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Rotterdam Innovation District


Executive Summary Rotterdam Innovation District: International hotspot for smart manufacturing

Rotterdam is gaining momentum as the Ne-

2025, a historic port area is becoming the very

therlands’ most exciting city, alongside Am-

next - complementary - location in Rotterdam

sterdam. Upon the completion of architectu-

with international appeal: the Rotterdam In-

ral icons such as the renewed Central Station

novation District.

and food-walhalla ‘De Markthal’, The New York Times, the Rough Guide and the Lonely Planet

November 2015 Stadshavens1 officially laun-

identified Rotterdam as an international must-

ched the Rotterdam Innovation District (RID).

see city. The city has also become a magnet

The RID is a large, raw area where the water

for entrepreneurial talent, underlined by the

is elemental and the river Maas is fully em-

success of Erasmus Centre for Entrepreneur-

braced. It is aligned with the dynamics of the

Located just west of Rotterdam’s city

cational institutions present here. They

ship (ECE) and the recent establishment of the

Third Industrial Revolution or Next Economy,

center and on both banks of the river the

also connect to the increasing number of

Boston-based Cambridge Innovation Center

roughly defined as the transition from mass-

Maas, a unique ecosystem around smart

large corporates, many of which are active

(CIC). The area where CIC chose to locate, the

production to mass-specialization and from

manufacturing is rapidly emerging: the

in the port – that has the clear ambition to

Rotterdam Central District (RCD), has been

stable to flexible. Within this Next Economy,

Rotterdam Innovation District. It is alig-

remain the world’s smartest port. It pro-

successfully regenerated and now acclaims

manufacturing increasingly returns to the ur-

ned with the dynamics of the Next Eco-

vides a platform for cross-pollination with

metropolitan allure. On opposite banks of the

ban region. It utilizes all possibilities the Inter-

nomy, driven by ongoing digitalization

smart manufacturing. As such, the Rotter-

river the Maas, just west of the city center

net offers: it is digital or smart manufacturing.

and building upon the principles of circu-

dam Innovation District is becoming a hy-

and the envisioned location of the World Expo

Sustainability is a prerequisite.

larity. Innovative entrepreneurs start new

brid zone between the exciting city center

businesses here on a daily basis, attracted

of Rotterdam and Europe’s largest port,

by simplified legislation for experiments,

creating unprecedented synergies. Well-

refurbished monumental port industrial

connected over land, over water and of

heritage and a variety of innovation plat-

course digitally, this new thriving water-

forms that support their scaling-up. They

front is rapidly emerging with still plenty

connect to more than 1.200 students, who

of room for more yuccies (young urban

are enrolled in science-based, technology-

creatives) to break existing boundaries:

oriented educational programs at the edu-

You’re invited to Make It Happen!



The Rotterdam Innovation District is becoming a hybrid zone between the exciting city center of Rotterdam and Europe’s largest port, creating unprecedented synergies 02



The monumental buildings are contrasted with state-of-the-art office buildings and experimental housing, creating an interesting juxtaposition

Ambitions for the future development of the

platforms for direct access to talent, mo-

RID are high. The city government and the

ney and ideas. Leading-edge multinationals

port authority work together with a network

connect to start-ups, incubators and acce-

of relevant stakeholders to support these

lerators. Innovation platforms such as the

ambitions. Three core visionary principles

Erasmus Center of Entrepreneurship and the

define their common vision on this future

regional overarching Venture Café empower

development. These principles are identified

entrepreneurs in the RID, catalyzing the de-

as the main strengths of the RID to build on

velopment of new products and services and


connecting them to the regional innovation ecosystem.

Experiments - Simplified regulation comThe visionary principles translate to efforts

to attract creative entrepreneurs to experi-

enhancing the freedom to experiment, cre-

Innovative entrepreneurs in the RID are able

ded. The strong presence of the food, creative,

ment in a real-life environment, to chase the

ating more favorable meeting places and ex-

to connect to students from RID-based educa-

clean-tech and medical industry – key sectors

extraordinary and explore new territory. Re-

panding the inclusive programming. A large-

tional institutions (Erasmus University Rotter-

of the Rotterdam urban region - in the RID

gulation will not limit or hamper innovation

scale investment program is announced for

dam, Rotterdam University of Applied Scien-

creates even more possibilities for cross-overs.

and self-control is actively promoted. Dedi-

public space enhancements, urban manage-

ces, Albeda College and Zadkine), which focus

A renowned example is Studio Roosegaarde’s

cated port basins will be made available for

ment and infrastructure improvements to the

on science-based technology-oriented educa-

well-designed Smog Tower that harvests smog

experiments with floating factories, farms

water taxis, metro lines, bus transit and free-

tional programs. Entrepreneurs also connect

and breaths out clean air in return. To create

and houses.

ways that connect the RID to the region. This

to the large multinationals located in the RID

a 24-hr buzz that is shown to stimulate such

or in close proximity such as Ampelmann, Vi-

cross-overs, experimental housing will soon

Space – The raw, unpolished and diverse at-

into an even more inspiring place to work

roclinics, Damen Shipyards, Royal IHC, RH Ma-

be realized in the RID. A new thriving water-

mosphere typical for former port areas will

and live.

rine, Huisman, Damen and Mammoet. Many of

front, with unprecedented synergies, is rapidly

be cherished. More monumental industrial

these large corporates are active in the port,


heritage is refurbished for new businesses.

