Organs on chips, recyclable wind turbine blades and robot builders are just some of the technologies set to be boosted under a new growth program approved by the Dutch government last week.
NXTGEN HIGHTECH will do it invest 1 billion euros over the next seven years with the aim of making the Netherlands the leading high-tech cluster in Europe.
The program is an initiative of prominent Dutch innovation accelerators, including Holland High Tech, TNO and FME and a number of universities and regional development agencies.
Most of the 260 participating companies are SMEs (190) and startups (70) who will use the funding to further develop and scale their solutions.
“The urgency of new technology applications is high and we need solutions now,” commented Marc Hendrikse, CEO of NXTGEN HIGHTECH. “The strength lies in the breadth of the program. It’s not just about new applications and technologies, but also about the digitization of factories and the supply chain,” he said.
While the Netherlands is an international leader in ultra-precise high-tech devices, this position is “threatened by political interests and growing competition from other continents,” according to the organization called in a press release. In addition, investments in research and development are significantly lower than in other knowledge-based countries, which costs growth, it said.
The program will invest to consolidate the country’s position at the forefront of Europe’s high-tech industry in six core areas: Agri-food, biomedical production technology, energy, composites, laser-satellite communications and semiconductors.
Selected companies in the agri-food sector include companies using intelligent solutions, sensor technology and robotics to improve the efficiency of agriculture – a sector struggling with labor shortages and rising costs. One of those startups Is BioScopewhich helps farmers spot anomalies in their crops using data collected by drones and satellites.
Other startups already selected for the program include Hydraloop, which has developed a smart water-saving device for homes. Also on the list are Lionvolt, a spin-off from Eindhoven University of Technology developing ultra-fast charging 3D solid-state batteries, and Single Quantum, developing superconducting single-photon detectors – crucial components in optical imaging and telecommunications systems.
By 2030, NXTGEN HIGHTECH aims to have developed a fully certified system for autonomous operation of factories to increase the productivity of the Dutch manufacturing industry.
Additionally, the program hopes to increase the country’s share of semiconductor production by leveraging the expertise of its members, which include companies like chip giant and Europe’s most valuable technology company ASML.
Bringing all this together, say the partners, is education. In cooperation with universities and colleges, the program aims to anchor the Dutch “systems engineering” approach in the education system by 2030.
Systems technology analyzes complex systems such as cars or batteries in order to find more efficient ways of operating them. The discipline better equips students with the knowledge they need to excel in high-tech industries and adapt to the rapidly changing job market.
“Only if the Netherlands continues to invest in technical knowledge and skills will they become future-proof,” the organization concluded.