VisualSonics had specific requirements for its new European headquarters. It preferred a central location, where it could easily bring in scientists from around Europe. It also needed access to laboratory animals for demonstrations and training. If it could find a site where other high-tech firms were located, that would be an added bonus.

According to CEO Tom Little, the company contacted economic development agencies across Europe. “We didn’t hide the fact that we were a small start-up company. We didn’t know whether anyone would want to talk to us,” he said. Most agencies were cordial but offered little assistance. “One took us to see a single site; the others gave us a map and a list of real estate agents.”

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There was one exception: the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency (NFIA). “I was astounded by the Dutch response,” said Mr Little. “The NFIA made it clear that they wanted us, and they made an extraordinary effort to help us find what we needed.”

“We market our products to scientists, and we wanted an environment that would be comfortable and familiar to them,” said Mr Little. Amsterdam’s new science park proved to be the ideal site.

Developed by the City of Amsterdam, the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research and the University of Amsterdam, the park is home to several national scientific institutes and more than 80 companies. University labs are just 200 metres away from VisualSonic’s front door. And, the company has access to a mouse colony, so it doesn’t need to keep its own animals.

In retrospect, the park is an ideal fit for the company, according to Mr Little. Even so, NFIA was determined to provide VisualSonics with a range of options during the site selection process. “They did an excellent job of co-ordinating the local economic development agencies. They were not locked into any particular location. They could take a step back and help us sort out the sites,” said Mr Little.