In 2025, the RID is bursting with knowledge

will kick-start efforts to transform the RID

The monumental buildings are contrasted

intensive innovative activities and one of the

most sustainable. To hold on to this position,

Entrepreneurs in the RID realize that inno-

with state-of-the-art office buildings and ex-

most prominent locations for smart manufac-

it shifts towards the digitalization of logistics,

vations in smart manufacturing require sub-

perimental housing, creating an interesting

turing in North-West Europe. Many of today’s

the use of robotics, sensors, drones, new ma-

stantially more interaction and quicker lear-

juxtaposition. Within the RID, it is mainly the

businesses have scaled up activities and new

terials to build more sustainable quay walls or

ning curves than traditional manufacturing.

south bank of the Maas that provides ample

businesses are still experimenting and in-

better ships, etc.. Therefore, the Port of Rot-

This is facilitated by human collision or co-

space for prototyping and research whilst the

novating. Up to 2,500 residential units have

terdam is a unique catalyst for innovation,

location; creating an innovation ecosystem in

much larger northern bank of the Maas provi-

been realized in the RID, with a wide housing

creating a platform for cross-pollination with

the RID. Three complementary makerspaces

des entrepreneurs with the necessary space

mix. The RID is physically compact, fully (pu-

smart manufacturing and between innova-

in the RID illustrate this (SuguClub, RDM Ma-

for full-scale production.

blic) transit-accessible and technically-wired.

tive entrepreneurs and large corporates. They

kerspace and Made In 4Havens), where stu-

find perfect conditions in the RID: facilities for

dents, engineers and designers share expen-

Platforms - A wide variety of companies,

for the World Expo 2025 in Rotterdam. Be

R&D, testing, prototyping, design and manu-

sive facilities such as 3D printers, scanners

research institutes and universities provide

part of the RID today!

facturing. Therewith, the RID is becoming a

and lasers to experiment and make things.

hybrid zone where traditional port activities

The RID, already home to entrepreneurs at

continue to move away but a variety of high-

all stages of the innovation life cycle, invites

tech, port-related activities become embed-

more entrepreneurs to join.

Europe’s largest and the worlds’ smartest and


bined with world class facilities will continue

Also, it is the most prominent area in the city


Ever since a dam was built on the lower end of the fen stream de Rotte in 1206, the water that flows through the river the Maas continues to bring prosperity to the city of Rotterdam. It was the water of the Maas that was a decisive factor for its port to grow slowly but steadily into one of the worlds’ largest ports. The river connects the people of Rotterdam with its hinterland, the economic heart of Europe. Simultaneously the river also poses the city’s greatest threat as it is built mostly behind dikes, large parts are below sea level.


A unique ecosystem around smart manufacturing is rapidly emerging at the Maas; inviting more entrepreneurs to join

It will not be surprising that the water of the Maas is integral to daily life in Rotterdam. Alike the water in the Maas is always flowing, perpetual change defines the city of Rotterdam. This dynamic nature of Rotterdam is best shown in its great resilience after its city center was bombed to the ground in World War II. With great dedication the center is now restored to its former glory with architectural icons such as De Rotterdam, Markthal, Central Station and Kop van Zuid. This hard work gave the people from Rotterdam the positive association with a most profound can-do mentality, their signature phrase translates to ‘stop

The Rotterdam Innovation District is unique in the world. You are invited to Make it Happen here!

talking, only action matters’ (niet lullen maar poetsen!). Now everyone from all over the world with a similar strong can-do mentality is invited to spur the redevelopment of a historic part of Rotterdam: the Rotterdam Innovation District. It is destined to become an international hotspot for smart manufacturing, driven by digitalization and circularity. The continuing presence of port activities in the area, creating a hybrid zone between port and city, makes the Rotterdam Innovation District unique in the world. You are invited to Make it Happen here!



Table of content

1. THE NEXT ECONOMY Rotterdam Innovation District plays a vital part in Rotterdam’s Next Economy Page 10

2. INNOVATION DISTRICTS AROUND THE WORLD Rotterdam Innovation District is part of a large network of innovation districts worldwide Page 14

This position paper is built around four interrelated chapters focusing on the Rotterdam Innovation District

4. A REGIONAL PERSPECTIVE Rotterdam Innovation District is integrally embedded in the metropolitan region Page 50


3. ROTTERDAM INNOVATION DISTRICT A melting pot of creative and innovative entrepreneurs create unprecedented synergies between city and port Page 18


The Next Economy - interchangeably used with the Third Industrial Revolution - refers to the emergence of a new economic paradigm. Roughly defined as the transition from massproduction to mass-specialization and from stable to flexible, it is the subject of thousands of articles, reports and books. This is not the place to repeat what has been written. Specific

The next economy in Rotterdam

Rotterdam Innovation District plays a vital part in Rotterdam’s Next Economy

highlights will however frame what is going on in the RID. The shift towards the Next Economy is driven by digitalization, driving productivity up and marginal costs down – a necessity given the aging population in most Western economies. The Internet creates new ways of communications, new forms of smart energy and automated transport and logistics. The Next Economy also builds upon the principle of circularity, helping us fight climate change. The transition towards the Next Economy hinges on innovative entrepreneurship, often

“We chose Rotterdam after careful consideration of the best location for our first center outside of the US,” says CIC Founder and CEO Tim Rowe. “Rotterdam is a future-oriented, designcentric city that is increasingly being recognized on the world stage. It benefits from some of the strongest universities in the region, is a major maritime and rail hub, and, most importantly, its people have a powerful work ethic similar to that in our hometown of Boston. We think this is going to be a great partnership.” Source: InnovationQuarter, press release July 7 2015

found at start-ups putting new technologies to practice. It is to be applauded that the start-up climate in Rotterdam is ‘buzzing”; boosted by the recent establishment of Boston-based CIC, birthplace of among others Google Android. Much more is done in the Rotterdam region to create an ecosystem encouraging nascent entrepreneurs to start their own business and support their scaling-up. Rotterdam recognizes the importance of creating the right conditions for a successful transition towards the Next Economy: therefore it recently announced a strategic partnership with Jeremy Rifkin, the most influential author

CIC choose the historical Groothandelsgebouw

on the Next Economy with best-sellers “The

for its location, next to the architecturally ac-

Third Industrial Revolution” and “The Zero

claimed Rotterdam Central Station

Marginal Cost Society”.



