Clémence Ross-van Dorp, Ambassador for the Netherlands’ Action Program “New Opportunities for Top Sector Life Sciences & Health,” participated in BIO Digital 2020, where she discussed international collaboration on COVID-19 with partners from Massachusetts and shared the top five reasons for life sciences companies to consider investing in the Netherlands.

The Innovation Attaché Network asked her about the strategic trajectory of the Top Sector Life Sciences & Health, ways in which the Netherlands and the United States are innovatively working together to tackle the pandemic, and how the Netherlands is leading the way as a global hub for life sciences and health. 

As an ambassador for “New Opportunities for Top Sector Life Sciences & Health,” can you elaborate on what these “new opportunities” could be?

The Action Program was set up in the wake of the European Medicines Agency, the European agency responsible for the scientific evaluation, supervision, and safety monitoring of all medicines in the EU, relocating to the Netherlands. The new opportunities come mainly from the strong life sciences and health foundations that the Netherlands has built with, for example, strong public-private partnerships and a rapidly growing biotech scene. In addition to other strengths that the Netherlands has, this provides ample opportunities to attract emerging and leading companies and researchers to come to or expand their activities in the Netherlands.

What are the Netherlands’ ambitions in the field of life sciences and health and what are the ambitions with the US?

One of the ambitions is to position the Netherlands as the European life sciences hub to go to for biotech companies and researchers. In addition, the Netherlands has identified several key countries and regions that are relevant from a life sciences and health perspective. The United States is one of those, as it is the leading country worldwide for the life sciences in terms of research, financing opportunities, and emerging and established companies. There is a lot we can learn from life sciences hubs like Boston, Massachusetts, and San Francisco, California. The Netherlands is deploying all sorts of international activities, whether they are trade missions, representation via a pavilion for the BIO International Convention or otherwise. In this way, the Netherlands is able to get Dutch companies and researchers in touch with their American counterparts, to explore mutual business opportunities, and to position the Netherlands as a leading European hub.

This week you are participating in the San Diego BIO conference. What are possibilities for Dutch companies and/or knowledge institutes to collaborate with US counterparts in fighting COVID-19?

Although the BIO International Convention in San Diego is digital due to COVID-19, this also illustrates the way Dutch companies and knowledge institutes are collaborating with their American counterparts. Earlier this week, for example, there was a session between stakeholders from Massachusetts and the Netherlands in the light of the memorandum of understanding that was signed around a year ago to discuss the current situation and to see which possibilities there are for international collaboration in fighting COVID-19. Another illustration of these possibilities for collaboration are the hackathons that MIT has organized and which the Netherlands life sciences and health sector supports as a partner. In these hackathons, companies, researchers, and knowledge institutes jointly came up with possible solutions to beat the pandemic and to initiate collaborations to really get this off the ground.

What are the top three life sciences and health areas in which you expect the Netherlands to excel over the next few years?

 The Netherlands, first of all, features a thriving and rapidly growing biotech sector, with hundreds of entrepreneurs and companies that develop, for instance, the vaccines and treatments of the future. The sector stands out due to a good mix of established and emerging pharma and biotech companies, internationally leading research publications, seven university medical centers, and a great infrastructure in terms of logistics and data. The Dutch biotech sector also features leading companies that enable faster and better development of new vaccines and diagnostics in the area of organoids and lab-on-a-chip. Another domain in which the Netherlands can be expected to excel in the coming years is the combination of life sciences and health and artificial intelligence.

What are the most important factors for life sciences and health companies and researchers in the US to consider for coming to the Netherlands?

The are many arguments for life sciences and health companies to invest in the Netherlands. The Netherlands is, one, a connected life sciences and health cluster with multiple hubs having their own focus areas. The strength of these hubs is their willingness to work together in close collaboration for improved health care. Another argument is that the Netherlands is a gateway to Europe, with one of the best seaports and airports of Europe, and with high-quality digital connectivity and roadways, we can bring your products and information into the European market in no time. In addition, we encourage state-of-the-art research and development through many public-private partnerships. This research and development is further stimulated by the leading research and education facilities that the Netherlands has to offer, whilst also providing a highly skilled English speaking workforce.