Limburg invests over half a billion euros in knowledge

Plans have been made to earmark more than half a billion euros for innovations in Limburg’s knowledge infrastructure over the coming ten years, providing for a multitude of investments in the provincial knowledge economy. This was revealed in the strategic programme ‘Kennis-As Limburg’, presented tonight by Maastricht University (UM), the Maastricht University Medical Centre + (MUMC+) and Zuyd University of Applied Sciences to industry, municipal and provincial representatives. The amount represents the sum total of contributions from the European Union, the Dutch government and the Province of Limburg, as well as regional knowledge institutes and the business sector.

Playing a crucial role in this strategy are the ‘triple helix’ of educational institutions, business and government, as well as the various Limburg campuses: the Maastricht Health Campus; the Chemelot Campus in Sittard-Geleen, which focuses on materials; the Greenport Campus in Venlo, specialising in agriculture, logistics, food and health; and Maastricht’s inner-city faculties, which revolve around business, law and culture. In addition, the Smart Services Campus in Heerlen – Limburg’s financial, administrative and information hotspot – will be further developed.

The institutions have turned to the Province of Limburg to partner them in this effort. In doing so, they are providing the Province with the unique opportunity to dovetail its long-term strategy (as set down in the Limburg agenda) with the strategic objectives of the knowledge institutes themselves, resulting in a classic win-win situation for the Limburg economy.

UM will primarily use the funds to extend and strengthen its study programmes geared towards the Limburg labour market. In collaboration with regional industry and other knowledge institutions, UM intends to scale up its research and valorisation activities in fields in which it already has demonstrable strength. To promote a more vital population and affordable healthcare, the MUMC+ will further engage the population of the southeast Netherlands in its activities. For example, a new innovation centre – the Living Lab Limburg – will be established, focusing on disease prevention through healthy eating and more and better exercise. Zuyd University of Applied Sciences will use the funds to develop education and research programmes to support innovation and produce highly qualified professionals, thus benefiting regional businesses and institutions.

The Limburg knowledge institutes themselves will together generate almost €165 million to expand their efforts in education, research and valorisation. They are asking the Province of Limburg to match this amount with a further €180 million. Contributions totalling €238 million are also expected from The Hague and Brussels as well as industry players. As a result, €580 million will be pumped into the regional economy over the coming ten years, with an even further-reaching impact expected for investments in the Limburg economy. With these plans and contributions, Limburg is holding up its end of the Brainport2020 agenda.

According to the president of Maastricht University’s Executive Board, Prof. dr. Martin Paul, the overall investment will be much larger than the amounts mentioned above thanks to direct and indirect job creation, construction contracts, industry investments, new places of business, the expansion of innovative healthcare, and spending by new knowledge workers as well as a larger student population. “Every additional thousand students at the university means an extra €10 million in spending by students, a further €60 million in added value for the region and an additional 1000 jobs created either directly or indirectly”, says Paul. “Interesting innovations include an expanded range of programmes in Venlo relating to health and nutrition, or a programme in Maastricht focusing on doing business in high-growth markets. And the Chemelot Campus is collaborating with Eindhoven University of Technology and RWTH Aachen University to launch two research institutes that will conduct applied research and promote commercial activity in the bio-based economy, which is an ever more important theme.”

Guy Peeters, chair of the Board of Directors of the MUMC+, says the Maastricht Health Campus is now already a key breeding and nesting ground for important innovations in Dutch healthcare, including pioneering research on diabetes (the ‘Maastricht Studie’). Thanks to the Brains Unlimited project, it is home to several ultra-powerful brain scanners, allowing researchers to study human behaviour and diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis. Further, the MUMC+ is internationally renowned for its research into and treatment of cardiovascular diseases. “Our aim is to shift the focus from intramural care to prevention, lifestyle and the promotion and maintenance of health”, says Peeters. Key themes in the coming years will include exercise, sustainable work, knowledge utilisation, environmental factors and dietary habits with respect to physical and mental health.

The president of Zuyd University of Applied Sciences, Karel van Rosmalen, sees the strategic programme as an excellent opportunity to accelerate and strengthen his institution’s present direction. “We’ve been focusing for years on themes that are important for the region. For instance, three of our institutes have already been recognised as centres of expertise, in which we collaborate with industry and other educational parties to translate knowledge into applicable solutions. These revolve around chemistry and new materials, innovative care and technology, and the development of the sustainable built environment. Now we’re working hard to do the same for smart services and ICT as well as education. We also have programmes for the arts and for internationalisation, and we’re establishing many links between areas of knowledge that are rich in innovation, such as food and hospitality in combination with healthcare, or new materials and healthcare. This programme will make it possible to keep pushing forward as a region, allowing us to maintain and extend our lead.”

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