The makers movement will have a profound impact on the Rotterdam landscape Nothing illustrates the Next Economy more

As these young makers prefer to live and work

than the so-called makers movement. The

in the city, the makers movement brings back

new makers embody the Third Industrial Re-

production to the city. They tend to locate

volution. But what does the makers movement

in underutilized areas, given the availability


of space and the ‘raw’ atmosphere that they seek-after. By doing so, the makers bring back

Students, engineers and designers come to-

life to these areas; the RID is a prime example

gether to experiment with new materials and

Before zooming in on the RID, it is important

make things. They utilize the possibilities the

to understand the impact of the Next Economy

Internet offers them, it is digital or smart ma-

on the physical urban landscape. As the Next

nufacturing. For most, sustainability is a pre-

Economy is about innovation and innovation


in turn is about human collision, denser urban spaces are created, enabling social interaction.

Makers come together in makerspaces, open

These spaces are well-connected both digitally

spaces where the they share (expensive) fa-

and infrastructural. The impact of the Next

cilities such as 3D printers, scanners, lasers

Economy is most visible in Innovation Districts

and CNC-machines. Makerspaces allow ma-

all around the world, including the RID. Let us

kers to tinker (joyfully and freely experiment)

first go on to explain more about these Inno-

and rapid prototyping (just producing rather

vation Districts.

than researching every detail in advance). This creates quicker learning curves which translates to faster innovations. The makers work on an individual basis but help each other in

The new slogan ‘Rotterdam Make it Happen’ underlines the ambitions of the city of Rotterdam to appeal to these young makers to set up business Source: De Derde Individuele Revolutie, Agenda Stad, Aug 2015

any way they can. This exemplifies the sharing economy.



As stated, the transition towards the Next Eco-

In November 2015, the RID has been officially

nomy implies metropolitan cities becoming

launched by Stadshavens. Stadshavens is the

more important. The distinctive feature of the-

project office of the city government and the

se cities gravitates around their innovative po-

port authority and is responsible for the trans-

wer as a result of the concentration of money,

formation of former port areas in Rotterdam in

ideas and talent.

the coming 20 to 40 years. The name Stadshavens translates to cityports, emphasizing the






Innovation Districts around the world

neighborhoods are frontrunners with strong

Rotterdam Innovation District is part of a large network of innovation districts worldwide

Innovation Districts are aligned with the dyna-

intertwining of urban and port activities

innovative power while others – with low accessibility, little emphasis on life-quality or integrating work, housing and recreation – lag behind. A prior example of successful neighborhoods has become a new urban model on its own, giving rise to the name ‘Innovation Districts.

mics of the Next Economy. They are physically compact, (public) transit-accessible, technically-wired, testing and prototyping oriented and offer mixed-use housing, office and retail. Leading-edge anchor institutions and companies cluster here and connect with start-ups, incubators and accelerators. Innovation Districts are not mere branding initiatives but are implemented to spark urban regeneration. They do not arise spontaneous, needing substantial government input to kickstart developments by e.g. creating co-working spaces and encouraging densification of

The rise of Innovation Districts is inextricably linked to the Next Economy

the built environment. Barcelona is the first city to have produced an Innovation District and is being replicated around the world such as in Boston, Medellin, Stockholm and Montreal. Urban leaders in these respective cities use their Innovation Districts as impetus for their cities to attain a superstar status.


Boston Innovation District


Innovation Districts are driving city’s economic development all around the world Innovation Districts around the world: Atlanta Baltimore Barcelona Berlin Boston Buffalo Chicago Cleveland Detroit Houston

Rotterdam Innovation District

London Medellin Montreal Philadelphia Pittsburgh Portland Providence Rotterdam San Diego San Francisco Seoul Seattle Singapore St. Louis Stockholm Sheffield Toronto



Daan Roosegaarde Artist & Innovator at Studio Roosegaarde

Rotterdam Innovation District

A melting pot of creative and innovative entrepreneurs create unprecedented synergies between city and port

‘It is the rawness and the understated feeling of this area that excites me. Rotterdam is full of creativity, it’s a great place to work’ Diederick NierstrasZ Manager Production & Innovations at Ampelmann

‘The Rotterdam Innovation District exactly resembles our profile, being young and dynamic. We can work together with start-ups and other scale-ups. Furthermore, our clients are right next door in the port’ Hendrik Halbe Founder and Managing Director at Erasmus Centre for Entrepreneurship

‘The Rotterdam Innovation District connects and provides entrepreneurs with space to innovate, not just in the physical way but also in terms of limited regulation and inspiration’



The Rotterdam Innovation District is becoming the next area in Rotterdam with great international appeal






Rotterdam THE HAGUE airport

Recently, The New York Times, the Rough Gui-

What makes the RID unique is the well-pre-

de and Lonely Planet identified Rotterdam as

served heritage of the port and its location on

an international must-see city. All eyes were

two sides of the river the Maas. The water is

on the successful regeneration of the RCD with

elemental; it unites the entrepreneurs in the

the renewed Central Station. The recent es-

RID, rather than it separates them. The RID

tablishment of CIC in the area underlines its

embraces the river Maas; high-speed water

‘cool-factor’, acclaiming international allure.

taxi’s and water buses for example connect the RID and the rest of Rotterdam. Entrepre-


The RID, just west of the city center and en-

neurs can also start businesses in the dedica-

visioned location of the World Expo 2025, is

ted port basins made available for experiments

becoming the next location in Rotterdam with

with floating factories (AquaDock), farms and

great international appeal. The two areas are


complementary: whereas the RCD is strongly


focused on more service-oriented high-tech

The strong connection of the RID with the wa-

companies, the RID is the place to be for smart

ter of the Maas is also expressed by the conti-

manufacturing. Companies from the RCD can

nued importance of port activities.

turn to the RID if they need more space for production and vice versa.

