A new campus with an international profile for the development of smart services will be based in Heerlen. There are plans to invest nearly €40 million in the campus, in the short term, with an expected total exploitation of €100 million over ten years. This was announced on 26 September by the founding partners of the new campus: the Province of Limburg, the pension provider APG and Maastricht University.
Building on Limburg’s knowledge
The goal is to create between 2000-2500 jobs in dozens of start-ups, spin-offs and companies that the campus will attract to the region. Limburg—and the Heerlen area in particular—already has a strong cluster of financial, administrative and data-generating institutions, including ABP, APG, AZL, CBS, the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration, Rabobank and Loyalis.
The many call centres and back offices of large multinationals like DHV, Medtronic, Boston Scientific and DocMorris make the region an attractive smart services hotspot. According to Martin Paul, Chairman of the Executive Board of Maastricht University, under the campus concept the regions of Limburg can build on this existing knowledge and experience base, while the University can further “enhance and enrich its own teaching and research in its strategic key focus areas.”
Paul is enthusiastic. “This initiative for a smart services campus is yet another strong example of the possibilities that can be created when industry, government and knowledge institutes work together,” Paul says. “This campus will also show that by joining forces into a triple-helix partnership, we can make real contributions toward advancing the Limburg knowledge economy.”
Focus on smart services, innovations and binding regional talent
The campus will integrate the activities of the eighteen members of the existing partnership, the Smart Services Hub. It will also be home to a new top institute, the Business Intelligence & Smart Services Expertise & Innovation Centre (BISS), in which education, research and enterprise come together.
Maastricht University, Zuyd University of Applied Sciences and the Open Universiteit Nederland (Open University in the Netherlands) are partnering in the new Business Intelligence & Smart Services Expertise and Innovation Centre (BISS) and have big plans for the future, including the development of four new education programmes.
In combination with three existing programmes, this could open places for 1,600 new students over a period of ten years to pursue the field of smart services, and will later bind talent to the region.
Big impact on economy in the region
The campus is extremely important to the Limburg economy and region of Heerlen, according to Twan Beurskens, member of the Parliament of the Province of Limburg in charge of Economic Affairs.
“The new jobs that it will create in the short term are an enormous impulse for employment,” Beurskens says. “The plans are based on open innovation and cooperation between the private sector, knowledge institutions and government. And that’s not just about anchoring the big employers in the region, but also ensuring that the small and medium-sized business sector reaps the benefits from this development.”
Already, with the declaration of intent for the arrival of multinational Accenture and business provider Conclusion, the campus is off to a flying start. APG has already taking the lead in binding these newcomers to the region, both already being suppliers of APG.
If current plans are approved on 31 October by the Provincial Executive, there will be a concrete step-by-step plan in hand for making the campus a reality. All commitments will be set down in a cooperation agreement between the relevant parties by 1 January 2015.
In the first half of 2015, both an executive director for the campus and an academic director for BISS will be recruited. The renovation of the GKII building—selected as the site for the campus—is expected to start in spring, with completion projected for the end of 2015. The data centre and the physical labs would then open as of 1 January 2016.