Leon Korving of Wetsus talks during WEFTEC 2018 about how innovative solutions can solve global challenges in water affairs, such as algae blooms. The Innovation Attaché Network helped organize speakers for the annual water technology conference.


By Sigrid Johannisse
Innovation Counselor
@SJohannisse

The Dutch Innovation Attaché Network launched 65 years ago with just one person based at the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Washington, D.C. His task was simply to identify and report on America’s latest developments in technology and science.

Even though this was before the internet, email or anything digital, he must have had an incredible time witnessing the rapid rise of the American car industry, the growth of television and entertainment in every home, the exploration of space, IBM mainframes, and the adoption of consumer products to make life easier or more fun.

Our task is not much different these days. But while the job hasn’t changed, the world has, and incredibly so. From the age of nuclear energy to the dawn of the circular economy, and from the unraveling of DNA to the development of proton cancer treatment, we report on the latest developments in emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence or quantum computing.

Making connections

We connect our best research institutes to universities in the US and Canada, for example, in subjects such as regenerative medicine. We organize pavilions and lectures with the best of Dutch water tech at the WEFTEC in New Orleans. And we report on the legislation affecting net neutrality in California and the appreciation in the US of the General Data Protection Regulation.

What makes our work different, however, is the enormous speed, diversity, and scale in which innovation is changing our lives, or, as some might say, taking over our lives. Innovation, technology, and science has a greater impact than ever before and has an even greater role to play.

When was the last time world leaders of the largest countries mentioned the same emerging technology in their speeches and underlined the importance of investing in artificial intelligence for their nation’s global position?

This is something we care about and take an interest in. We spot the trends, analyze developments, report, inspire, and connect people to work together.

Dutch companies like Philips, Shell, NXP, ASML, and Unilever recognize the enormous innovative potential of the US and together invest annually more than $2 billion in R&D. Unicorns like Adyen and Elastic rapidly expand in the US, creating American jobs, while inspiring other Dutch startups to do the same.

Thousands of Dutch researchers and academics have found their way in research institutes including DARPA and Stanford, and at companies across the US. A lot of these people are part of our network.

And companies like Google, Intel and Microsoft invest in the Netherlands.

Expanding innovation ties

The innovative ties between the Netherlands and the USA are strong and continue to expand. The Innovation Attaché Network aims to continue strengthening this relationship from our offices in San Francisco, Boston, and Washington, D.C. We are now eight people strong, not to mention our valuable trainees and interns.

This week we are happy and honored to celebrate the 65th anniversary of our global Innovation Attaché Network in the 14 most innovative countries in the world.

And I am equally honored to serve as the network’s first woman innovation counselor in the United States, another example of how our world has changed since that first innovation counselor started taking note of America’s technological advances in 1953.

This moment is also a great opportunity to announce a new initiative: a webpage to report about our work and connect with our readers in the US!