Delegation of Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs visits ICD companies

News | 17 Feb 2022

From left to right: Binne Visser (ICD), Adriaan Beenen, Focco Vijselaar, Joost Krebbekx (ICD), Allard van Dijk and Jos Darwinkel
From left to right: Binne Visser (ICD), Adriaan Beenen, Focco Vijselaar, Joost Krebbekx (ICD), Allard van Dijk and Jos Darwinkel

On Friday 11 February, Focco Vijselaar, Director-General of Business and Innovation at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate, visited a number of ICD companies. Allard van Dijk, Senior Advisor at the Ministry of Economic Affairs in the Northern Netherlands, Adriaan Beenen, Regional Ambassador Northern Netherlands and Jos Darwinkel, Senior Policy Officer northern team of the Ministries of Economic Affairs and Climate/Agriculture, Nature and Food quality also participated.

The company visits took place at Sparck Technologies and Philips in Drachten, followed by a tour of the Shared Knowledge Innovation Learning Lab (SKILL), and ended at Beenen in Heerenveen. 

At Sparck, CPO Piet Fellinger gave a presentation about the company, followed by a demo with the continuously variable packaging machine, the CVP Everest, and the goals and achievements of the ICD high-tech companies in the north. 

He also discussed opportunities and improvements, especially in the field of digitalisation such as e-fulfilment (ordering products online), remote maintainable control systems, improved software for cybersecurity and corporate social responsibility. Developing the CVP fits in perfectly with this.    

The high-tech companies in the Northern Netherlands also want to focus more on global societal issues. Due to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the UN, government objectives are becoming increasingly important. These topics are of great interest to students, as are the developments for Industry 4.0, and many of them are looking for possibilities to get an internship or work at one of our high-tech companies. The ICD companies are constantly investing in the northern ecosystem to attract the right people. They do this together with the University of Groningen and other universities, colleges and companies, the province and the municipality. 

Özkan Tece, Site & Operations Manager at Philips Drachten, gave a presentation about the developments at Philips in the SKILL building. Innovation and production of many consumer products takes place in Drachten. Cooperation is of great importance, because success is mainly achieved through partnerships and knowledge sharing. R&D currently focuses on personal care. The presence of both innovation and production on the site creates a lot of synergy. Philips' production halls produce next to razors and One Blades also soothers and infant feeding bottles (AVENT) using automated processes. During the guided tour of the factory, Binne Visser, manager Engineering Philips Drachten, explained the operational processes. Since 2011, a large part of the production is done by more than 350 robots, which are controlled by operators. The factory and office employ people from 35 different countries. In the prototyping department, special technology is used to make and test innovative products in a short period of time.                            

Alex van Dalen (Managing Director) and Thom Verwater (Head of R&D) gave a presentation about Beenen. The company designs and realises complete control systems for the industry, infrastructure and water technology, on a regional, national and international scale. AI is also an important innovation theme for new developments. The help of students from colleges and universities is crucial here. Beenen is very active in internship guidance for graduates. Of the 80 students that have been working with them in the past three years, 30 have joined the company.

Naturally, the strength of the Innovation Cluster was also discussed. ICD is a cooperation of 22 northern high-tech companies that employ 4300 FTEs. The companies work on product innovation every day, are self-creating and have an impressive (connected) installed base of more than 250,000 connected systems worldwide. They also work in the so-called High Tech Big Five: 3D metal printing, remote sensing & big data, vision & deep learning, robotics and sustainable propulsion. The companies offer internships and jobs to students from secondary vocational education, colleges and universities (from RuG to TuG = Technical University Groningen). The visit was concluded with a guided tour, during which the panel building section clearly showed how critical the supply problems are at present. 

Focco Vijselaar complimented ICD on the organisation and content of the day. He was very impressed by the technological knowledge, innovation and the way in which the companies work together. It offers them opportunities for further growth and to remain attractive to people with talent in technology.