Not only the great will to collaborate and the proven innovative power, but also an exceptionally strong presence of educational institutes in the region make the IT and Data Science sector in Brabant a key player on the world stage. An extensive study commissioned by the Brabant Development Agency (BOM) shows that the role Brabant plays in the field of IT & Data Science is greater than previously assumed. “Much more is happening than the world sees,” concludes Project Manager Foreign Investments Guido Leestemaker, who directed the investigation on behalf of the BOM. “In fact, there is even more happening than we realized.”
“The amount of IT & Data graduates, together with the increasing trend in the number of students who start and graduate, was a real eye-opener for us,” says Leestemaker. “Often people don't immediately think of Brabant as a hotspot for IT & Data. The talent can be found in other regions, you hear. But that turns out not to be the case. As a province, we train by far the most IT and Data talent.
According to the study, the fact that the Brabant economy continues to grow above average can be explained by the successful combination of innovation, collaboration and talent development. Leestemaker: “With billion-dollar companies such as Philips and ASML and countless innovative start-ups, the economy in Brabant has grown faster over the past five years than in any other region in the Netherlands. The province is the perfect place for IT & Data Science companies, and is already home to many IT & Data Science initiatives and organizations that stand out from the market.”
The study also leads to strategic conclusions for the near future. The potential focus areas are divided into 'priority niches' and 'development areas'. In the first group, Brabant IT & Data Science initiatives are already international market leaders. In the second group, because of the strong conditions, it is only a matter of time before that will also be the case.
The number of patents applied for and granted is also an indication of the importance of this sector, says Leestemaker. “We have a great score when it comes to patent applications - also at European level. But if you look at all those patents along the lines of IT, it is only apparent how important this sector is for Brabant. In some domains within IT & Data technology we participate seriously, even on a global level. And we notice that we are regularly seen as a frontrunner.”
Another striking outcome of the study was the large number of field labs - those typical places where the 'real' world meets that of applied research - that are active within Brabant in IT. “These are then linked to different domains. Examples include the Fieldlab for Precision Agriculture in Reusel, the 5G automotive fieldlab in Helmond and the Flexible Manufacturing Fieldlab in Eindhoven. These activities are always about IT and Data Science.”
The success of the field labs is also related to another conclusion of the study: Brabant is remarkably strong in training IT talent. This aspect is one of the most important unique selling points compared to other regions. This result is visible thanks to various specific courses at university level at Eindhoven University of Technology, Tilburg University and JADS, as well as at Universities of Applied Sciences at Fontys, Avans, BUas and HAS.
In the meantime, the demand for IT and data talents is very high. “99% of all our graduates have already found a job during their studies”, says lecturer AI & Big Data Gerard Schouten of Fontys ICT. “And luckily more and more new students are finding us.” This is partly due to the developments within his institute in recent years, says Schouten. “And especially because of the choice we made to give Artificial Intelligence a more prominent role. The specialization in AI is immensely popular.”
This article was written in collaboration with Bart Brouwers, Innovation Origins.