The target is EUR 1.5 billion. Money that will have to be raised partly by the Dutch government and partly by the business community involved. And that is to be invested in seven domains that the Top Team Top Sector High Tech Systems & Materials (HTSM) has identified and included in the investment programme Nxtgen Hightech. The aim is to use the special high-tech competences available in the Netherlands, which are most imaginatively expressed in semicon, for other purposes as well. Which also bring together worlds that do not yet know each other well. Because: ‘it is precisely unsuspected combinations that lead to innovations.’
These competences must be deployed in technologies with a distinct economic and social relevance, as Marc Hendriks, chair of the Top Team, makes clear. ‘To maintain our lead in high-tech systems building and to prevent countries such as the US, China and also Germany from getting ahead of us in the long term. Germany, for example, has earmarked 9 billion euros for the development of hydrogen technology alone. And China has expressed its big ambitions in the semicon field and is also committing billions to it.’
One of the seven domains, says chair of the Nxtgen Hightech working group TNO’s Tom van der Horst by way of illustration, is optical communication in which laser and satellite as well as quantum technology is used to safely send large amounts of data across the globe. Willem Endhoven, managing director of the facilitating High Tech NL and also attending the Teams call, cites a biomedical-technological example: organ-on-a-chip. ‘Technology for growing tissue from stem cells and eventually even complete organs. It can also be used for drug testing. The equipment needed for this requires, among other things, high-quality knowledge of mechatronics and cleanliness.’ A third domain is semicon, a field that already has quite a few innovative players in the Netherlands, but machine building, particularly for back-end or metrological purposes, still needs a boost, according to Endhoven. A fourth domain is the sustainability of the energy and chemical sector through the development of electrolysers. For this purpose, the knowledge of thin film technology (such as Atomic Layer Deposition (ALD)) that is now being used in the semicon and solar sectors can be used, adds Van der Horst. The other three domains are: composites, agri-food and smart industry (digitisation of industrial processes).
The examples mentioned by the gentlemen are not just random, but are the result of the many discussions they held in recent months with industrial companies such as IMS, NTS, Salland Electronics, Airborne, Micronit, as well as VDL and Demcon. And which have so far yielded some 60 project proposals. Projects in which existing partnerships want to work on innovations, but which also bring together worlds that do not yet know each other well. ‘Such as the chemical industry and machine building. It is precisely such an unsuspected combination that leads to innovations and new business’, Hendrikse expects.
1.5 billion euros
It is the intention of the Top Team Top Sector HTSM that the envisaged 1.5 billion euros to fund the projects be acquired mainly from the National Growth Fund, launched last year by the Ministries of Economic Affairs & Climate Change and Finance. The money is not yet in, and a definitive answer will not be forthcoming until after the summer when a Committee of Sages (including Peter Wennink (ASML), Robert-Jan Smits (TU Eindhoven) and Robbert Dijkgraaf (Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton)) will scrutinise the Nxtgen high-tech investment programme.