at least 10,000 people. It is a conscious effort to reduce employment demand in one area in order to increase it in another, where the region as a whole can benefit more.
BHI has involved hospitals, insurance companies, technology manufacturers local government and individual patients to design and implement realistic technology solutions that offer a profitable operating model. In the works are the Living Lab eHealth project, in which aging people test new services and products introduced by the BHI participants, including remote monitoring and diagnosis over broadband.
A Care Circles project aims to more efficiently share capacity among providers for home care of the elderly and disabled. The longer such patients can be cared for at home, the happier they generally are and the lower the costs of their care. The nighttime hours represent the biggest challenge to home care. Through Care Circles, all calls go to a central dispatch, which matches the location to the partner organization closes to the patient. The result is better quality and availability of care at a lower total cost.
Track Record in Collaboration
Some partnering, some pre-commercial testing, some cost-sharing – at first glance, the BHI projects sound worthy but hardly enough to light up the night. But that is the Brainport method. Bring together the players from business, government, institutions and citizens groups. Figure out specific projects on which they can cooperate for clear mutual benefit. Then manage the projects carefully until they produce results and gain the ability to become self-sustaining.
The range of Brainport projects is extraordinarily wide. The Automative Technology Center involves 125 organizations in collaborative projects that, from 2005 to 2008, generated €4.5m in new investment. The start-up of new high-tech systems and ICT companies is stimulated by incubators with names like Catalyst, Beta II and the Device Process Building.
Design Connection Brainport manages a wide range of projects in design and technology, in order to encourage the industrial design expertise that is as essential as information technology to all of the SRE’s industrial clusters.
Paradigit is a systems integrator founded in a university dormitory that built a fast-growing business producing build-to-order PCs and name-brand systems. Through membership in Brainport, the company identified an opportunity that turned into a program called SKOOL. This program pro-vides over 800 Dutch primary schools with a combination of hardware and software that vastly simplifies the integration of information technology into education. Students receive SKOOL laptops from Paradigit. When students start up the laptops for the first time, the systems automatically connect to the SKOOL server, download all of the applications specified for that school and configure themselves. SKOOL provides remote management of all servers and PCs at its client schools, as well as an online interface for students and teachers to communicate and share content securely. So "bullet-proof" are the hardware and software that SKOOL's technical support department consists of just three people.
The Taskforce Technology, Education and Employment program (abbreviated TTOA in Dutch) focuses on promoting the interest of young people in engineering, attracting foreign knowledge workers, career counseling and lifelong learning. A project called Technific has created an award-winning game called Medical Investigators, in which the student is an investigator accused of committing a crime. His goal is to prove his innocence by collecting evidence throughout the game using an electron microscope, infrared equipment and DNA testing. Each completed experiment helps the students advance to the next level. Another 1,500 kids take part in BrainTrigger, in which they work with local companies to develop innovative solutions in the fields of sustainability, mobility, safety and health.
Responding to Crisis
As the financial crisis gripped the region, TTOA funded research projects for more than 2,000 workers who faced layoffs in order to preserve their skills until the economy recovered. An additional €670,000 went to retraining personnel within businesses. A Dutch entrepreneurs organization identified Helmond, the SRE’s second largest city, as offering the Netherland’s best response to economic crisis.
TTOA also goes on the road to international career fairs in the US, Europe, Turkey, India and China to promote opportunities in the Eindhoven region. Its Expatguideholland.com Web site provides information and services to smooth the path of highly-skilled immigrants and their families.
Information and communications technologies are also brought to bear on creating a quality of life that attracts and retains the digitally literate. Digital City Eindhoven attracts a half-million visitors monthly to a Web-based social media tool that encourages residents to learn more about the region. A WMO Portal involves 20 organizations in answering resident questions on health care, social services and housing. Bestuuronline puts political meetings in the city of Eindhoven online, while Virtual Helmond involves residents of that city in decision-making about planning, building designs and street furniture.
