The Netherlands has one of the most vibrant medical technology (MedTech) industries in the world. It is constantly at the forefront of implementing new medical technologies, and is ranked second in MedTech patent applications at the European Patent Office and sixth globally in life sciences & health citations in 2017.
The country has strengths in medical imaging, rehabilitation technologies, minimal invasive devices and digital health, life sciences. Currently, it invests S$3.1 billion in R&D annually, and has 12 research universities and 82 hospitals, as well as public-private partnerships between science, industry and government. You can leverage the strong links within the clusters to bring your technology to market. In addition, prominent brands like Abbott, GE, Johnson & Johnson, Medtronic, Siemens and Philips are active in the Dutch life sciences and health landscape.
If you are in the MedTech space, the Netherlands is ideal as a testbed, with its streamlined healthcare system that is one of the best in the world and the Dutch people’s early adoption of technology. The Netherlands’ healthcare system was ranked first among European countries17 and is the only country to be consistently ranked among the top three since 2005. The country has also topped the EIU's 2017 Global Access to Healthcare Index, which measures countries worldwide on accessibility of healthcare and strength of the overall healthcare system18.
Dutch universities such as Eindhoven and Leiden are especially active in the fields of regenerative medicine, that could lead to novel medical treatments for diseases. One such example is Hy2Care which is affiliated with the University of Twente, which has developed bioresorbable hydrogels to treat osteoarthritis.
17 Euro Health Consumer Index 2017, Health Consumer Powerhouse, 2017
18 Global Access to Healthcare Index, Economist Intelligence Unit, 2017
The Netherlands is a key transportation hub in Europe with excellent connectivity to the rest of Europe, having ranked first in DHL’s Global Connectedness Index in 2018 and among the top six in the Word Bank’s Logistics Performance Index. The country has two significant European cargo mainports, Schiphol Airport which is Europe’s top airport for cargo and passenger, and the Port of Rotterdam which handles 54% of all trade shipping in West Europe. Both are connected to an extensive network of roads, railways, inland waterways and pipelines, and supported by world-class logistics service providers.
The country is expanding its logistics infrastructure by pursuing innovations in supply chain optimisation and smart logistics solutions. It is also expanding the high-speed rail freight line between Rotterdam and Germany which can leverage the Germany-China rail freight service. There is also increasing use of the China-Europe rail transport and onward sea freight to the US east coast via the Port of Rotterdam.
Tap the Netherlands’ strong trade and connectivity to the rest of the world for a global reach. As the second largest exporter in the European Union, top Dutch exports include food which ranks second globally, and pharmaceuticals which ranks ninth globally. Your business can take advantage of the European Union-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (EUSFTA) slated to come into force, which has the potential to increase outbound goods flow from Europe to Singapore.
Agri-Tech is one of the Netherlands’ key sectors thanks to its strengths in knowledge-intensive, high-tech, productive farming. While the country’s land surface area ranks 134th in the world, it ranks second globally in food export, with €94.5 billion (S$153 billion) worth of agricultural exports. The Netherlands have identified food science one of its strategic priorities.
The Dutch agricultural entrepreneurs utilise efficient and sustainable production systems and processes, resulting in productivity that is five times higher than the European average and highest in the world, with farmers using much less water compared to traditional farming techniques. Consider working with companies based in the Netherlands to tap their strengths across the agricultural value chain, such as inputs, farming and processing.
Your company can explore opportunities in the country’s Agri-Tech space that are supported by a strong innovation climate and infrastructure. The Netherlands is home to more than 1,500 international food companies, and the second highest private R&D investment in Agri-Food in Europe. The country has more than 20 research institutions, of which Wageningen University is renowned for being the world’s top agricultural research institution. 12 of the top 40 food and drinks companies globally have R&D centres located in the Netherlands, including Cargill, Unilever and Heinz. One notable Agri-Tech hub is the Foodvalley NL, located in Wageningen. Foodvalley has a strong network of companies and knowledge institutions from the agrifood sector, including the world's top food and agricultural university Wageningen, and can help companies facilitate relevant connections and develop collaborative projects to accelerate agrifood innovations.
