Lead in high-tech Northern Netherlands thanks to new field lab

News | October 12, 2016

In the ICD-Shared Facility Center, technicians and students sniff the latest technology. The pride of the center is an industrial metal 3D printer, which has been purchased by the joint companies. “It is not a production machine, but a development machine,” says Kor Visscher, chairman of the Innovatiecluster Drachten association. “We have the big brother of the 3D printer that is located at our collaboration partner, the University of Groningen. If they mainly conduct scientific research, we test how the machine can be used in product development and production processes. A production machine will be installed at our partner Resato International in Assen, which a Drenthe company consortium will gain experience with.”

Walk ahead

The Shared Facility Center is not the first result of the 15 collaborating high-tech companies. How do they do this? “Simple”, says Visscher, “By sharing pre-competitive knowledge and experiences. Let's say look in each other's kitchen before we launch our products on the market. We face similar challenges when researching innovative products or services. By tackling these together, we arrive at much better solutions much faster. This means that our products are among the best and most innovative in the world.” The high-tech companies are now working together on two major R&D projects and five in the start-up phase. They also work together in 35 small and larger associations on, among other things, laboratories, test equipment and test rooms and a joint vacancy platform. By working together, the high-tech cluster develops knowledge that the individual companies do not have the time for or for which the money is lacking. “All this exchange should ultimately lead to the creation of so-called regional value chains, within which as much value as possible is added,” says Visscher. “Thanks to this chain approach, we are leading the way in the high-tech industry in the Northern Netherlands.”

Industrial Heritage

Under the heading 'Commission for the Promotion of Industry in Drachten', local entrepreneurs joined forces in 1946 to reduce the high level of unemployment after the war. Visscher: “Industry had to come to Drachten and there were opportunities for start-ups to establish themselves cheaply. For this purpose, the industrial building was built in 1949, the first multi-company building in the Northern Netherlands. Philips took over the building in 1961 and in this industrial heritage we are now working on the solutions of the future.”