An online game called SenseOfTheCity allows anyone with a GPS-equipped mobile phone to create a personal map of the city and identify what they like best and least. A 12-day festival called STRP, which attracts 225,000 visitors, features music, film, live performances, interactive art, light art and robotics. GLOW is another festival that celebrates Eindhoven's history as home to the Phillips lighting division. The center of the city of Eindhoven is transformed for 10 days into an open-air museum of design in light, much of it interactive, for 65,000 visitors.
The Enabling Infrastructure
The most long-standing innovation projects of Brainport and the SRE concern broadband. From 1999 to 2005, the Dutch government funded a pilot program called Kenniswijk (“Knowledge City”) to subsidize installation of fiber to the home. The program ended after connecting 15,000 homes, but it was followed by a classic Brainport project: Be-linked, which brought together companies, institutions, social organizations, governments and residents to promote broadband deployment and applications. Over the ensuing years, it has stimulated a remarkable range of activity.
A commercial provider, Reggefiber, has aggressively expanded in municipalities where at least 40% of residents commit to taking service. It is now serving more than 230,000 households. Eight industrial parks, backed by loan guarantees from the city of Eindhoven, have installed their own fiber networks. The City of Eindhoven has offered its 100+ schools service on a fiber network at low fixed costs, as well as help in using it streamline management processes and improve teaching outcomes.
A nonprofit Eindhoven Fiber eXchange Foundation, established by the city of Eindhoven and the Eindhoven University of Technology, interconnects service providers throughout the region to let them make the most efficient use of assets. Its members include a broadband consortium of 21 social organizations, which share their own networks through the exchange. In 2010, eight of the region’s 21 municipalities set up a €2.4m fund to create a virtual regional network made up of interconnected service providers.
In the small village of Neunen, two residents succesfullly lobbied the Dutch government to capitalize deployment of a fiber network, called OnsNet, which achieved a 97% penetration within 3 months of start-up. That remarkable goal was achieved through a cooperative ownership model. Property owners were asked to pay for the "last-mile" connection from the core network into their buildings. The case for citizens to put their own money into operating the coop was simple: they were investing in a home improvement that would increase the value of their property.
The citizens of Nuenen own 95% of OnsNet and join technical and operational executives at meetings to identify new ideas and solve current problems. And the pace of innovation has been unceasing. An online exercise and weight-loss program, with a "virtual fitness coach," is popular. A "Window on Nuenen" channel provides access to video cameras strategically positioned around town, which allows the housebound elderly to stay connected to the life of the community. The OnsNet community TV service trains locals in the use of video equipment and makes it simple to upload video clips. Clubs and societies post video of their meetings and events. A local church offers live broadcasts of baptisms and weddings on a paid basis. Parents and grandparents chat over video with children and grandchildren far away.
OnsNet is an example of something Brainport calls “open innovation.” The Brainport nonprofit terms itself is an open innovation platform, in which many players pursue their own interests in collaboration with others, with Brainport acting as instigator, facilitator, negotiator and traffic cop.
The model is simple to explain in theory but hard to carry out in practice. World markets are changing fast and demographics are presenting challenges to growth all around the globe. The hope of the Eindhoven region is that years of practicing open innovation, on a foundation of information and communications technology, provide an advantage that competitors will find it hard to match.
In the News
Read the latest updates about Eindhoven.
Intelligent Community of the Year 2011
Smart21 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011
Top7 2009 | 2010 | 2011
The Kempen is a 60-square-kilometer region extending from southeastern Netherlands to northeastern Belgium. Its name comes from the Latin “campina,” meaning “region of fields.” Until the 19th Century, it was a land of heath and sparse pine forests too poor to support agriculture. Then Napoleon Bonaparte dispatched a military ruler to the conquered territory of the Netherlands, and he decided that revolutionary change was in order. He organized a massive effort to collect animal and human waste from farms, villages and cities and have it worked into the soil. Years of hard work produced fertile farmland that, today, contributes to the Netherland’s #2 position in the world for the value of its agricultural exports.