Central district

TU DELFT Yes! Delft

Innovation district NIEUWE







supported by CIC and ECE

nt -A

hotspots through inclusive programming,



Venture Café Rotterdam ensures the interaction between the two international






Rotterdam Innovation District forms a new connection between the city and the port, creating a ‘hybrid zone’

The port activities create unprecedented synergies with smart manufacturing

Rotterdam has grown to a buzzling metropo-

The Port of Rotterdam has a clear ambition:

le, primarily driven by rapid growth of trade

holding on to its position as the world’s smar-

in its seaport. Globalization, increasing scale

test and most sustainable port. That implies

of shipping and changing perception towards

the shift towards digitalization of logistics, ro-

environmental requirements instigated a reo-

botics, sensors, use of drones for inspection,

rientation of the city’s port-related industries

use of new materials to build more sustaina-

downstream the river Maas and out of the city

ble quay walls and better ships, etc. This shift

center. Raw port areas near the city center -

creates the cross-pollination of the maritime

Cooperation between young entrepreneurs and

full of iconic industrial heritage - have come

industry and smart manufacturing. Therewith,

multinationals is the recipe for success in the

available for new urban functions. Regenera-

the Port of Rotterdam is a unique catalyst for

RID. Multinationals realize future business is on

tion of these former port areas such as Kop

innovation, creating a platform for innovative

the edges of current business, made visible to

van Zuid, Delfshaven and Katendrecht - all

entrepreneurs and multinationals to join for-

them by the young entrepreneurs that in turn

overlooking the Maas - is transforming them

ces. A variety of multinationals is present in

profit from the skill-set available within multi-

into vivid living and working areas. Attractive

the RID or in close proximity.

nationals and financial means

urban waterfronts have emerged. The most recent regenerating raw port area is the RID, located on the banks of the river the Maas. In the south, the RID used to be home to the Rotterdam Drydock Company, the largest shipbuilding and repair company in the Netherlands, existing from 1902 to 1996. In the north, the RID was and still is home to many fruit and juice companies.

Many traditional port activities have made place for new smart manufacturing activities,

The ongoing transformation of the RID is ho-

many still related to the port. Therewith, the

wever no typical example of the ‘port out, city

RID is becoming a ‘hybrid zone’ between the

in’ model, there will be no classical separation

port and the city

between port and city. Indeed, traditional port activities will continue to move away from the area, but a variety of port-related activities find the perfect conditions in the RID: R&D, testing, prototyping, design and facilities for manufacturing. The presence of educational institutes, (financial) service providers, restaurants and experimental housing in the RID further adds to these conditions.


23 19


RDM ROTTERDAM: Innovation Dock

From exclusively a port area, the Rotterdam Innovation District will grow into a mixed center for smart manufacturing and attractive living 1912

Start of digging the

The RID physically connects the maritime industry and smart manufacturing in the 23,000

Vierhavens (break bulk and

square meters Innovation Dock, where busi-

petroleum) and Merwehavens

ness, research and education connect:


in 1923 (break bulk) on the north bank of the Maas.


Start-ups and multinationals such as Damen

RDM starts ship building

Shipyards, IHC and RH Marine rent space to

operations at the south

(jointly) develop, test and demonstrate proto-

Decision to redevelop former port

bank of the Maas.

areas just west of the city cen-

types and products.

ter, jointly dubbed Stadshavens, to hybrid zones between the city

Research institutions such as the RDM Centre

center and the port. Entrepreneurs

of Expertise, iTanks and RDM Makerspace sup-

in RDM Rotterdam and M4H

ports these businesses. They have excellent

developed a strong focus on

connections with TNO and Delft University of Technology.

smart manufacturing.


The educational institutions Rotterdam Uni-

RID is bursting with knowledge intensive

versity of Applied Sciences, Albeda College

innovative activities and one of the most

and Zadkine offer science-based technology-

prominent locations for smart manufacturing

oriented educational programs in for example

in North-West Europe. Many businesses have

Maintenance and Metalworking, Process Tech-

scaled up activities and are experimenting

nology and Automotive Technology. Its 1,200

and innovating in the flourishing RID which

Launch of RID with a large-scale

students are directly connected to the Innova-

is an integral part of the World Expo in

investment program for urban

Rotterdam. Residential units have been

management, infrastructure improve-

realized in the RID, creating a 24-hr buzz.

ments and public space enhancement

tion Dock.


Innovation Dock opened in 2009, more than

More traditional port activities

75% of available space is rented out. Other

continue to move away from the

former RDM-buildings such as Scheepsbouw-

city center towards the Maasvlakte

loods (2014), Centraal Magazijn (2014), Do-

areas situated to the west.

kloodsen and Onderzeebootloods (2015) have also been redeveloped.



In 2025, Rotterdam Innovation District is bursting with knowledge intensive innovative activities and a prominent location for smart manufacturing

Today, the outlines of Rotterdam Innovation District are becoming visible with innovative entrepreneurs starting new businesses on a daily basis

The images on these pages are from the ‘Van woestijn naar goudmijn’ (‘From desert to gold

By 2025, the RID will thus have become an

Leading academic institutions like Erasmus

mine)’ study by Duzan Doepel of DoepelStrij-

international hotspot attracting innovative and

University Rotterdam (EUR), Erasmus Medical

kers and Jan Rotmans of Drift and the ‘Skill

creative entrepreneurs from all over the world.

Center (Erasmus MC) and Delft University of

City Keilehaven’ study by Era Contour, housing

Innovative and creative entrepreneurs are al-

Technology will continue to stimulate entre-

association Vestia and Woonbron by Plein 06.

ready discovering the former port areas today,

preneurship through inclusive programming

starting new businesses and industries de-

focused on accelerating innovation. Therefore,

ploying architectural and cultural heritage for

much more can be expected from talent living

future wealth. Simultaneously, an increasing

in the Rotterdam region.

number of multinationals such as Damen Shipyards, IHC Merwede, Van Gansewinkel and

New international talent will continue to be

RH Marine have opened up R&D labs and/or

drawn to the RID. CIC and Venture Café will

production facilities in the RID to work toge-

be a key driver of this internationalization, as

ther with these entrepreneurs. Therewith the

they will position Rotterdam as a new inter-

outlines of the RID are becoming clearer every

national hotspot of entrepreneurial activities

day whilst entrepreneurs continue breaking

alongside Amsterdam, Boston, San Francisco,

boundaries on a daily basis. A unique ecosys-

Tel Aviv and Berlin.

tem around smart manufacturing is rapidly emerging at the Maas; inviting more entrepreneurs to join.



