Brainport Eindhoven. This is THE example where government, industry and knowledge institutions work together in a triangular relationship that is as equal as possible. Where the economy has been the first to pick up, where companies are marketing their technological discoveries internationally, and where we are now no longer cheering with our hands in our pockets, but are proud of what we have put in place together.
It strikes me that we always refer to Brainport Eindhoven in economic terms. While the fundament under Brainport basically comes down to soft values: openness, offering one other something and cooperation. The prerequisite for collaboration is Trust with a capital T. Unfortunately, we’re often not aware of this. We rarely mention it. But if you are outside the Netherlands, and you talk about cooperation in Brainport Eindhoven – for example in a country like Italy – you hear the following: “Trust is the biggest loss for our country (government, business, mafia…). Therefore, there is no future for cooperation for a higher goal. Indeed, it is one of the reasons why our economy is not strong, or cannot become strong.”
So please let’s be well aware of what we have built up in Brainport Eindhoven. Trust is like gold, which we sometimes just take for granted. Our economic goals are hard and measurable, and we use hard words: in Brainport we are fighting for talent, we are an ‘army‘. To be honest, I cannot support words like these. Moreover, we no longer need to fight against something else. The Netherlands is too small to compete as regions. The stage for the Netherlands and our strong ecosystem is global. In fact, in all those other countries, we are also looking for partners to find fantastic solutions together. For the global health, mobility and energy challenges. To make the world a little better wherever that’s possible.
In my opinion, there is one higher goal above any economic goal – national or international – and that’s the social goal. The care for residents. We want the money that companies in the Netherlands make to some extent to be returned to residents, and we all want to share in economic growth. Whether you are highly educated or not, whether you are healthy or not. This is one of the cultural characteristics of the Netherlands and part of the way in which we try to shape ‘democracy’ in the best way possible.
I wonder: would these soft values (openness, trust, cooperation, working together for the big cause, some idealism) already have left their positive traces on those who work and live in this Brainport ecosystem? Would one be shaped by that as a human being? Have we positively changed in the last ten years? Do we share these values more easily with our children than if we had worked elsewhere? Do these values – as a basis for an ecosystem and revenue model – ultimately not also affect the general Dutch culture? We do not know whether that is the case. However, we must always stress that the economic success of this ecosystem is based on soft values and relationships.
I am very much in favour of setting the course based on ‘values’ and not just on processes and financial results. That starts with giving words to values. Knowing what Trust means. And what kind of behaviour does and does not belong to this. Feeling like you are willing to go for a higher goal together. That typical Brainport Eindhoven starting point. We need to nurture that Trust.