The economy in Brabant continues to grow. The secret of its success? Innovation and collaboration. High tech and agrifood in particular thrive in Brabant. The information presented in Brabant Brand Box is offered free-of-charge for positive stories about Brabant.
Brabant is booming. During the past five years, the economy in Brabant has grown more vigorously than in any other province in the Netherlands. South-east Brabant in particular has shown outstanding growth. Billion-dollar corporations like Philips, ASML and VDL are based here. Brainport Eindhoven is a world-class high tech region. A breeding ground for innovation. Companies, regional government, education and knowledge institutes all collaborate to develop tomorrow’s products. In 2015, companies in this region – previously described by the Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) as the ‘smartest region in the world’ – invested more than €1.7 billion in Research & Development. Brainport's innovative strength is also demonstrated by the number of patent applications: more than half of the total number of applications in the Netherlands. Philips applies for more patents than any other Dutch company.
According to Peter Struik, the chairman of VNO-NCW Brabant Zeeland, Brabant’s largest business network, manufacturing businesses are the prime mover behind Brabant's booming economy. In 2016, Brabant was responsible for 27.3% of the total added value generated by Dutch industry. Furthermore, small companies often benefit from the success of their larger counterparts. Businesses in Brabant are also responsible for a significant share of Dutch exports. According to Struik, innovation and collaboration are the most important characteristics of Brabant’s business community: “In Brabant, we have an informal way of doing business. The lines are short and we know how to contact each other quickly. And when something has to be done, we join forces and tackle it together.” Struik emphasises that Brabant invented the Triple Helix. “A close collaboration between regional government, education and the business community opens up many more opportunities and is an important driver behind technical innovation.”
When it comes to employment and exports, agrifood - after high tech - is the largest economic sector in Brabant. Here too, the focus lies on collaboration, sharing knowledge and innovation. In 2020, the province aims to be one of the most innovative, sustainable and smartest agrifood regions in Europe, with North-east Brabant as its AgriFood Capital. This traditionally strong farming area is now focusing strongly on innovation in the field of food and health. West Brabant also has a strong agrifood sector. And a strong chemicals sector, with companies such as SABIC. Within the Bio-based Delta in the South West of the Netherlands, these two sectors collaborate with regional government and education on developing new techniques for converting agricultural waste flows into biomass that can subsequently be used for a wide variety of non-food applications. For example at the Green Chemistry Campus in Bergen op Zoom.
Many foreign companies have discovered Brabant as a favourable location. In 2016, they invested a record amount of €620 million euros in the economy in Brabant. One important reason for choosing Brabant is its strategic location: the ports of Rotterdam and Antwerp are not far away and the road, rail and air connections to the rest of Europe are excellent. There is even a freight train connection between Tilburg and China. This explains why so many assembly businesses and distribution centres are located in Brabant. Tesla's European assembly and distribution centre in Tilburg is an excellent example. West Brabant – with Breda, Roosendaal, Bergen op Zoom and Moerdijk as its main cities – was even voted the logistics hotspot of the Netherlands in 2017 (during the second Logistics Hotspots Summit). In addition to good infrastructure and excellent accessibility to logistics hubs, the region also scores highly due to the availability of suitable workers and an adequate supply of building land.
Brabant is home to many family businesses, more than 80,000 in fact. The best known are supermarket chain Jumbo, vehicle manufacturer VDL, caterer Hutten and beer brewer Bavaria. The latter was voted the best family company in the world in 2015.
“In comparison to other businesses, family-run companies focus more on the long term”, says Peter Struik. “They want to pass on their life’s work to the next generation. The entrepreneurs and employees know each other personally and the level of social involvement is generally high. These companies contribute to social cohesion through local initiatives; e.g. by sponsoring local community centres, etc. A fine tradition.”
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