Klaas Verschuure, vice-mayor of Utrecht, tells Sebastian Shehadi about the city’s talented youth, its historic and green demeanour and the thriving healthcare industry.

Q: Utrecht is one of Europe's top destinations for FDI. Why is this?

A: Utrecht is the Netherlands’ fastest growing city. We have a strong economy, focusing on smart solutions, green [policies], innovation and health. [What has stood out is the way we have] successfully combined rapid urbanisation and economic growth [while maintaining our] ambition of 'healthy urban living'. Utrecht is a lively city of knowledge with young, smart residents: 62% of the workforce is highly educated. [We are] a typical student city, attracting a new influx of talented, smart young people every year. After their graduation, a large number of these students decide to live and work in Utrecht. This means innovative talents and ambitious entrepreneurs are within reach.

Utrecht is a central meeting point in the Netherlands. The city offers excellent accessibility via every mode of transport. Utrecht region is the most competitive region in Europe after London, offering a great business climate, a strong economy and a well-educated workforce. Utrecht is a leader when it comes to digital infrastructure, health, higher education, the job market, technology and innovation.

Q: In what sectors would you like to see more foreign investment?

A: Utrecht is focusing mainly on businesses and knowledge institutions that contribute to life sciences, healthcare and sustainability. But this is much more comprehensive than [it may initially seem]. Many IT companies in Utrecht contribute a lot to healthcare and sustainability. The head offices of Vodafone Netherlands, Oracle and Active Cues are good examples. Some of the bigger financial companies in the area, such as Triodos Bank, are focusing on sustainability. The list of companies that contribute to our goal of healthy urban living is not limited to sectors. It has more to do with the way they operate.

Q: What is deterring more investment to Utrecht and how are you improving on this?

A: The great thing about Utrecht is that it has enormous potential. Foreign companies are often very surprised when they visit Utrecht. Everything they appreciate about the bigger cities you find in Utrecht: a historic city centre, lots of culture, a creative industry, an exceptional university and an innovation community. The difference is that Utrecht is much more relaxed, green and compact. It is just nicer to live and work here. Young, talented Dutch people already know this. You will not find any population in the Netherlands that is younger and better educated. The only question is – have decision-makers abroad got all the necessary information about Utrecht? Within the Utrecht region we enhance our collaboration on economic development. For example, together with our regional partners we are now establishing a regional development co-operation programme combining public and private funding for innovation and entrepreneurship that contributes to healthy urban living.

Q: Is Utrecht benefiting or losing from Brexit?

A: We are welcoming all British, Asian and and American firms and institutions that fit in our economy. The European Medicine Agency [EMA] will settle in Amsterdam very soon. The remarkable thing is that many of the major scientific institutions that are working on a daily basis with EMA are situated in the Utrecht Science Park, for example the National Institution for Healthcare and Environment and the National Authority for Medicine. We think it will make a lot of sense for new suppliers and advisors of the EMA to settle in Utrecht.

This article is sourced from fDi Magazine
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