Tackling the big issues
Stokking goes on, “We have certainly earned our right to play in this field, and I believe that TNO can continue to have a long-term position and provide solutions for the grand challenges of tomorrow. For me though, the best example in working this way remains Germany, and they are unquestionably the benchmark. Germany is capable of identifying the big issues and then addressing them in a massive way. The government brings people together to form a public/private partnership (companies, universities and similar research organisations to TNO) and then they force them in a certain direction. It’s no surprise therefore that the German car industry is again best in class. And why are they again best in class? Well, it’s because they’ve put so much focus and investment into clean driving: it’s not an accident, it’s planning. Certainly, there are government incentives behind the work, but the companies talk to each other – and get things done. It’s not a surprise that they are the best-performing economy in Europe.
“We are continually telling this story in the Netherlands, but not always with the same success. Take the issue of clean energy again. We’ve got our own gas here – and because so many people are working in the industry, it’s actually put a brake on future development, so now we’ve stopped investing so much in renewables. We really don’t need to look too far for inspiration – we can actually learn valuable lessons from our Eastern neighbours.”