A growing mix of innovative entrepreneurs found their way to the Rotterdam Innovation District and are paving the path for success of future businesses 01 Uit je Eigen Stad

31 HIWA Cold stores

02 ECE

32 Continental Juice

03 Analyselab

33 Ampelmann

04 CleanTech Delta

34 Albeda College

05 Declaree

35 Damen

06 Dutch Domotics


07 Erasmus MC Incubators

37 IHC Merwede

08 LabHotel

38 RH Marine

09 Omnigen

39 Innovatiecentrum Kunststoffen

10 Symbid

40 iTanks

11 Temporary Works Design

41 Jules Dock

12 TickID

42 Public Domain Architecten

13 Viroclinics

43  RDM Centre of Expertise

14 Solid Shapes

44 RDM Makerspace

15 Designdock Rotterdam

45 SkilledIn

16 SuGu

46 TU Delft (Robotics)

17 Carola Zee

47 Van Gansewinkel


48  Zadkine (process technology)

19 Refil

49  HR (automotive construction)

20 Robot Printing

50  HR (industrial product design)

21 S.T.R.S

51 Energy Floors

22 Susan Bijl

52  IC Duurzaam Bouwen

23 Ultimaker

53 Franklin Offshore

24 Windchallenge

54 RH Marine

25 Made in 4Havens

55-59 Many more

26 Studio Roosegaarde


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 25 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 24 26 28 29 32 30 31 33



34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48


50 51 49 54

52 53


(Clean) Tech Creative Financial serv. Food Facilitator

27 De Voedseltuin

Schiedam (selection)

28 Opticool



Knowledge institute

29 Santas Koffie Uit




30 Spark design & innovation





Rotterdam Innovation District is famous for simplified regulation for experiments, deployment of its space and cultural heritage and catalyzing platforms To realize ambitions for 2025, the local go-

Space - Refurbished monumental industrial

vernment and the Port Authority of Rotter-

heritage is deployed for future wealth and con-

dam work together with a network of relevant

serves the area’s raw atmosphere. Combined

stakeholders. Together they actively support

with the contrast of new state-of-the-art office

Simplified regulation,

the development of the RID towards a vivid

buildings and worker spaces, innovative en-

promoting self-control

working and living area between the city and

trepreneurs are supplied with a representative

the port bursting with yuccies (young urban

landing place for their businesses. Amidst the


raw buildings, green public spaces are tranquil


oases for self reflection and casual meetings

Deploying the archi-cultural

Three core visionary principles define their


with fellow entrepreneurs.

heritage for future wealth

common, envisaged vision on the RID that guides their kick-starting actions:

Platforms - A wide variety of companies, research institutes and universities provide plat-

Experiments - Simplified regulation com-

forms for direct access to talent, money and

bined with world-class facilities invite entre-

ideas. These innovation platforms connect en-

preneurs to experiment, to chase the extra-

trepreneurs in the RID to the regional innova-

ordinary and explore new territory. RID is a

tion ecosystem, catalyzing the development of

place where entrepreneurs test innovation in a

new products and services.

real-life environment.

Platforms Connected to the regional innovation ecosystem

Three core visionary principles define the RID 30


Rules and regulations will not limit or hamper experiments and innovation in the Rotterdam Innovation District Experimentation allows risk-taking entrepre-

to people, environment or the urban landscape

neurs for the necessary trial-and-error to oc-

Freedom to experiment goes hand in hand with

cur. Entrepreneurs in the RID will find that they

the freedom to imagination in the RID. Out-of-

are not limited or hampered in any way. This is

the-box thinking is at the hearts and minds of

facilitated by simplified legislation. Examples

the people of Rotterdam in general. The strong

are found in more flexible environmental and

spirit of creativity in the RID is underlined

construction permits and swifter administra-

by the presence of some of the Netherlands’

tive procedures. The RID is an experimental

most forward thinking designers such as Daan

garden where entrepreneurs can test their in-

Roosegaarde and Joep van Lieshout.

novations in a real-life environment. This also includes various basins in the RID. Aqua Dock,

Proximity to fellow entrepreneurs in the RID

Floating Pavilion and Floating Farm illustrate

and students following classes at the educati-

this possibility.

onal institutions located in the RID (Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences, Albeda College,

Self-control of entrepreneurs is actively pro-

Zadkine – all technically oriented) will both

moted by the city. The only restriction is for

challenge and give input for experimentation.

experiments inducing heavy pollution or cau-

The potential for cross-overs will drive a conti-

sing (the risk to) any form of physical damage

nuous stream of experiments.


AquaDock Like other cities located in Delta areas, Rot-

Floating plots are now available to entrepre-

terdam has to cope with a shortage of space

neurs, researchers and students for water-

and faces the challenge to find solutions for

based innovations such as small-scale pro-

consequences of climate change and energy

duction of floating objects, innovative energy

scarcity. Building on water and water ma-

harvesting and experiments regarding hy-

nagement are therefore strategic priorities

draulic engineering. Much interest was al-

for Rotterdam.

ready shown during the opening on November 2, 2015.

The city of Rotterdam, the Port Authority and Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences jointly developed AquaDock as a show stage for experimental testing, demonstrating and production on water. It is a floating construction, located centrally in the RID.



Iconic industrial heritage and physical space inspire innovative entrepreneurs The RID is full of architectural and cultural her-

The RID is a place where like-minded entre-

itage. The widely available industrial and cul-

preneurs mix and mingle and bump into each

tural heritage provides the area with the raw,

other. Mixed-use development and favorable

unpolished and diverse atmosphere typical

meeting places nurtures collaboration and

for old port areas. Monumental buildings will

knowledge-sharing in RID whilst the raw pu-

continue to be cherished and the re-imagined

blic space reminds the public of the industrial

port/urban landscape is increasingly made

history of the area.

available to innovative entrepreneurs. Within the RID, it is mainly the south bank of


As stated before, the availability of space for

the Maas that provides ample space for proto-

businesses, experiments and innovation is not

typing and research whilst the larger northern

limited to the land only – many basins in the

bank of the Maas provides entrepreneurs with

RID are available and provide ample space for

space for full-scale production. This makes

creative thinking and testing of new products

that the RID is home to all stages of the in-

and services on water.

novation life-cycle.

