When corporate executives at 3M – the Minnesota-based multinational conglomerate known worldwide for its innovative technology, products and ideas – set out to find a location for 3M’s Netherlands headquarters and new innovation centre, corporate officials decided they need look no further than the city of Delft. The reason for this is simple: Delft is home to Delft University of Technology (also known as TU Delft) and Science Park Technopolis Delft.

TU Delft is the largest and oldest Dutch public technical university. Its eight faculties and numerous research institutes host more than 19,000 students and some 3300 scientists. Meanwhile, Science Park Technopolis Delft is currently being developed as one of the top locations for R&D in Europe.

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The park is part of TU Delft’s campus and covers 70 hectares, which are available for institutes and companies conducting R&D. Enter 3M Netherlands, which moved into new facilities in early November at Science Park Technopolis Delft.

Fostering creativity

“Delft University of Technology was one of the key reasons in our decision to move to Delft, as was the science park,” says Fanna Haile-Selassie, 3M's global spokesperson. “We believe that collaboration will help foster creativity and innovation. And Technopolis Science Park is focused on bringing in companies that innovate, which is exactly what we do at 3M.”

An additional factor swaying the decision is that Delft is close to 3M’s previous facility in Zoeterwoude. “This allowed us to keep as many of our current employees as possible,” says Ms Haile-Selassie.

Corporate executives considered the building of the innovation centre and expanding its 3M Netherlands facility in Delft as an excellent opportunity for the company. Besides the innovation centre, the building in Delft is also home to a laboratory and an auditorium.

“The innovation centre will highlight 3M’s technologies and solutions to customers in a more effective way,” says Ms Haile-Selassie. “The site is now the headquarters for 3M in the Netherlands and the labs will virtually connect our teams around the world to allow for better collaboration.”

Shaping innovation

In addition, the Delft innovation centre has a unique shape that makes it stand out from other 3M innovation centres. Like many of 3M's buildings, it was built and furnished with sustainability in mind while using 3M products in the construction. The unique round building was built using 3M inventions and innovations, such as lighting technology, air and water filters, decorative films and 3M’s Very High Bonding gluing technology, which secures all glass panels in the building. This makes the building very open and transparent. Two floors have been equipped as its showroom to welcome some 3000 visitors a year.

“This is an inspiring place to brainstorm with customers and show them ideas,” says Patrick Rogiers, managing director at 3M Benelux.

3M has subsidiaries in every European country, as well as innovation centres around the world, including in London, Madrid and at the company’s global headquarters in Minneapolis-St Paul in the US. “This innovation centre is our 47th around the world,” says Ms Haile-Selassie of the Delft facility.

With $31bn in sales, 3M employs 89,000 people worldwide and has operations in more than 70 countries. In the Benelux region, 3M employs 1000 people, divided over seven locations in Belgium and the Netherlands.