Regional joining of forces is a catalyst for growth in high-tech

In the media | 5 Aug 2022

Article Enterprising Friesland

Purchasing 3D printers together, captivating and retaining students of different educational levels, bringing talent to Drachten and attracting companies that add something to the largest high-tech cluster in the Northern Netherlands. Innovatiecluster Drachten (ICD) does it.

Program manager Joost Krebbekx: “One of our objectives is to captivate and bind people. This applies to school leavers, but also to people who are taking the next step in their career. We develop knowledge in R&D projects, with facilities and equipment that companies share with each other; that is cheaper than investing alone.”

High-tech safari
SKILL (Shared Knowledge Innovation Learning Lab) is located on the Oliemolenstraat. “This is a successful growth model, where we receive many students. Including safaris, where we look for the Big Five. In the case of high-tech, these are not elephants or rhinoceroses, but Big Data, 3D Printing, Robotics, Visual Intelligence and Renewable propulsion. Students choose the theme, we provide two or three tours of companies. We have already received 800 students since March.”

AD courses
In addition, the ICD has developed two part-time courses together with Hanze University of Applied Sciences and NHL Stenden. “Students achieve with these AD courses (Associate Degree, ed.) a full HBO diploma in robotics or mechatronics in two years. The first cohort of students followed practical lessons in Drachten from April to July. At SKILL we have a Robot Lab and a 3D Lab and we are working on a Vision Lab. Students and teachers enjoy being able to work with the latest material.”

industry school
ICD is also investigating with ROC Friese Poort whether they can set up an industry school together, a full-fledged vocational training course. “A BBL course in the field of mechatronic assembly and machine operator: three days of work and two days of school. Entrepreneurs can submit their company-specific training requirements. Students make use of the facilities and systems of companies, so they get to know companies well and can possibly convert their preference into employment at the end of their education.”

3D Print Compass
The ICD also works with non-member companies. The 3D Print Compass project involves as many members as non-members: six to six. “Together they have twenty different 3D printers. Sharing knowledge is an excellent basis for working together for 2.5 years. We want to further develop 3D printing, with the use of metals, polymers, electronics and glass. There is also an SME voucher scheme linked to this project, which supports regional companies. Students can also get started with this.”

Technical talent
Together, the ICD companies managed to fill 345 vacancies in 2021. “Cooperation in the field of recruitment, with a joint website, is also bearing fruit. We are attracting more and more 'traffic' from outside the region on the site. Former residents who have studied and worked elsewhere often return when they want to settle down.”
For technical talent at a scientific level, Drachten had to rely on universities in Eindhoven, Delft and Twente. “But we are intensifying our collaboration with the University of Groningen. 8000 science students study at the Faculty of Science and Engineering. We offer this talent from the region joint internships and graduation opportunities. In this way, we are engaged in permanent loyalty to talent at every level.”

Innovatiecluster Drachten (ICD) is a partnership of 23 high-tech companies. A total of 4300 people work here, 1500 of whom work with product and process innovation. Of the total number of employees, 1600 have an MBO background, but 110 also have a PhD. That is why ICD has various programs for recruiting talent from MBO, HBO and scientific education.

By: Tine van Knijff-van Hijum, Lyricist & Noordvrouw