Agriculture and tourism are mainstays of the economy, as in so many other rural regions. But in the Dutch Kempen, home to 108,000 people, the provincial government of North Brabant, its municipalities and intrepid individuals are applying Intelligent Community principles to build a new model of rural development.
House of Innovation
Huis van de Brabantse Kempen (House of the Kempen Region in Brabant) is an economic development agency for the region that consciously applies the Triple Helix or Innovation Triangle model. It brings together provincial government, business, education, healthcare and other stakeholders to cooperate on projects that create business opportunities and employment while addressing quality of life in the region. It has taken much time and energy to align all the parties, agree on objectives and investment choices and begin to take action. Founded in 2012, the Huis now has programs that educate local youth about career opportunities in the Kempen, train businesses in technology, connect entrepreneurs across the Belgian-Dutch border and promote renewable energy development.
Urban Levels of Fiber Coverage
This innovation program operates on an enviable digital platform. Village centers in the region have long been well-served by DSL and cable systems, but until recently, the rest of the region went begging. That changed when a Dutch broadband pioneer, Kees Rovers, began planning a fiber-to-the-premise network with local partners and obtained government grants to capitalize it. Through this effort, the region has already reached 97% coverage at fiber speeds, with property owners in many cases contributing to the cost of the last mile. Work is now underway to fill in the last and most expensive 3%. At age 70, Rovers is a serial broadband champion, having led the fiber network deployment in the village of Nuenen that contributed to Eindhoven’s selection as the 2011 Intelligent Community of the Year.
Many Hands Make Light the Work
Dutch culture is known for valuing self-reliance, and the Brabantse Kempen region is no exception. The village of Hoogeloon established a cooperative healthcare facility to stem the outflow of elderly residents who left to seek better care. Summa and the Pius X College partnered to establish a digital marketplace for eldercare services and program in which students care for elderly citizens in exchange for hands-on learning in gerontology.
Two brothers who own a potato farm, the van der Bornes, have become viral stars in the world of precision agriculture by publishing a stream of videos and presentation on their remarkable, self-taught uses of technology to boost yields from the field. A local success tory, the Vencomatic Group, sells its automated poultry-raising systems from South Korea to West Africa, demonstrating that a location in the countryside is no bar to global success. Across the Dutch Kempen region, that success is made up of one part strategy, two parts hard work – and a generous helping of individual initiative aimed at the common good.
The smallest country in the European Union, Malta has a rich history as a mid-Mediterranean trading port. Today, a national ICT strategy sets the goal of making Malta one of the world's top information societies and positions ICT as a means to reduce social inequality and improve quality of life. The country ranks 1st in an EU survey for ICT exports as a percentage of total exports, thanks to local and foreign ICT companies and regulations supporting online gaming and gambling. Malta is fifth in the EU for xDSL penetration among households and 4th among businesses, and expects by 2010 to bring FTTP to 20% of households. Already ranking 1st in e-government for businesses and 2nd for citizens, Malta also invests in broadband and PC subsidies, training to extend digital literacy to the excluded, credits for businesses adopting ICT, and financial incentives to attract students into ICT careers.
Smart21 2008 | 2009
93% of the residents on this Crown Dependency are satisfied with the quality of life. Through innovative use of clustering and technology, it again is one of the most successful economies in Europe, using technology in support of its robust banking, finance and space-related industries.
Smart21 2007 | 2008
Iceland has one of the highest broadband penetration rates in the world, and the capital city of Reykjavik is likely to be the world's first in which every business and residence enjoys a fiber connection, through a plan by Reykjvik Energy to provide 100k Mbps connectivity and advanced services to all of the city's 65,000 homes by 2009.
