High Tech Campus Eindhoven: The smartest square kilometre in the world

The location for all of Philips’ Research and Development activities until 2003, then gradually other companies set up shop here and it became the smartest square kilometre in the world. 

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Just imagine: a business park that is home to more than 170 high tech companies and institutes - e.g. ASML, Philips, IBM, Intel and NXP. More than 12,000 people and 85 different nationalities work here. Spaciously designed, with extensive garden spaces and even a large pond, but still compact enough to keep everything within walking distance: we are at the High Tech Campus in Eindhoven (HTCE), "the smartest square kilometre in the world", as they like to call it.  

The business park, originally Philips’ research and development facility, opened its doors to other companies in 2003. So far, the campus has continued to grow and attract new companies year on year, even during the economic crisis.  

The HTCE's powerful high tech capabilities in research and development are integral to its DNA. What used to be Philips NatLab in the late 1990s -  a hive of R&D activities and the birthplace of companies like ASML and NXP - has now made a name for itself as the “smartest square kilometre in Europe” and is the home base of 170 different companies, research institutes, start-ups and high tech companies that employ 12,000 researchers, developers and entrepreneurs from more than 85 different countries. 

HTCE is one of Europe's leading centres for research activities in the field of high tech systems, embedded systems, the Internet of Things, medical technology, big data and photonics. The Campus facilitates R&D and product development by supporting an innovation community of thousands of researchers and entrepreneurs who share their knowledge, networks and skills on a daily basis. It is the place where every chance encounter can easily lead to a pioneering invention.

Photo: Bart van Overbeeke

“We are Silicon Valley on a postage stamp”

Companies that want to move to the campus have to ‘fit’ in the context of that environment. Marketing Director Hilde de Vocht: “We are a miniature Silicon Valley, on a postage stamp. We offer everything a company could wish for. We have so many facilities, I can’t think of anything that we could add.” And that smooths the way for everybody, even the first occupants: Hans de Jong, President of Royal Philips Netherlands, readily confirms the importance of HTCE for Philips. “High Tech Campus Eindhoven has become a major hotbed for new ideas. We see it as the ideal setting for accelerating the development of new digital technologies and products in collaboration with others.” 

The network and the atmosphere are unique, says Martijn van der Linden, Communications Manager at chip manufacturer NXP. “Everybody around you is in the high tech business. That creates a feeling of solidarity.” Because the business park was originally owned by Philips, many ex-employees now work for the new companies based at the site. “So you automatically benefit from a large network. You have a number of good contacts in each company.”  

The campus is quiet for most of the day; everybody is hard at work. But between 12:30 and 1:30pm, people leave the offices en masse and the footpaths fill up: it's lunchtime. Groups of colleagues flock to the Strip, a 400-metre-long building housing a grand café, restaurants, shops, a hairdresser and a gym. Every day about 4000 people come to eat at the Strip. "There is a strong buzz here," says Ronn Andriessen, Director of Solliance. “It feels extremely international, because you hear conversations in all languages when you walk through the door.” When he entertains foreign guests on campus, he likes to go to Grand Café Colour Kitchen for a meal. “You are waited on there. But when I have lunch with my colleagues, we walk around the Strip for some exercise and a good chat and get something in the supermarket. Meeting up with somebody is quick and convenient because everything is so accessible; that’s the great thing about the campus.” 

Photo: Bart van Overbeeke

A community of bright minds

The catering facilities are a physical reflection of the quality that makes the campus so distinctive: its open innovation culture. Clearly illustrated by the shared research facilities such as cleanrooms and equipment. Need a microscope? Just rent one for an hour. Need a lab? Just walk in and you can get started. Robbert Daan, Marketing Director of Philips Innovation Services: “This allows companies to focus on their core competencies, without having to devote valuable time to providing the right conditions for staff, or spend money on expensive equipment.” You can even hire research teams or specialists. And robots. Daan: “Companies that only require specialists for a few months come to us all the time asking whether we can fill that need. Or they hire a specific team for two years. The major advantage is that they get people who are used to working together as a team and who know the campus.” 

The number of patents applied for here is a good measure of productivity, which is extremely high. Four patent applications a day originate from Eindhoven; that is about 40 percent of the total number of patents applied for in the Netherlands. Because of this, Forbes Magazine named Eindhoven the "most innovative city in the world".  

Another crucial factor for open innovation is the presence of new fledgling businesses: the start-ups. HTCE, through its HighTechXL accelerator programme and other initiatives, has facilitated a long list of advanced high tech starters. This should come as no surprise though, because the Financial TimesFortune and Forbes all consider the Campus to be one of the best locations for high tech venture development. 

"Having HTCE is on my business card is like a statement of global support"

Photo: Bart van Overbeeke

LifeSense Group is one of the success stories at the Campus - a technology development company that creates portable products for health applications, including Carin - the product that helps women combat urine loss. The company is spin-off from Holst Centre, an R&D centre that develops technologies for wireless autonomous sensor technologies and flexible electronics with the aim of ‘contributing to finding solutions for global societal challenges in the areas of healthcare, lifestyle, sustainability and the Internet of Things. 

Valer Pop, CEO of LifeSense Group, sees HTCE as the number one location in the world for him and his company: "The fact that HTCE is on my business card helps me enormously when closing deals in the USA, Japan or elsewhere in the world. It is like a statement of support: people implicitly trust me when I say that LifeSense is located on this campus, which has a strong global reputation, backed up by the fact that Philips developed many of its successful products here.” 

The campus does everything it can to give the world the opportunity of benefiting from this community of bright minds. There are about 200 events per year, often related to the expertise available here. The CEOs of all the companies receive a monthly newsletter that lists all the events. They often attract people that are active in a whole range of disciplines. “I often go to the business activities organised by the campus”, says Martijn van der Linden of NXP. “An open day, a lecture. I meet colleagues from other companies there and, because you are all interested in the same subjects, you quickly engage in conversation and set up connections.” These events are not only held to keep the existing companies satisfied. They are also an effective marketing tool that attracts new businesses. De Vocht: “An efficient way of getting to know potential new neighbours.”

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Article last updated on: February 7th, 2019. 

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