SPARK DESIGN & Innovation: Flying car Designers and engineers have been dreaming

A driving and flying prototype of the first ver-

of a ‘flying car’ for almost a hundred years.

sion of the PAL-V has already been developed

Countless prototypes have been developed

in the RID and successfully tested A consor-

but so far without technical or commercial

tium of (international) entrepreneurs em-

success. RID-based Spark design & innova-

braced the idea and invested in small-scale

tion, Delft University of Technology and initi-

production. The Dutch national government is

ator John Bakker developed the Personal Air

supportive to the plan to construct short run-

and Land – Vehicle (PAL-V), an innovative

ways alongside motorways; so-called ‘PAL-V

new vehicle that performs well both on the


road and in the air. It is the result of over 15 years of research and prototyping. The PAL-V is easy to control, safe and reliable.


35 31

Second life iconic industrial heritage

Space available iconic industrial heritage RDM Rotterdam Onderzeebootloods Ampelmann


The massive former submarine shipyard di-

This monumental industrial heritage was build

rectly overlooking the river Maas is now home

in 1914 for the Rotterdam Hide Club as a hide

to Ampelmann, which constructs large off-

tannery. Diepeveen is now hosting a variety of

shore access solutions there, and to Ahoy,

creative entrepreneurs and offering space for

which organizes events and congresses in the

new initiatives.

authentic buildings.

Vertrekhal Oranjelijn


The monumental former departure hall of steel

The fantastic HAKA building is constructed in

and glass with a view on the Maas, where

1914 for the Producers’ Wholesale Coopera-

many passengers started their travels over

tive focused on delivering quality food for a

sea to places far away, now hosts a variety

reasonable price to workers. This industrial

of businesses including Santas Coffee, De Ver-

monumental heritage is recently partly reno-

trekhal and Spark design & innovation, an en-

vated and one of the last office buildings with a

RDM Rotterdam

trepreneur working on combining design and

Ferro Dome

Paternoster lift. The HAKA building is available

Innovation Dock


The typical blue industrial gasholder is now

for entrepreneurs or corporates seeking office

The dockyard of the Rotterdam Drydock Com-

home to innovative music, dance and business

space in an inspiring environment.

pany was build in the early 1900’s and provi-

events for up to 6.000 visitors and is operated

des large spaces to innovative entrepreneurs.

by Ferro Dome

RDM Drydock is home to Innovation Dock and many innovative entrepreneurs are working on tomorrows maritime applications.

RDM Rotterdam Grofsmederij / Ketelmakerij

RDM Rotterdam


Rotterdam University of Applied

E.ON Centrale

These massive landmark ironworks factories

Sciences, Albeda and Zadkine College


overlooking the river Maas were build in the

The former engine room of the Rotterdam Dry-

The former E.ON gas power plant with the

1920s and 1930s. It is the birthplace of the


dock Company now accommodates the RDM

iconic 120 meter high chimney now hosts

iconic ship De Rotterdam of the Holland Ame-

This iconic former chemical factory was con-

Campus of Rotterdam University of Applied

SuGu. SuGu accommodates a Next Economy

rica Line. The Grofsmederij provides massive

structed in 1933 and was used to produce

Sciences, RDM Centre of Expertise, Zadkine

cluster of companies with various competen-

floor spaces with overhead cranes, heights up

over-the-counter drugs like Davitamon, Aza-

and Albeda college focusing on the build envi-

cies in one space with focus on biobased and

to 18 meters and is available for entrepreneurs

ron and Predictor. Chefaro is now home to

ronment, mobility and energy.

recycled plastics, advanced manufacturing

and corporates that require the large amount

various creative entrepreneurs and providing

and circular design

of space.

room for new and emerging businesses.



Ampelmann Easy, fast and safe access from moving ves-

lutions. The company was founded in 2008 as

sels to offshore structures has long been pro-

a spin-off of the Delft University of Techno-

blematic. RID-based Ampelmann developed

logy. From the start, Ampelmann followed a

a motion compensation platform that allows

high growth path, doubling its fleet in the first

easy, fast and safe access from a moving ves-

years, rapidly growing ever since and expan-

sel to offshore structures.

ding worldwide. The firm currently operates 50 systems worldwide and employs over 300

Ampelmann is a high-tech offshore personnel

people.. Ampelmann recently opened a new

transfer company focusing on development,

production facility in the RID, located in the

construction and lease of offshore access so-

Onderzeebootloods (submarine shipyard).


Floating Farm One of the main challenges of the future is

The Floating Farm is based on the principles

food production for a growing world popula-

of circularity. The aim for the Floating Farm is

tion. RID-based Uit Je Eigen Stad developed a

to be self-supportive by harvesting rainwater

floating farm together with the national fron-

and energy and reduce waste to a minimum

trunner on City farming, Courage, the inno-

by developing new recycling techniques. It

vation institute of the Dutch Agriculture and

brings agriculture closer to the people living

Dairy sector and Beladon, the leading Dutch

in urban areas. It also shortens the supply

company. The floating farm provides space

chain from farmer to factory to consumer,

for approximately 60 cows, with onsite diary

vastly reducing logistics and the accompanied

production facilities an education center and


a shop where daily fresh diary products can be bought.

Construction of the first ever Floating Farm, which is to be realized in 2016, already started in the RID.