Sopron is the urban center in the northeast corner of Hungary, which borders four other nations and transits 60% of the nation’s cross-border trade. The country’s most industrialized region, it has felt the cold winds of recession blow, leaving it with an unemployment rate above 8%. Sopron is strong in manufacturing heavy goods, chemicals, automotive, wood and agricultural products but produces less than 1% of GDP from research & development. The community is on a mission to build a more diverse, knowledge-based economy. Broadband deployment is well advanced and is providing a platform for the creation of a knowledge-based workforce. Collaboration between local government and the University of Sopron have led to creation of the Sopron Innovation Park, which features Cisco’s latest IP infrastructure. An Environmental Knowledge and Competence Center founded in 2004 is expanding the community’s research base in sustainability, while a Regional Innovation Agency conducts a major benchmarking exercise every 2 years to assess progress in R&D, innovation and higher education.
In 2004, Greece's Ministry of Economics named Trikala the nation's first digital city. Three years later, Trikala lit a fiber network linking 40 buildings and formed, with eight neighboring communities, a cooperative named e-Trikala to operate it and introduce a broadband culture of use. By 2008, e-Trikala had installed twelve WiFi nodes and quickly gained 10,000 users, such was the demand for broadband. Access is free to residents and visitors after they register at one of the many e-Trikala offices, where staff can explain the technology and assess user's skill level. To build usage, e-Trikala has launched online services including public policy forums, telehealth and a Web portal connecting customers to Trikala businesses. The wireless network also controls information displays for the bus network, improving service and increasing ridership. In future, e-Trikala will expand the wireless network and begin deployment of FTTH for businesses and household.
Smart21 2009 | 2010 | 2011
Heraklion is one of the fastest-growing cities in Greece, having seen its population swell 10% in the last decade. It has grown geographically as well by absorbing four surrounding communities in 2011 into a new Municipality of Heraklion. But that growth has taken place against a backdrop of severe economic distress. The economic crisis that began in 2008 has forced layoffs of employees and business closings. Heraklion’s economy is dominated by tourism, which has seen declines from economic ills across Europe and social unrest by austerity-battered Greeks. As a result, Crete’s unemployment rate in 2012 was the lowest in Greece – but still topped 20%.
To battle this scourge, Heraklion’s government and Chamber of Commerce have stepped up Intelligent Community developments efforts launched in past years to a new level. Heraklion is home to the University of Crete’s School of Sciences and School of Health, as well as the Technological Educational Institute of Crete. Entrepreneurial graduates from these institutions can find a home in the Science and Technology Park of Crete, which provides incubating facilities and services to high-tech companies and institutions. In 2013, the city, Chamber of Commerce and educational institutions formed a Smart Cities Committee to intensify their collaboration and develop new programs to leverage these assets for growth.
Greece has trailed much of the EU in Internet deployment and adoption. But the Heraklion campus of the University of Crete has driven an aggressive education program to spur adoption, while the city has granted four competitive carriers the right to build networks. As a result, broadband is available to almost 100% of residents, and Internet penetration has risen to +50% for households and +74% for businesses. Two free-use Internet cafes serve the digitally excluded population, while six training centers offer free seminars on digital skills and the city’s network of free Wi-Fi hotspots has expanded to nearly 140.
To further drive adoption and support business growth, the city has also focused on applications. Its city portal offers a wide range of e-services to citizens and businesses, from fee payments to a database of all administrative decisions. Heraklion is also driving projects to improve the prospects of Crete’s tourism industry, from vendor education to the development of online applications. Results include a CiTY app that lets users find and rate local accommodation, food, sightseeing, products and points of interest. A Super Taxi application links mobile phones to tablets carried by taxi drivers to give riders an interactive map of all available taxis, the ability to digitally flag a ride and estimate its cost in advance. As the European economy outlook slowly improves, Heraklion has positioned itself to benefit from future opportunity.
Smart21 2012 | 2013 | 2014