Peter de With is professor of video content analysis at Eindhoven University of Technology.


Beethoven and the cheese slicer

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Peter de With welcomes the 2.5-billion-euro “Beethoven” investment in the Brainport, though he notes that it can’t make up for the funds that were lost when the National Growth Fund was put on ice.

In the past months, ASML CEO Peter Wennink has been busy pressuring the nation’s policymakers by putting the continued presence of his company in the Netherlands on the national and regional agendas. At first glance, this public offensive has served its purpose.

First, ASML’s suppliers were fired up and involved in road mapping to double in size. This included supporting institutes in the public domain, such as the communities of Veldhoven and Eindhoven and Eindhoven University of Technology (TUE). Then, Wennink publicly broadcasted his dissatisfaction about the continuous erosion of support for the Dutch industry at the national political level.

Let’s face it, the Dutch political arena has been looking at its weakest for many years. The past five have been largely wasted and significant progress in key issues is nonexistent. The elections of November 2023 took place nearly six months ago and even if we get a new government soon, it won’t be a decisive one.

Fortunately, ASML, the Brainport council and the mayor of Eindhoven have awakened some politicians at the national level. The instigation of a special taskforce by the caretaker cabinet, codenamed Beethoven, has led to plans for improving road infrastructure in the Eindhoven region and supporting education and housing facilities with a budget of about 2.5 billion euros.

Let there be no doubt: this is a great step forward. But let’s not pretend that a one-time investment can make up for previous mistakes. The 2.5 billion (of which 1.7 billion from the national government) only partially makes up for the 5-8 billion euros that would have been invested by the National Growth Fund, which wasn’t only paused but also plundered to fund measures that have nothing to do with improving long-term competitiveness. In effect, the Dutch government has once again applied the dreaded cheese slicer, this time on innovation funds.

ASML is leading our knowledge economy, leading our stock exchange and bringing in a significant portion of the national product, especially if you consider the large network of suppliers in the Netherlands. Together with ASML, the added value that these companies generate is much higher than ASML’s turnover alone. This will fuel the Dutch economy for the upcoming decade.

Therefore, the support from the Dutch government has to grow to sustain ASML and its supplier chain operating at a world-class level. We need a master plan and assign good managers to it, to make it happen. For TUE, I’m afraid that we have to give up somewhat of the green spaces that were so carefully kept in the campus renovation plan. But this will give the university a more solid basis for growth that accommodates ASML and its suppliers.

It would be great if our national government would initiate and facilitate a mini-Delta plan for the whole southeast of the Netherlands, where we think over and realize a knowledge economy style of working and living infrastructure. If Singapore and Silicon Valley can do it, so can we. It should be of world-class level and no less.

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