Organs-on-chips, recyclable wind turbine blades and robot farmers – these are just some of the technologies earmarked for funding under a new growth program approved by the Dutch government last week.
NXTGEN HIGHTECH does to invest €1 billion over the next seven years to make the Netherlands the leading high-tech cluster in Europe.
The program is the initiative of leading Dutch innovation accelerators, among others Holland High Tech, TNO and FME, together with a number of universities and regional development agencies.
Most of the 260 participating companies are SMEs (190) and startups (70) that will use the funding to further develop and scale their solutions.
“The urgency of new technological applications is high and we need solutions now,” said Marc Hendrikse, CEO of NXTGEN HIGHTECH. “The strength lies in the breadth of the program. It is working not only on new applications and technologies, but also on digitizing factories and the supply chain,” he said.
Although the Netherlands is an international leader in the field of ultra-precise high-tech equipment, this position is “threatened by political interests and growing competition from other continents”, according to the organization. said in a press release. In addition, R&D investment is significantly lower than in other knowledge countries, costing growth, it added.
In an effort to strengthen the country’s place at the forefront of European high-tech, the program will invest divided into six core areas: agrifood, biomedical production technology, energy, composites, laser-satellite communication and semiconductors.
Within the agri-food domain, companies have been selected that use smart solutions, sensor technology and robotics to improve the efficiency of agriculture, a sector that is struggling with a shortage of labor and sky-high costs. One of these startups is BioScopewhich allows farmers to detect anomalies in their crops using data collected from drones and satellites.
Among other startups already selected by the program is Hydraloop, which has developed a smart water-saving device for homes. Also on the list are Lionvolt, a spin-off from Eindhoven University of Technology that develops 3D solid-state batteries that charge extremely quickly, and Single Quantum, which develops superconducting single-photon detectors – crucial components in optical imaging and telecommunications systems.
By 2030, NXTGEN HIGHTECH wants to have developed a fully certified system to allow factories to operate autonomously, in order to increase the productivity of the Dutch manufacturing industry.
In addition, the program hopes to increase the country’s share of semiconductor production using the expertise of its members, including chip giant and Europe’s most valuable technology company ASML.
Bringing all this together, the partners say, is education. In collaboration with universities and colleges, the program aims to embed the Dutch ‘systems engineering’ approach in the education system by 2030.
Systems engineering analyzes complex systems, such as cars or batteries, to find more efficient ways to operate them. The discipline better equips students with the knowledge they need to excel in high-tech industries and adapt to the rapidly changing job market.
“Only by continuing to invest in technical knowledge and skills will the Netherlands become future-proof,” the organization concludes.