Toespraak Maarten Camps bij de Global Innovation Index Launc

Toespraak van  Maarten Camps, secretaris-generaal van het ministerie van Economische Zaken en Klimaat (EZK). De toespraak vond plaats bij de Global Innovation Index Launch in New Delhi, India, op 24 juli 2019. De tekst is alleen in het Engels beschikbaar.

Honourable Ministers,

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to start by thanking our Indian hosts for welcoming us here today. India has 1 of the fastest growing economies in the world. In previous years, India has risen impressively on the Global Innovation Index. So I am glad that we are meeting here in New Delhi. One of the economic capitals of Asia.

The Global Innovation Index isn’t just any old list. It’s a concept!

Its 80 indicators give us insight into how government policy drives innovation. And how innovation drives economic growth. It helps us in creating an innovative climate.

What does innovation actually mean?

Innovation is an eternal quest, a continuous process of improvement. A process of trial and error. Since the start of humanity, people have been curious and looking for answers for practical problems as well as fundamental questions. This has led to innovation and increasing global prosperity. Some innovations have changed our lives forever. Like the combustion engine, computers or the internet. We can no longer imagine a world without these discoveries and inventions. 1 of our most fundamental innovations originated here, in India. It’s an elegant mathematical concept. I’m talking about the concept of zero, as conceived by the mathematician Aryabhata in the year 510. This concept isn’t just useful in mathematics and physics,but is also the basis of our current binary code. So the introduction of zero some 1500 years ago, laid the foundations for the key technology of current times. A technology that connects us all.

These examples underpin that innovation reinforces economic growth and prosperity. As today’s meeting is co-organized by the World Intellectual Property Organization, I do not have to convince you of the importance of intellectual property rights in this context. These rights provide an incentive to innovate, as they ensure that businesses and institutes that come up with innovations are properly rewarded. But intellectual property rights should also make it easier to share knowledge. Knowledge is the source of innovation, and thus contributes to economic growth.

In recent years the Netherlands scored well on the Global Innovation Index. But we didn’t always have the innovative economy we have today. In the 1970s, the Netherlands pursued a rather defensive economic policy. Our economy depended heavily on trade and industry. We were soon overtaken by other countries that could produce more cheaply, and sometimes better. Our economy shrank, and unemployment rose.

A different course was needed. In the early 1980’s we adopted a new approach. With a new innovation policy, the government went on the offensive. The aim: to establish the Netherlands as a knowledge economy. This policy centered on close partnerships between business, knowledge institutions and government: the so called triple helix. The various actors had to learn to cooperate and to trust each other. They put together their ideas, knowledge, researchers and funds. And came up with joint research programs and policy proposals like changes in the regulatory environment. It worked, after at least a decade of trial and error. We built public-private partnerships that now underpin Dutch economic growth and contribute significantly to our ranking on the index. A good example of a public private partnership is our programme Regenerative Medicine Crossing Borders, which focuses on the treatment of chronic diseases. More than 50 private, public and academic partners have already funded four exciting industry-wide projects. Including the regeneration of the human heart and a bio-engineered knee joint. You may consider it a fitting example in the light of today’s theme of medical innovation.

Now, well in the 21st century, The Netherlands has come to a new phase in its approach to innovation. Innovation reinforces economic growth. But the ultimate goal of innovation is to solve societal challenges. Simply put: innovation is a means to an end.

For this reason, we are currently setting up a mission-oriented innovation policy. The government sets goals for issues with a high impact on our society. Issues where we also expect our triple helix partners to be in an outstanding position to come up with solutions. Partners in knowledge-intensive economic sectors – like high-tech systems and materials, life sciences, food and water. The triple helix partners, for their part, come up with joint programs to find these solutions through research, experiments, trial and error.

So which missions have we launched and which goals have we set?

The missions concern the areas of health, food, water management, climate change and security.

So we have set a goal to reduce the difference in healthy life expectancy of different social groups by 5 years in 2040. To promote sustainability, we have set a goal to transform our agricultural sector towards fully circular food production. To fight climate change, we want our economy to be carbon neutral by 2050, with a 49% reduction in CO2 by 2030. And we are looking for new ways to keep our digitally intertwined economies safe and secure. We aim for innovations that achieve these goals and our businesses and knowledge institutes work on this together with government.

On top of these missions, we focus on a number of key technologies which we expect to be at the basis of many future innovations, and thus at the basis of future answers to societal challenges, and of our economic growth and prosperity. Key technologies like biotechnology, photonics, nano technology, artificial intelligence and quantum computing. With our partners, nationally and internationally, we want to develop our common knowledge in these fields. Therefore we are happy to work together, for instance with India on the ambitious project to clean the Ganga. India has set a clear goal, a mission, there and Prime Minister Modi has approached the Netherlands to contribute, as the technologies the Dutch have developed regarding clean water, are applicable around the globe.

This kind of cooperation in research and innovation must be celebrated and expanded. Therefore The Netherlands is honoured to be the Partner Country to India for this year’s Tech Summit, to be held 15 and 16 October in New Delhi.

Ladies and gentlemen, On a global scale, our missions and the innovations that we develop, contribute to achieving the sustainable development goals. For centuries now, the Netherlands has profited from an open society and an open economy. We know that we can push back boundaries, not by locking ourselves in, but by opening doors throughout the world. The more we work together, the more we can create. The Global Innovation Index is a great support for this. Whatever topic we are working on, we are all ultimately striving for a better world, a better society. A society that can feed 10 billion people, that can generate energy without disrupting the climate, that can offer more people the prospect of a healthy life, and that can achieve peace and prosperity for all its citizens. So let us continue to innovate, continue to work together, and continue to communicate in open societies, in free and open debate.

Thank you.