Speech Kor Visscher at opening ICD Shared Facility Center

News | 13 Oct 2016

Ladies and gentlemen,

On behalf of the companies of the Innovatiecluster Drachten association, I would like to welcome you (in the role of chairman) to a milestone for the Innovation Cluster, a festive moment!

In particular, a word of welcome to the Province of Fryslân, represented by Sander de Rouwe (deputy EZ) and the Municipality of Smallingerland, represented by Tjeerd van Bekkum (the mayor). We greatly appreciate their presence from the authorities that are co-founding fathers of the Innovation Cluster. I would like to mention three more names in this list: Nieske Ketelaar (alderman of Smallingerland) is now absent, but she has made a strong case for the cluster from the very beginning, and in the hall two supporters from the very beginning Jan Hoeksema and Meine from dam. Thank you for the trust you have placed.

The interest in this event was great and even surprised us a bit. However, this turnout and the qualitative occupation in the room also reflects that we as education, government and entrepreneurs have come to like each other more and more, …… great!

This moment is an opportunity to share with you some thoughts on innovation, entrepreneurship and competitiveness. How companies, partly out of well-meaning self-interest, want to give impulses to innovative developments on a Northern scale, together with the knowledge institutions and a facilitating government.

I would like to briefly discuss with you: the history, the sharing of knowledge, the fascination and binding and what this collaboration has brought us so far.


Research, development and knowledge sharing, together with a vital manufacturing and service industry, are the pillars of our economic position. This was the case in the past but will be no different in the future. However, in other regions of the world, with an increasing focus on innovation and with an inexhaustible ambition to win, the right to prosperity is being enforced. We will therefore have to be even more distinctive than before in order to be able to compete with other regions in the world. Realizing this, we will have to work together much more intensively locally and regionally. By joining forces, we can compete more and better globally. This requires a different attitude and approach, in which we have to step over our shadow.

That is why the Innovation Cluster was established in 2013 and united High-tech companies with an HTSM profile. Companies that are all at the forefront of their market segment, operate internationally, are knowledge-intensive and have their own R&D. The head offices of these companies are often located elsewhere in the world, so they are used to having to prove themselves extra. The cluster focuses on what the participating companies want to achieve bottom-up and where they see opportunities for new services or products. The cluster therefore has an above-average concentration of high-quality technological and knowledge-intensive activity, which is often not realized outside the region. That the companies are at the forefront is apparent from recognitions such as:

  • the Erasmus Innovation Award 2015 from Resato,
  • the Industrial Excellence Award 2015 for Philips Drachten,
  • the Logistica Award 2015 from Neopost,
  • VDH as the 2016 winner in the measurement and control industry and
  • Ziuz as entrepreneur of the year.

With our (Northern) focus on content, we often remain unnecessarily and unintentionally modest and therefore less visible outside the region. Regional promotion, putting it on the map is therefore one of the challenges for the cluster.

Sharing Knowledge

Anyone who wants to lead the way in high-quality technology must realize that the time of independent innovation is far behind us. While companies used to be able to shield their knowledge, the path to promising new technology today mainly runs through knowledge sharing. You can no longer do everything yourself. Accept that there is more know-how outside your company than inside. So actively seek out that know-how from others. Work together, create cross-pollinations and thereby increase the chance of coincidence. This requires a different attitude, a different way of thinking and organizing competitive knowledge development. Our way of working together has the additional advantage that smaller SMEs are also able to work on major innovations. Individually, companies often have insufficient resources and clout to work on competitive knowledge development.

Facilitating open research collaboration, learning to collaborate in chains in confidence is a second challenge that the ICD facilitates.

Buoys and Binds

Unknown makes unloved. If the region is to develop into a high-tech 'hub', a high-tech center in the north, it is crucial to find the right people. To captivate and bind top talents. The current cluster of fifteen companies already offers a breeding ground for this with great career opportunities. But in about five years' time, that high-tech breeding ground should be much larger. We aim for a cluster of about 25 knowledge-intensive companies in which professionals know how to find each other. A dynamic environment in which talents switch freely between the companies. So a career within the cluster; a natural way to rotate knowledge in the personal interest and the interest of the region. In order to realize this, there are increasingly intensive contacts with education at MBO, HBO and University level. A growth process with surprising forms of collaboration.

