Port as a breeding ground for start-ups

Source: Port of Rotterdam Authority

Rotterdam has always been a pioneering port. It has a long history of embracing cutting-edge technologies and processes. From Pieter Caland’s plan to construct the Nieuwe Waterweg – seen as ‘lunacy’ by some at the time – to the hi-tech terminals at Maasvlakte 2 and the ground-breaking information platform Portbase: a true world first. Rotterdam gives innovators the room, opportunities and support they need to succeed in their ambitions. And over the past year, this breeding ground has gained a whole new dimension with the launch of four incentive programmes.

Innovation has definitely done Rotterdam well. By now, it has become the largest port in Europe, with a throughput of some 450 million tonnes per year and just under 30,000 vessels mooring at its quays every year. This is a result of our continuous efforts to arrange matters more efficiently, effectively and sustainably. We aim to remain a front-runner in this area, and to keep making a difference. Rotterdam is the world’s smartest port!

The Smartest Port
Since we plan to remain the smartest port for many years to come, we have set up a dedicated innovation programme. A robust, cohesive and ground-breaking programme, in which we work together with the private sector and knowledge institutes to facilitate, initiate, stimulate and support innovation. Start-up companies play a key role in this process. Rotterdam is a breeding ground for innovators and creative entrepreneurs. The port, urban life and industry come together in the city. A unique junction that serves as the cradle of a growing number of start-ups. The premier location for new and expanding businesses – one that offers them numerous opportunities to develop, test and hone their ideas before their successful market introduction.

Four recent programmes
To stimulate these developments, over the past month, Rotterdam saw the launch of four ‘accelerator programmes’ which have a strong focus on the local port and are supported by the Port of Rotterdam Authority.

PortXL is a 100-day international, open innovation programme, during which 10 pre-selected start-ups receive intensive coaching by a group of mentors to support them in the effective launch of their enterprise. The participants have access to over 150 mentors, over 200 investors, corporate partners and sponsors. The accelerator programme, within which EY, Venture Cafe, Van Oord, Erasmus Centre for Entrepreneurship, Heineken, InnovationQuarter, Rabobank, Count./First Dutch, Vopak, Damen, E.ON, Boskalis and the Port of Rotterdam Authority have joined forces, focuses specifically on port-related industry.

SmartPort 2.0
SmartPort 2.0 is an initiative of Deltalinqs, the Port Authority, the Municipality of Rotterdam, Delft University of Technology and Erasmus University Rotterdam, in which the partners work together on the development of knowledge relating to the Rotterdam port. With an annual budget of over EUR 1.5 million, over the next five years the programme will concentrate on matters like the transition to a circular economy and Logistics Connectivity on the basis of Big Data.

Innovation Lab
Within the Port Innovation Lab, a partnership between incubator YES!Delft and the Port of Rotterdam Authority, existing and new questions are converted into scalable business models and start-ups that can make the difference in making the Rotterdam port and its extended hinterland cleaner, smarter, safer and more efficient.

RDM Rotterdam is the premier innovation showcase of the Rotterdam port area: an attractive introduction to all sorts of new technology. In the heart of the port – but still surprisingly close to the city centre – the former dockyard of the Rotterdamsche Droogdok Maatschappij (RDM) offers room for private firms, education initiatives and researchers. Together, these parties work on the development of a new production industry for the port and the city. RDM’s wide range of commercial and cultural events makes it a very dynamic and energetic location, a place that needs to be seen with your own eyes! RDM Rotterdam is given shape by the Port of Rotterdam Authority and Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences.

Rotterdam Innovation District
Innovation Districts are locations where progressive organisations and companies cluster together and connect with start-up firms, business incubators and operational accelerators. And that’s exactly what is going on in the Rotterdam Innovation District. The increasing shift of port industry to Maasvlakte 2 has created room at RDM Rotterdam and Merwe-Vierhavens for a quickly-expanding innovation ecosystem for the production industry. RDM Rotterdam accommodates a number of leading educational institutions and knowledge institutes like Albeda College and Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences, as well as working together with Delft University of Technology and YES!Delft. In partnership with the private sector and students, these parties work to develop sustainable solutions for construction, mobility and energy. Merwe-Vierhavens (M4H) presently serves as an experimental combined living and working area for pioneers in the Medical Technology, Food and Clean-Tech clusters.

You can find all sorts of appealing examples at the Rotterdam Innovation District, including incubators like SuGuClub and the Erasmus Centre for Entrepreneurship. But also unique ‘test lots’ like Lab op Straat and Aqua Dock. Ampelman, which has grown to become a world-class player in its sector, once began as a start-up at RDM Innovation Dock. And entrepreneur and designer Daan Roosegaarde, who was recently elected Artist of the Year, has realised the world’s first smog-free park here. The Rotterdam Innovation District provides entrepreneurs and investors with the mental and physical space they need to make a strong contribution to the development of the emerging new economy. And the tangible infrastructure in which this contribution is embedded plays a key role in this process.

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