Innovation platforms connect entrepreneurs in the RID to the regional innovation ecosystem The Dutch have one of the most entrepreneu-

turing by providing a platform where entre-

rial cultures in Europe, most notable within the

preneurs can freely design, manufacture and

Rotterdam region. Therefore, a large variety

produce. The ECE empowers start-ups, SMEs

of innovation platforms has arisen to support

and corporates by creating a learning environ-

the fast-growing number of innovative entre-

ment for entrepreneurs.

preneurs. Venture Café - an overarching platform in which These platforms aim to connect entrepreneurs

CIC, ECE, InnovationQuarter, Rotterdam Part-

in the RID to the three necessary ingredients

ners, YesDelft, StartupDelta Deloitte, EY and

for innovation - talent, money and ideas. They

the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency

provide a vehicle for entrepreneurs, accele-

and others participate -, provide networking

rating innovation and organize a variety of

programs and targeted initiatives to foster an

events. They also make resources and human

entrepreneurial culture and strengthen the in-

talent more accessible to entrepreneurs.

novation ecosystem in the Rotterdam region. Venture Café connects entrepreneurs from the

Local platforms in the RID such as RDM Ma-

RID to public institutions and multinationals.

kerspace and Sugu accelerate smart manufac-

The Dutch have one of the most entrepreneurial cultures in Europe, most notable within the Rotterdam region

Entrepreneurs in the RID are supported by nested platforms. They have a common vision: scaling-up start-ups and promoting entrepreneurship

• • • • • • •


Selected local platforms in RID RDM centre of expertise RDM Makerspace Lab Hotel Internet of things Academy Erasmus Centre for entrepeneurship Clean Tech Delta SuGu Club

• • • • • • • • •

Selected regional platforms The Venture Café Rotterdam partners CIC Innovation Quarter YES! Delft Startup Delta Biobased Medical Delta Food Center Westland


Rotterdam Innovation District facilitates crossovers between the four key sectors of the region

Creativity connects the four key sectors in the RID and design resonates strongly

Previously the worlds’ largest ship building

The RID combines education and research on

cluster, the RID is still home to companies Da-

the transition towards a sustainable economy

men Shipyards Group and Royal IHC, involved in ship construction as well as maintenance



and better water management with being an international showcase of best practices. Stu-

and repair activities. More companies are loca-

dio Roosegaarde co-developed a Smog Free

ted just outside the RID. A variety of related,

Tower in the RID harvesting smog and sup-

high-tech maritime companies set up business

plying the city with clean air. The urban wind

in the RID such as Ampelmann, Condor and

turbines of Archimedes are another example.

RH Marine.

Given the Erasmus Medical Center’s location next door, it is not surprising the RID is home to innovative medical companies such As of 2016, the worlds’ first floating, high-

as Viroclinics. The Rotterdam Science Tower

tech farm (a research institute for urban far-

offers state-of-the-art (research) facilities

ming) will be located in the RID. The Voed-

for medical entrepreneurs. This includes full-

seltuin is another example of ecological and

certified laboratory space, readily available in

societal sustainability where unemployed are

the LabHotel and the Erasmus MC Technology

trained professionally to produce biological

Transfer Office.

vegetables and fruits for the Rotterdam Food Shelter. The RID also houses major juice bot-



tling company Continental Juice, serving all of Europe’s juice markets.



EXAMPLE Innovation life cylcle

Entrepreneurs in the Rotterdam Innovation District work on creating a greener, cleaner and healthier city

1 Students from the Master Watermanagement at the TU Delft graduated on the subject of decontamination of water in port areas

2 Their professor connects


them with Daan Roosegaarde, who invites them


to work together and realize a pioneering installation to decontaminate water

3 Prototyping of the installations occurs at RDM Makerspace, students from the RUAS assist

4 The installation is tested in a real-life environment in the AquaDock

4 3



EXAMPLE Innovation life cylcle

The Rotterdam Innovation District is the place for portrelated smart manufacturing

1 Students from RUAS are fascinated by drones flying around in the drone pilot school in InnovationDock

3 2 During an internship, Ampelmann consults the students to help them with producing drones that can assist construction on off-shore platforms



Still fascinated by drones, the students continue their education at the Erasmus University (MSc in Entrepreneurship). Upon graduation they turn to the ECE where they learn the necessary entrepreneurial skills and are provided with all-inclusive office space, amidst other young innovators

4 The young entrepreneurs



open a small-scaled plant in the RID to produce drone parts, the production capacity expands regularly






Studio Roosegaarde

Small-scale research for example into medi-

LabHotel is a concept that enables resear-

cines or medical aids is often very expensive

chers and companies to make use of labo-

and not very accessible to small entrepre-

ratory facilities whilst overlooking the Maas.

A new study found that more than three mil-

neurs. RID-based LabHotel offers researchers

Equipment, staff, services and specialist ad-

lion people die prematurely due to air pollu-

the option of hiring a fully equipped labora-

vice are readily “a la carte” available to entre-

tion each year worldwide and this figure will

tory without being tied to a rental contract.

preneurs. All labs are equipped with heating,

increase dramatically over 2050, especially in

These “turn-key” laboratories are available

air conditioning, hot and cold running water,

big cities. RID-based artist Daan Roosegaarde

for entrepreneurs for short and longer periods

demineralized water, process water, natu-

worked together with Delft University of Tech-

of time. The labs are Biological Safety Level II

ral gas, carbon dioxide, compressed air and

nology to design a seven-meter high tower

(BSL2) prepared and equipped with all neces-

laboratory table with storage cabinets. The

which sucks in dirty air like a giant vacuum

sary permits.

facility is located at the top floor of the Rot-

cleaner. Using ion-technology, the tower har-

terdam Science Tower with impressive views

vests smog and breaths out clean air in re-

over the city and the port.

turn. the Smog Free Tower creates 30.000 cubic meters of clean air every hour. The collected smog is turned into an exclusive and already much sought-after piece of jewelry. Construction of the tower became possible through crowdfunding. In September 2014, the world’s first Smog Free Tower was officially opened in the RID. As people in Western Europe enjoy relatively clean air, the project has received much attention from Asian cities such as Beijing and Kuala Lumpur where air quality is much poorer.