The Netherlands start-up ecosystem is widely considered to be one of the most innovative and creative in Europe, ranked third on the 2019 Global Innovation Index. The Dutch are known for their “Quadruple Helix” innovation model, where innovation clusters work closely with government, industry, knowledge institutions and patent organisations, enabling a strong start-up and innovative culture. With a renowned entrepreneurial and multilingual workforce, convenient access to mainland European countries, strong knowledge hubs with partnerships with many of Europe’s top universities, and an encouraging fiscal climate, Amsterdam has become one of the most important start-up hubs in Europe with over 1600 tech start-ups.
Some of the key players in the ecosystem include StartupBootcamp and Rockstart as accelerator programmes, co-working spaces such as B.Amsterdam, and venture capital funds such as Prime Ventures and Peak Capital. Amsterdam also plays host to research and knowledge institutions such as the University of Amsterdam which have strong technical expertise in the sectors of biotech and electric mobility. There are an increasing number of regional, national, and EU-wide initiatives, including StartupDelta which provides a wide range of information on the extensive network of start-ups, accelerators, government, and other useful parties in the Netherlands and abroad.
Tapping on the strong support of the start-up ecosystem, there are several successful and notable Amsterdam-founded start-ups. Examples include Fastned, which is building a nationwide network of fast charging stations. Lightyear, a Dutch-based automotive start-up has debuted one of the world’s first solar-powered car. Adyen is an online payments platform that integrates gateway, risk management, processing, acquiring, and settlement of payments, and has recently become publicly listed.
The Netherlands is considered to be a leader in the area of sustainability. In the most recent SDG country report by the UN, Netherlands have performed relatively well in terms of progressing towards the 17 SDG goals with the most progress being made in advocating for ‘good health and well being’ and ‘peace, justice and strong institutions’. The country is also a leader in terms of the circular economy, with the government setting broad aims for the economy to be completely circular by 2050 through policies such as using 50% fewer primary resources (minerals, metals and fossil fuels) by 2030, or to use sustainably produced renewable and widely available raw materials in production process19.
With a strong emphasis on developing a circular and sustainable economy for the future, there have been over 85,000 circular economy initiatives as of 2018, including 420,000 jobs, thus showing that there is a strong demand in the economy for companies and projects involved in the sustainable sector. Notable Dutch organisations include the Birghtlands Chemelot Campus, an incubator campus known as the first circular hub of Europe with over 2700 knowledge workers and 1200 students working with 90 businesses and knowledge-based institutes20.
The Dutch are considered to be pioneers in certain technologies which are often the outcomes of their innovative industries. Cultured meat was pioneered by Mosa Meat, a Maastricht University spin-off, and is made using lab-grown cells. The shift in consumer preferences towards more sustainable eating habits have made large-scale production economically viable, with Mosa Meat attracting over €8 million in venture funding21.
19 Circular Dutch economy by 2050
20 Brightlands Chemelot Campus
21 Top 10 Dutch Breakthrough Technologies, 2018
The Netherlands has actively positioned itself as a “living lab” for innovative transport start-ups to develop new technologies to solve mobility, environmental and safety issues in the area of Smart Mobility. There is a vast availability of talent and infrastructure, with over 300 automotive companies operating in the Netherlands employing over 45,000 individuals.
The government has encouraged the development of the smart mobility sector through the Smart Mobility Embassy22 which showcases best practices in transport modelling, virtual testing, and use cases in its cities. The Embassy also provides a network of partners and events for interested corporates entering the sector and facilitates assistance on the current regulations and deployment possibilities.
A prime example of Dutch ingenuity in the mobility sector is the implementation of ‘truck platoons’ which group trucks travelling together into small groups on long-distance expressways, which increases fuel efficiency and improves road safety. Having placed 2nd in KPMG’s 2020 Autonomous Vehicles Readiness Index behind Singapore, there is a strong case for collaboration between Dutch and Singaporean start-ups in developing AV technologies, such as electric powertrains, IoT and vehicle mounted sensors.
22 Smart Mobility Embassy NL