Neelie Kroes, Special Envoy of StartupDelta, visited RoboValley. We organised a round table at our office, where Kroes asked us about our ambitions and gave us her view on the future. The former EU-Commissioner made it clear that we shouldn’t be modest and she showed a particular interest in ‘RoboQuarter’.
The meeting was moderated by Programme Manager Arthur de Crook. Further attendants were Sigrid Johanisse, Jeroen van den Hoven, Dap Hartmann, Martijn Wisse, Arie van den Ende, Anne-Lize Hoftijzer, Maja Rudinac, Richard van der Linde and Nils Beers.
“One of the things that I have learned over the past 1,5 years is that there is too much modesty in the Netherlands regarding start-ups”, said Kroes. “We must get rid of that modesty. The level of your students and the level of your faculties are impressive. But you will have to sell it!” Besides from being modest, Kroes signals a performance anxiety. “It is absolutely unnecessary. Failing is part of success. If you don’t fail, you haven’t taken enough risk.”
“We live to your example”, responded Managing Director Arie van den Ende. With TU Delft Robotics Institute, we are a world leader, he said. “But if you want progress, you have to know where you’re heading to. RoboValley wants to be the world leading innovation hub on robotics. How do we get there? By acceleration. And the game isn’t played in the Netherlands, but on a worldwide stage.”
“There is modesty”, said Van den Hoven, dean of the TBM Faculty. “That is why Delft University of Technology fully supports the development of robotics. Because it represents everything good about Delft.”
Before coming to RoboValley, Kroes visited QuTech, which is also housed on the campus. “What fascinates me is that we’re in the epicentre of scientific research, with the universities of Leiden and Rotterdam just around the corner”, said Kroes. “And QuTech wants to be a leading centre as well. Don’t you want to cooperate? Can’t you make something outstanding by working together?"
“I will call them tomorrow”, said Van den Ende. When QuTech is successful, that is good for RoboValley as well. “Because IT is at the heart of robotics.”
Kroes showed a lot of interest in de development of RoboQuarter: the plans for the extension of office space for start-ups that want to settle here, on which Hoftijzer gave her an update. But when RoboValley expands, it must be open to the public as well. “I can imagine having a coding session on Saturday morning with 7, 8-year-old girls”, said Kroes. “In that way, you become socially engaging and the place will be a magnet. Besides, you interest potential talents as well.”
RoboValley is aiming to do that, responded Hoftijzer. The Science Centre already plays a similar role. It is based in a building with start-ups and organises lots of activities for children.
Kroes also wanted to know how important it is for start-ups and scale-ups to settle in RoboValley. Very important, said both Rudinac and Van der Linde. Rudinac now employs around forty people. “Nearly all robotics students work for me!”, she said. When your business is growing, you need new people, said Van der Linde. “That’s also a reason for being settled close to the campus.”
The round table concluded with a presentation from Dap Hartmann about turning technology into business and the start-ups Ampelmann and Taniq. When he finished, the door opened and a drone came flying into the room, carrying a present for Kroes: the book Robotics for Future Presidents. Before she left, Kroes asked where RoboValley will be in two years. “I can assure you that we have filled 90 percent of all the office space that will come available with RoboQuarter!”, promised Van den Ende.
Don’t be modest. Exactly.