Hundreds of foreign entrepreneurs have preceded you in moving to the Netherlands and starting a business. According to Rijksoverheid figures, 397 companies settled here in 2019 and 305 in 2020 (in Dutch). There are several reasons why entrepreneurs choose the Netherlands:
- the good infrastructure
- fast and reliable internet
- excellent universities
- international orientation and can-do attitude
- everybody in the Netherlands speaks English.
Starting your business in the Netherlands sounds like a good idea. But where in the Netherlands? That may depend on your industry or sector.
Industries and sectors
The Dutch government supports innovative enterprise, by providing better financing and stimulating cooperation between the public and private sector, R&D and education. The government invests in eight so-called key sectors: focus areas in which the government wants to excel internationally.
Life sciences and health
Since inventing the microscope in the 17th century, the Netherlands has not stopped innovating in the field of life sciences and health. Today, the country has great Life Sciences business potential, both in biopharmaceutical and medical technology. There are eight academic hospitals (so-called UMCs, in Dutch) and thirteen universities are engaged in Life Sciences research. These are all located in different cities. In addition there is the European Medicines Agency (EMA) in Amsterdam, that incorporates the US Food & Drug Administration. Utrecht is home to the Dutch Medicines Evaluation Board (MEB). Read more about this sector.
The Netherlands is the second largest exporter of agricultural products in the world. There are many public-private partnerships between science, industry and government, for instance in the Greenport areas (in Dutch). Wageningen University has research facilities on healthy and safe food production, climate change, biodiversity and circular economy. The Dutch greenhouse industry has innovative techniques for growing, monitoring and processing of flowers, fruits and vegetables. Rotterdam has a floating farm with cows milked by robots. The Netherlands’ Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO) researches how digitalisation can be used to make agriculture more sustainable. Read more about this sector.
IT and Tech
IT is an integral part of every technological development worldwide. It links with every industry and sector. The Dutch government has a digitalisation strategy, a plan to encourage the further digitalisation of the Dutch economy. In addition they focus on artificial intelligence and cybersecurity, with Europe’s largest security cluster, The Hague Security Delta. There are 42 different bachelor degrees in computer science and IT. One of the world’s largest data-transport hubs, AMS-IX, is based in Amsterdam. Read more about this sector.
Over 2,000 chemical companies, including 19 of the 25 major chemical companies in the world, are located in the Netherlands. Eleven universities offer chemistry majors. Innovation plays a big role in this sector, from recycling plastic waste to producing sustainable animal food in the Sittard/Geleen area. The chemical innovation cluster Chemelot is also in the province of Limburg. The Port of Rotterdam is one of the world’s largest oil and chemical centres with more than 45 chemical companies and five refineries and is part of the ARRRA cluster (Antwerp-Rotterdam-Rhine-Ruhr Area). Read more about this sector.
The CD, Python, Bluetooth and WiFi are all Dutch inventions. Many startups are working on the next big thing, helped along by organisations like TechLeapNL. Technology innovates every industry. FinTech and Agtech have a large impact on finance and agriculture. The Brainport region around Eindhoven is a large hub of high-tech industry. The Twente region and Delft are also concentrations of high-tech companies and research institutions. Read more about this sector.
The creative sector includes design, media and entertainment, fashion, gaming and architecture. Because of design studies, Eindhoven and Arnhem (in Dutch) are hubs for new talent and creative inventions in industrial design and fashion. Hilversum and Amsterdam are key areas for (new) media and television. And Utrecht is the hotspot for the gaming industry, with a large number of innovative game companies working in a wide variety of different fields. Read more about this sector.
Since the Netherlands agreed to a 55% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030, renewable energy has become serious business. There are solar energy parks, offshore wind energy and hydroelectric power plants. For instance, there is Energyport Eemshaven in the north and six wind farms in the North Sea. On land, the Dutch solar energy sector develops innovative solutions and designs with built-in solar panels, and also creates machines that make solar panels. Read more about this sector.
The financial sector is digitising at high speed. Crypto currency, block chain technology, and artificial intelligence are making their mark on business. The Netherlands has a fast growing FinTech sector: from 200 companies in 2016 to around 635 in 2019. Many are located in the Amsterdam area, beside the more traditional financial institutes and other new developments such as green finance. The Dutch government has initiated the Innovation Room, which foreign and domestic companies can use to market their products and services more easily in the Netherlands; asset pooling, where various financial institutions pool investment capital; and the Holland Financial Centre, which helps foreign financial institutions. Read more about this sector.
Which industry or sector you are active in is not the only consideration when looking for a suitable location. Do you need to be in a city centre or next to a highway? Where is your target group located? Do you want to work in a specific sector and let that determine your location? Business.gov.nl outlines some of the things you need to take into account.
Who can help with what?
The Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency (NFIA) helps and advises foreign companies on the establishment, rolling out and expansion of their international activities in the Netherlands.
The Netherlands Enterprise Agency ('Rijksdienst voor Ondernemend Nederland', RVO) is an executive body of the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate. It helps business owners run sustainable, agricultural, innovative or international businesses.
The eight ROMs (Regional Development Agencies, RDAs) help entrepreneurs with innovation, investments and internationalisation.
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