The RID is inherent part of the economic and

As part of the Randstad, the RID is integra-

political heart of the Netherlands; the Rand-

ted in the international business environment

stad. Home to over 7 million inhabitants it is

through world-class connections via road, rail

a synergy of a multitude of cities, including

and air. International business development

Rotterdam, Amsterdam, The Hague and Delft.

is encouraged through high quality air trans-

Rotterdam, dubbed the Gateway to Europe, is

portation. Rotterdam-the Hague Airport offers

characterized by its port-city economic duality

various daily flights to business locations in

with a leading role for maritime, food, medical

Europe, including Barcelona, Berlin, London,

and cleantech companies. The capital city of

Geneva, Madrid, Munich, Vienna and more.

Amsterdam is home to many of the global fi-

Nearby Schiphol Airport, located just a mere

nancial service providers. The Hague is the po-

30 minutes from Rotterdam by train or car, of-

litical centre and a global center of peace and

fers direct flights to all major global destinati-

A regional perspective

justice. The city of Delft, located just 15 mi-

ons. With over 50 million passengers a year it

nutes north of the RID, is home to the Nether-

is the fourth biggest airport in Europe.

Setting-up business in the Rotterdam Innovation District connects you to all the Netherlands has to offer

lands’ biggest and worldwide renowned Delft University of Technology and many technological research institutions such as UNESCO-IHE, TNO and Deltares. The cities have steadily grown towards each other; their combined scale and synergies form a metropolitan region that competes in the global league. World class knowledge infrastructure and cultural diversity supplies the Randstad with a unique supply of talent. Erasmus University Rotterdam, University of Amsterdam and Delft University of Technology are just a few examples of top academic knowledge institutions that connect to entrepreneurs in the RID.


World class knowledge infrastructure and cultural diversity supplies the Randstad with a unique supply of talent


Entrepreneurs in the Rotterdam Innovation District tap into a diverse talent pool, readily available in the region

List of abbreviations RID


Rotterdam Innovation District

Cambridge Innovation Center

A unique ecosystem around smart manu-

Facility where entrepreneurs are supported

facturing that is rapidly emerging at the

to allow them to innovate better and faster

Maas, becoming a hybrid zone between

through developing a strong ecosystem

the city and the port VC

Entrepreneurs in the RID can tap into a con-

ous medical fields of expertise. The three aca-

centrated pool of young (academic) talent

demic universities, all ranked in the top 80 of


Venture CafĂŠ Rotterdam

most enthusiastic about technology, innova-

the Times Higher Education World University

Rotterdam Central District

Overarching platform for the Rotterdam

tion en entrepreneurship. The RID itself home

Rankings, facilitate 23 faculties and numerous

Central business district of Rotterdam

region with programming for start-ups

to various universities and colleges. The Eras-

research institutes, hosting over 65,000 stu-

concentrated around Central Station

to accelerate growth and connect with

mus University Rotterdam hosts its Erasmus

dents (undergraduate and postgraduate) and

and Weena

multinationals, supported by ECE, CIC

Center for Entrepreneurs in the RID whilst

more than 7,200 scientists.

and other (public) stakeholders RDM

Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences hosts the RDM Centre of Expertise and, toge-

The region’s universities of applied sciences

Research, Design & Manufacturing


ther with Albeda College and Zadkine, are de-

provide companies with a large number of

(formerly Rotterdam Drydock Company)

Erasmus University Rotterdam

livering high standard education to students

yearly graduates with a practical background

Former port area, elemental part of

Renowned (business) university

on the southern bank of the RID.

in maritime, medical, cleantech and food; all

RID at the north bank of the Maas

in the Netherlands, active in RID

eager to start a promising career in these The Erasmus University of Rotterdam concen-

flourishing industries in the region. A large



trates its research and education in (maritime)

number of colleges in the region also provides


Erasmus Medical Center

economics, governance and medical science

an ongoing stream of motivated talent. These

Former port area, elemental part of

Leading academic medical center

& health whilst Delft University of Technology

students are ready to display their capabilities

RID at the north bank of the Maas

in the Netherlands, active in RID

is focusing on science, engineering and de-

and have the hands-on mentality that is typi-

sign. Nearby Leiden University is delivering

cal for Rotterdam.



Erasmus Centre for Entrepreneurship

Delft University of Technology

Learning environment in RID where compa-

Renowned (technological) university

nies become better at entrepreneurship

in the Netherlands

many students with master’s degrees in vari-

Selected education institutes

Selected focus areas

Academic Universities

Business administration, (maritime) economics,

Erasmus University Rotterdam

medical science & health, governance

Delft University of Technology

Science, technology, engineering, design Medical

Leiden University

science, bioscience, mathematics & science, law

Universities of Applied Sciences

Maritime, economics, IT, innovation, health, technology

Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences

Governance, technology, health, entrepreneurship,

The Hague University of Applied Sciences

innovation. Bioscience, health, management,

Leiden University of Applied Sciences

legal Agribusiness, food technology, zoology,

Inholland Delft

(aeronautical) engineering


Technology, health, economics

Albeda College

Technology, health, logistics, administration, trade

by gaining new insights and turning ideas into innovationsfacility

RUAS Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences Applied university in the Rotterdam region, actively participating in RID





This is a one-time publication of Stadshavens Rotterdam, Lekstraat 14 in Rotterdam. Stadshavens Rotterdam is a collaboration between the municipality of Rotterdam and the Port of Rotterdam Authority (Havenbedrijf Rotterdam N.V.).

Text Deloitte Real Estate

Image credits Stadsontwikkeling Rotterdam, Port of Rotterdam Authority, Rotterdam Branding Toolkit

Graphic Design Louise de Kruijf (Trichis Communication and Design)

Copyrights November 2015

No part of this publication may be reproduced in any fashion without the publisher’s express prior consent.



Position paper Rotterdam Innovation District  

Innovation Districts across the globe can be recognised by the fact that they are where progressive institutions and businesses are clustere...

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