Interview with Gerben Klein Lebbink about the Netherlands Presidency

27. 06. 2016

Gerben Klein LebbinkGerben Klein Lebbink works in the Netherlands Ministry of Economic Affairs as Account Manager, responsible for innovation policy and public private partnerships in the High Tech sector. Within the Ministry he is also responsible for the associated presidency event in June 2016 called „Industrial Technologies 2016 – creating a smart Europe”. Mr. Lebbink has over 15 years experience in the European Framework Programmes. He is currently chairing the States Representatives Group of the Clean Sky Joint Technology Initiative.

Because of coming The Slovak EU Presidency, we asked Gerben Klein Lebbink few questions. 

Z. VČ.: One of the Netherlands Presidency priorities is contribution towards R&D infrastructure. Which main conclusions are you focused on?

Gerben Klein Lebbink:
One of the lessons we have learned in our national R&D infrastructure is that it is essential that the private and public sectors have a good cooperative relationship. Especially when it comes to R&D and Innovation  we have to ensure that we define jointly multi-year public private programmes with all stakeholders involved. We focus in this case in programmes that are defined by companies, knowledge institutes, academia and governments. This applies for the so-called societal challenges but also for R&D programmes that aim at developing industrial technologies or reshoring of industries to Europe.
In the Netherlands we as government have asked or applied research institutes for example to enhance their strategic planning in order to better coordinate and share activities. And to improve their visibility for stakeholders and strengthen cross sectoral approaches.
We think that this connection of networks should also flow down to Europe, as innovation networks are more and more international. Research and Technology Organisations (RTO’s) can form and important bridge in this case as they have an international footprint. For Europe we see in this field two important aims. The first one is a better alignment of national and European Programmes. Secondly we think that there is room to improve the role of institutes even further by maximizing their efforts to include the business communities, especially SMEs in EU projects.
Regarding the research facilities our policy focusses on a more integrated approach for the investments in research facilities, both for fundamental and applied research. In this way we want to achieve a more efficient deployment of the scarce public resources. We see for example at national and european level a few of the same trending topics. In those cases an early coordination has to be realized.

Z. VČ.: Which legislative arrangements you think could be helpful to develop innovation? Do you think that all the legislative arrangements are supposed to be only taken on european level?

Gerben Klein Lebbink: Innovation is key in reversing the deindustrialisation and offshoring trends. It can give the reindustrialisation of Europe new impetus. And last but not least, innovation and advanced industrial technologies can help to create new markets and disrupt existing ones, laying the foundations for continued wealth and prosperity in the years to come.
Member States need to encourage innovative entrepreneurs, services and sectors. We as regulators need to remove obstacles, and modernise and simplify rules so that they really work for citizens and companies throughout the EU.
In order to do this, regulation and the market must be able to keep pace with technological advances. And these are happening at extremely fast nowadays. So, more and more, we’ll have to think differently and look further ahead. Regulation should leave more scope for innovation and flexibility. Innovations often happen so fast that any new laws and rules need to consider factors whose existence or significance we aren’t even aware of yet.
More than ever, new technologies and business models dictate the flow of our markets. So our common rules should both fit and facilitate innovation. In short we need a regulatory framework to fit and facilitate.

Questions are how such a framework can facilitate and at the same time manage the risks associated with innovation? We see four simple rules for such a framework:

  • We must remove the red tape and be smarter when it comes down to regulations. This hold especially for SMEs that need easy ways to start businesses. Better regulation does however not mean to get rid of it.
  • Secondly we need a framework that anticipates, not a backwards looking framework. Look for example to the flying robots, drones. Long discussions around regulations are taking place before a framework is agreed. And when agreed, technology is already overtaking.
  • Thirdly we should focus on the results, and not trying to regulate or defining the ways how to achieve these. Performance standards or outcome standard may be enough.
  • Finally we have to take a competitive regulatory framework up together. Governments can not do this alone because of the knowlegde needed. This means involvement of the established industries, but also small players and start-ups. As this is often the place where innovations take place.

But it is not only regulations we have to focus on. We also need to jointly invest in research and innovation. Even more important we have to agree between all involved stakeholders where to invest and where to focus. Can we together set a vision for the future, and can we implement this in concrete actions and initiatives across Europe? In our view we see a Europe that is focussed on transforming, creating and revitalising its manufacturing industries using innovative industrial technologies.
We have to start and agree at the European level and subsequently implement at Member State level.

Z. VČ.: What is your opinion on Open Science and Open Access. Yes or no, or some degree?

Gerben Klein Lebbink: During the Netherlands EU Presidency Open Science/Open Access is one of the priorities. The Netherlands underlines that the impact of our investments on science and society at large should be increased by a better circulation of (scientific) knowledge. Knowledge circulation is crucial for the whole transition process of science. Science is becoming a more and more open, transparent and trustworthy system. Besides the scientific community, also society and companies could benefit more from the results of scientific research.
Research which has been funded by public money, should become available to the public. This requires open access to scientific publications. We also aim for the optimal reuse of research data. While working on Open Science/Open Access legitimate business interests have to be taken into account to ensure competitiveness.

Z. VČ.: Which conclusions are you expecting from the coming Netherlands Presidency Conference „Industrial Technologies 2016“

Gerben Klein Lebbink: We think that the global competitiveness of the European industry is becoming increasingly a societal challenge as it enables the welfare and wellness of European citizens. Innovation is key to maintain our competitiveness embarking on concepts such as circular economy, resource efficiency and job creation.  We therefore focus on recommendations in four areas:

  • Business environment for innovation
  • Strong and efficient system for knowledge creation, diffusion and commercialisation
  • Fostering talent and skills for innovation
  • Effective innovation policies

All recommendations are in line with the vision for Industrial Technologies that is being developed at the moment. We envisage a Europe that focuses on transforming, creating and revitalising its industries based on innovative industrial technologies as well as non-technological innovations. Future industries should be capable of producing customized batches and volumes at price levels of mass production and yields close to 100% leading to the 4th industrial revolution.

To learn more about our concrete recommendations I suggest that you participate in our Conference in Amsterdam ( as well as the subsequent conference in Bratislava (

Z. VČ.: 
Thank you for the interview :)

Interviewed by: Zuzana Vetrecin Čeplíková, NCP SaTS
In cooperation with: Paulína Böhmerová, REinEU2016
Picture (discussion) from:

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