Faced with the ever-advancing sea, the Dutch have used water to their advantage throughout history, from maritime trading to the science of dams, canals and land reclamation.
The Netherlands’ passion for defying boundaries still burns. This small country of 17 million people has one of the world’s strongest agricultural sectors, encompassing everything from its famous tulip bulbs to seed genetics. At the other end of the industrial spectrum, it hosts some of the biggest internet exchanges and data centres. The north-western province of Noord-Holland is home to the vibrant capital Amsterdam, and in the north is Noord-Holland Noord, often called 'Amsterdam Next' because of its proximity to the city’s logistics hub of Schiphol Airport, the Port of Amsterdam, and an array of land transportation and ICT infrastructure.
Noord-Holland is a focus for innovation, from sustainable energy projects to R&D in seed cultivation. The region attributes its strength to generations of workers with an innovative spirit, a supportive business climate and the clustering of a variety of smart industries producing lucrative crossover opportunities.
In its pursuit of sustainable power, Noord-Holland works closely with the Energy Board, a partnership of industry, government, research and educational institutions aimed at accelerating renewable energy development and strengthening the economy. “Look, for instance, at green gas,” says Noord-Holland vice-governor Jaap Bond, founder of the Energy Board. “We collaborate with the board, whose expertise enables us to produce green gas from agribusiness waste. A whole network of biomass gas installations then uses these leftovers, a beautiful example of a crossover between sustainable energy, the Energy Board and the GreenPort [home of the region’s agricultural production].”
New power generation
A growing cluster of SMEs and multinationals comprise the Energy Innovation Park, Noord-Holland’s incubator for sustainable energy development. An initiative of provincial and municipal governments and the private sector, the site provides a space in which entrepreneurs can turn their ideas into commercial products. “We are fully committed to the development of sustainable energy,” says Mr Bond. “It’s a choice that pays dividends: from sustainable energy to a sustainable economy. We are cutting carbon dioxide emissions, working on a more independent energy supply, creating scope for entrepreneurs and creating new jobs.”
Plentiful wind and water, as well as the country’s highest number of annual hours of sunlight, make Noord-Holland ideal for renewable energy investment. Hans van Breugel, CEO of tidal water turbine producer Tocardo, notes the region’s environment as being especially beneficial to his company. “The majority of our economy is driven by SMEs, and we have local supply chains and research. The Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands, the National Research Institute and more have the knowledge to design products that are the most environmentally friendly and efficient,” he says.
Niels Unger, managing director of Noord-Holland’s Nuclear Research and Consultancy Group, adds: “We have a province that is proud of its high-end industries and supports us. There are not many other parts of the Netherlands where one could have these kinds of operations.”
The Netherlands’ tradition of innovation and entrepreneurialsim goes back centuries, from the Dutch East India Trading Company in the 1600s to the establishment of the world's first stock exchange. Now the country is a global leader in the fields of energy, food production and technology, with Noord-Holland driving the search for local solutions to the world’s most pressing issues.