What will this collaboration yield?

We believe that we create vitality in the manufacturing industry, the region and with that continuity in employment. It's a classic case of "one plus one equals three". We share our findings based on mutual trust. By exchanging knowledge and experiences we bring each other to a higher level. It saves money and it gives the region a boost, and it helps us attract and retain technical talent. We are working on solutions for the challenges of the future, for example in the field of information exchange, alternative energy and healthy ageing. We do this “on the edge of technology”. In other words, we are entering uncharted territory. This requires a lot of knowledge and money. Take the theme we are discussing today; 3D printing in metal. Individually we do not have sufficient resources and clout to develop this type of technology, but together we are pushing boundaries.

Some concrete examples (too many to mention actually).

Collaborate with knowledge institutions at MBO, HBO and University level:

  • The ICD does a lot to introduce young people to the companies and to promote technology and technical training. That pays off; for example, clearly more MBO students are opting for technology and they return to the ICD companies through, for example, internships.
  • ICD participates in 'Engineer for the class': thirty engineers are ready to give lessons at schools or guided tours and have peer review.
  • The companies participate in trade, company and job fairs together. For example, they can be found at the Business Days of the universities in Twente, Eindhoven and Delft.
  • ICD organizes inventor competitions for HBO students from, among others, NHL Leeuwarden, Hanze University of Applied Sciences Groningen, Windesheim (Zwolle) and Saxion (Enschede).
  • The cluster participates in the national Dutch Technology Week and has set up the High Tech Discovery Route in and around Drachten. The last edition had 5,500 visitors.
  • The 'Girlsday', where companies offer hundreds of girls a program to learn about technology.
  • The Technet Skelterrace in which pre-vocational secondary education students work together with technicians from ICD companies to improve and pimp their go-kart and race with it.
  • The cluster supports students who built a solar boat in the Dutch Solar Challenge this year.
  • Almost all companies have (more and more) trainees and want to achieve a total of 175 traineeships per year (at the start of ICD this was 65). ICD also organizes the 'Student carousel': exchange days, so that trainees get to see even more companies from the inside.
  • ICD also has six active knowledge circles that exchange knowledge thematically through workshops, lectures and training.
  • HTSM Master's Honors Program at the universities.
  • 'MBO talent program', in which talented students work in teams at ICD companies.
  • Neopost Technologies has developed a one-year Mechatronics course at HBO level for employees of ICD companies, together with Hanze University of Applied Sciences. MBO students who have an electrical background and who would like to take a step can now follow this course.
  • CIV Healty Aging collaboration with the ROC,s
  • Working together on Pre-competitive knowledge development.
  • You will be able to physically view what we are doing here today because we will soon be opening the Field Lab, the ICD Shared Facility Center. There you will see the 3D metal printer working, programming 3D products and making strength calculations with powders.
  • There is also a robotics programming set-up for "factory of the future" research. The nice thing is that employees from the ICD companies work there with students who do targeted research with the programming setups.

In the meantime, there is collaboration in 3D metal printing with the University of Groningen, which has purchased a sister of this printer; agreements have been made with a group of companies that may be installing a production machine at Resato in Assen. And hot off the press is that we have a collaboration agreement with the ROC de Friese Poort about 3D printing. This ROC is also investing and will use the same development and programming software for the training of students and teachers. The detailed learning assignments are then printed on the ICD machine. In short, a chain has been created that runs from fundamental university research up to and including ROC craftsmanship level. You will understand that this makes me very excited!

After the official part of our program we will go to our field lab together to see all this. Back in this room you can learn about the operator app developed within the big data project, Resato's virtual reality approach to their waterjet cutting machines, the IRIS drug scanning machine from ZiuZ (a chain collaboration with Varias), the Hololens from microsoft from YP-Your Partner, the Meccanoid robots we use in the schools and the Spider robots of the NHL. Each examples of where we share knowledge and work together without boundaries and boundaries.

Dear attendees, I have come to a conclusion of my story in which I have indicated how important the vitality of this region is. That is why I am calling on companies, schools and governments (also outside the HTSM, but on a broad social basis) to start working together. Cooperation that makes the Northern Netherlands an attractive region for living and recreation, but also an economically strong vital region.

I wish you a lot of fun this afternoon!


Kor Visscher,

President Association Innovatiecluster Drachten