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Geelong Advertiser Opinion Piece - Eindhoven, The Netherlands

For three generations, the Amelsvoort family had a meat wholesale business in Eindhoven, The Netherlands. However, in the 1990s, the city faced significant challenges when light bulb and electronics giant Phillips relocated its headquarters to Amsterdam and outsourced production to China. In a short amount of time, the city lost 30% of their jobs and the Amelsvoort family lost their business.

It's not an uncommon story in business communities across the globe - and Geelong has had its share of similar experiences - so what can Geelong learn from what happened following Eindhoven's jobs crisis?

This very subject was further explored when the Committee for Geelong recently hosted Sander van Amelsvoort, President of the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce Australia as part of our International Speaker Series: winning from second initiative. During his presentation at the Novotel to Geelong business and community representatives, Sander used the story of his father's wholesale business, as an example of one of the many supply chain businesses that were no longer able to operate following Eindhoven's jobs crisis.

Today's Eindhoven however, is a very different place - a globally recognised hub for innovation, research and development. As Sander quoted in his presentation, "you can do two things; mourn and complain about it, or you start developing plans to get back up," and the latter is exactly what Eindhoven did.

To overcome the challenges of the 1990s the Mayor, working in collaboration with the Chairperson of the Chamber of Commerce and the Chancellor of the Technical University, developed a program that combined the city's strengths to create new growth industries - education, research and innovation.

As evidenced in the Committee's international research report, Winning from Second:What Geelong can learn from international second cities,this approach is known as the Triple Helix model - a de-politicised structure that is facilitated through a strong alliance between business, government and knowledge institutions.

The Committee's report, compiled with the assistance of the United Nations Global Compact - Cities Programme and RMIT's Centre for Urban Research, together with support from the Commonwealth Bank and other partners, identifies that the multi-helix approach - a model further developed to include the community - is instrumental in sustaining long-term economic growth. And the results speak for themselves. Eindhoven, once an industrialised area, is now the nation's leader in research and development, with Nanotechnology, Robotics and Megatronics leading the economy.

The region around Eindhoven is known asBrainport- a reference to the local innovation and development- which is one of The Netherlands' three economic development pillars, alongside theSeaportandAirportregions. In the Brainport region, start-ups, scaleups and established businesses all collaborate in an open innovation model, and the region's extensive growth has only been possible due to the strong alliance enabled through the Triple Helix model.

Earlier this year, the Committee was delighted to host Her Excellency the Honourable Linda Dessau AM, Governor of Victoria as the keynote speaker at our Annual Leadership Breakfast. In her speech, Governor Dessau noted the significance of the Committee's international research, which she called a "collaborative undertaking itself," and emphasised that there "must be a strategic vision, embraced by both the public and private sectors, and the bringing together of industry, government and knowledge institutions… to achieve unity and cooperation in economic development."

Victoria's second largest city is progressing well with the implementation of its Clever and Creative vision. And, given Geelong's similar size to Eindhoven, the learnings - based on the formal collaborations and partnerships found in the Eindhoven model - could be critical to Geelong's ongoing transformation. 

Additionally, the strong foundation this formal collaborative model provides for sustainable economic growth could benefit Geelong's business community greatly, as it's more adaptable and could protect the city-region from future economic shocks.

Eindhoven, like Geelong, is a classic example of the opportunities that can arise in the face of economic turmoil.  Sander's parting words were well-noted by many business and community representatives who attended his presentation: "Never let a good crisis go to waste."



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