State Secretary for Finance Frans Weekers
The Smart Services Hub , a cooperation between 16 regional parties was opened in Heerlen by State Secretary for Finance Frans Weekers.
The Smart Services Hub is a cooperative project among APG, CBS, the tax service Obvion, Rabobank Parkstad Limburg, PNA Group, Betawerk, Maastricht University, the Open University, Hogeschool Zuyd, SVOPL, Arcus College, the Limburg Chamber of Commerce, the Province of Limburg, and the municipalities of Heerlen and Parkstad.
The objective of the Smart Services Hub is to develop the Heerlen region into a Dutch hotspot in the areas of finance, administration and information. A budget of EUR 1.3m has been allocated to the project for the next three years.
SBE will participate in the project by developing education programmes that meet the specific needs of this sector and by conducting academic research to co-create new services concepts.
The Smart Services Hub will help consolidate the position of the service providers in the region, also ensuring that there is a base in the future to retain enough staff and attract new workers.
There are currently 67,000 Limburgers working in the financial and business services. The sector represents about 13 percent of all of the jobs in Limburg and is growing at a rate of 2 percent per year.
The companies established in Limburg within the cluster are doing very well. Cooperation within the Smart Services Hub makes the sector more interesting and offers, under the leadership of Maastricht University, space for innovation as well as new and valuable opportunities in the areas of employment and education for young people.
The initiative will look at how services can be made smarter and seek collaboration with the Document Service Valley in Venlo, the Service Science Factory in Maastricht, and also the care, education and logistics sectors.
Finally, the establishment of the Smart Services Hub facility, designed by the Heerlen architect Erol Oztan, offers a pleasant and inspiring place for meetings, debate and creativity.
Former State Secretary for Economic Affairs Frank Heemskerk will launch a master plan for the Smart Services Hub at the beginning of next year.
Martin Paul, Chairman of the Executive Board of Maastricht University, is enthusiastic about the new cooperation and wants the university to play its role in the project. “We believe in the collaboration between business, education and government. This so-called triple helix approach is also used in the Smart Services Hub. Our effort will focus on innovation and the creation of greater added value through the development of smart services in collaboration with our partners.”
“The region has an excellent work ethic and offers opportunities for this development,” says Dick Sluimers, Chair of APG, which runs 30 percent of all the pensions in the Netherlands (representing some 4.5 million people) and manages a EUR 310 billion pension fund.
“Financial services are complicated and if we succeed in developing concrete projects on the basis of this cooperation, making our products and services intelligible and more open, we shall be achieving both process innovation and at the same time making things transparent and intelligible for people.”
APG, with offices in Amsterdam, Utrecht, Brussels, New York and Hong Kong, has its main office in Heerlen and was nominated Top Employer in 2012. The regional location is also important for Hogeschool Zuyd, who want to develop programmes together with partners in the region. Hogeschool Zuyd has an important link with the region through its various programmes in IT faculties, Commercial Management, and Business and People Management.
Sources: SBE Weekly, Meuse-Rhine Journal
Photos of the opening of the Smart Services Hub in Heerlen, 7 September 2012
Smart Services Hub Heerlen, opening ceremony
Theo Bovens, Governor of the Province of Limburg
Prof. Jos Lemmink, Dean School of Business and Economics at Maastricht University
Prof. Jos Lemmink
Prof. Philip Vergauwen, Department Chair Accounting & Information Management (AIM) at Maastricht University
Martin Paul, (left) President of the Executive Board at Maatricht University
Former State Secretary for Economic Affairs Frank Heemskerk addresses the audience by video link
Photographs by ©Alf Mertens