Toespraak van SG Maarten Camps bij groundbreaking Unilever

Toespraak van secretaris-generaal Maarten Camps bij de groundbreaking van het global Foods Innovation Centrevan Unilever in Wageningen op 3 november 2017.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Welcome to the 21st century. We live in an age of questions – big questions. From the well known triple P of people, planet, profit, profit remains essential for a positive business case.

  • But people and planet are more and more at the centre of the equation.
  • How can we tackle climate change?
  • How can we ensure that our ageing population receives the best possible care?

And of course:

  • How can we feed the growing world population with only 1 Earth?

These are big questions indeed. But this is also an age of answers.Answers that are necessary.Answers you help to provide. It is, in fact, your daily work. And in a slightly different way, it is also our work, at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy.

SG Maarten Camps bij de groundbreaking van het wereldwijde Foods Innovation Centre in Wageningen

Our joint answer to the big questions of the 21st century and age, is innovation. Big questions, major challenges require smart solutions.

So we need innovation. And we embrace innovation. Because it has also great potential to boost our economy. Fortunately we are good at it. This is confirmed by international reports and rankings.

Take, for example, the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report, published in September. It ranks the Netherlands as 4th most competitive world-wide, and first in Europe. Whether in high-tech or food and health, in climate-smart agriculture or heavy industry,o ur companies - and your company indeed is developing world-class, smart solutions. Their expertise boosts exports, employment and revenues. And it contributes to the well being of people and the sustainablity of our planet.

I mportance of top sector innovation policy.That is why the Dutch government launched its top sector innovation policy in 2012. This innovation policy defines areas of expertise in which the Netherlands excels and which have potential for growth. Areas that will boost our economy, and help to find answers to the big questions of our time. Like water, health care, energy or food.

Government policy is to stimulate innovation in these areas. Using a typical dutch instrument, that has become a recipe for success: public-private partnerships. In public-private partnerships, government, business and knowledge institutes work closely together in order to benefit fully from each other’s strengths. Knowledge institutes and entrepreneurs generate new ideas. Businesses turn those ideas into concrete products and services. The government’s role is to facilitate. For example by ensuring that businesses have access to well-trained workers, and by abolishing unnecessary rules and regulations.

Take, for example, the Top Institute for Food and Nutrition, based here in Wageningen. It is one of the first public-private partnerships we set up, and it is still going strong. Projects include innovative research into the future of food, from moleculair biology to food systems as a whole. Unilever was one of the founders of this partnership – an example of the company’s vital role in Dutch innovation.

So it is no surprise that the new Dutch government is excellarating on this path of innovation policy. The government will step up investment in fundamental and applied research,vincreasing up to an additional 200 million euros a year. And the new government will focus innovation policy more strictly on three main areas: Energy transition and sustainability, Quantum, high-tech, nanotechnology and photonics; and Agriculture, water and food.

Three areas with large economic opportunites. Areas with major challenges concerning people and planet. All three areas are relevant for Unilever and for Wageningen University and Research. But I expect agriculture, water and food to be most important for Unilever’s new Global Foods Innovation Centre, that will be build here, at this site.

The dutch government is closely connected to you and this new research facility. In order to establish the Global Foods Innovation Centre here, we worked closely with the Province of Gelderland, the city of Wageningen, and Wageningen University and Research. A venture that was also supported by the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency and OostNL.

Together, we wanted to seduce you to invest here, with a compelling answer to the question: why Wageningen?

The answer was and is easy:

Wageningen has an outstanding reputation. For agrifood doers and thinkers around the world, ‘Wageningen’ stands for excellence. There is a bit of Wageningen all over the world – from Eritrea to Spain, from Colombia to Shanghai. In fields and markets, in greenhouses and universities, at embassies and schools.

The Netherlands is famous for producing great quantities of high quality food on a small land area, thanks to highly efficient soil and water use. And Wageningen provides the science and knowledge behind it all. While playing a very active role in dutch innovation policies and in public private partnerships.

It has resulted in increasing agrifood exports. In 2016, the Netherlands exported 62 billion euros worth of agricultural products and technology. Of course, we will not be able to feed the growing world population from our small country alone. Therefore exporting agrifood technology and knowledge is becoming more and more important.

Wageningen has been doing this for many years. I’m talking about spreading knowledge through people. Wageningen’s alumni are our ambassadors for agrifood expertise. Their stories differ, as do their countries of origin and the activities they pursue after graduating. But Wageningen is the place that brought them together.

From all over the world, bright minds with big ideas come to our country, to pursue higher education. To enable them to contribute to one of the biggest challenges all countries face: providing safe, healthy and sustainably produced food for all.

So it is only fitting that the new Unilever Global Foods Innovation Centre is taking root here. Unilever and Wageningen will complement, strengthen and inspire each other. It continues and underpins the excellentand leading position of FoodValley.

Ladies and gentlemen, initiatives like these can provide us with an answer to one of the biggest questions of our times – the question I asked earlier: How can we feed the growing world population with only one Earth?

One answer is: by nurturing bright minds, who can innovate our food system. I am therefore very pleased that Unilever establishes it’s new Global Foods Innovation Centre here in Wageningen.

We wish you all the best, and trust on you to come up with more answers, to the benefit of people and planet.

Thank you.