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The 21st episode of the Better cities – the contribution of digital technology-series is about priorities for digital healthcare, often referred to as eHealth.
The subject is broader than what will be discussed here. I won't talk about the degree of automation in surgery, the impressive equipment available to doctors, ranging from the high-tech chair at the dentist to the MRI scanner in hospitals, nor about researching microbes in air, water and sewerage that has exploded due to the covid pandemic. Even the relationship with the urban environment remains somewhat in the background. This simply does not play a prominent role when it comes to digitization in healthcare. The subject, on the other hand, lends itself well to illustrate ethical and social problems associated with digitization. As well as the solutions available in the meantime.
The challenge: saving costs and improving the quality of care
The Netherlands can be fortunate to be one of the countries with the best care in the world. However, there are still plenty of challenges, such as a greater focus on health instead of on disease, placing more responsibility for their own health on citizens, increasing the resilience of hospitals, paying attention to health for the poorer part of the population, whose number of healthy life years is significantly lower and, above all, limiting the increase of cost. Over the past 20 years, healthcare in the Netherlands has become 150% more expensive, not counting the costs of the pandemic. Annual healthcare costs now amount to € 100 billion, about 10% of GDP. Without intervention, this will rise to approximately €170 billion in 2040, mainly due to an aging population. In the meantime, healthcare costs are very unevenly distributed: 80% of healthcare costs go to 10% of the population.
The most important task facing the Netherlands and other rich countries is to use digitization primarily to reduce healthcare costs, while not forgetting the other challenges mentioned. This concerns a series of - often small - forms of digital care. According to McKinsey, savings of €18 billion by 2030 are within reach, if only with forms of digitization with proven effect. Most gains can be made by reducing the administrative burden and shifting costs to less specialized centers, to home treatment and to prevention.
There are more than 300,000 health sites and apps on the Internet, which provide comprehensive information about diseases, options for diagnosis and self-treatment. More and more medical data can also be viewed online. Often the information on apps is incomplete resulting in misdiagnosis. Doctors in the Netherlands especially recommend the website Thuisarts.nl, which they developed themselves.
Many apps use gamification, such as exercises to improve memory. A good example of digital social innovation is Mirrorable, a program to treat children with motor disorders because of brain injury. This program also enables contact between parents whose inputs continuously help to improve exercises.
Process automation in healthcare resembles in many respects automation elsewhere, such as personnel, logistics and financial management. More specific is the integrated electronic patient file. The Framework Act on Electronic Data Exchange in Healthcare, adopted in 2021, obliges healthcare providers to exchange data electronically and prescribes standards. However, data exchange will be minimal and will only take place at a decentralized level to address privacy concerns. The complexity of the organization of health care and the constant discussions about the content of such a system were also immense obstacles. That's a pity because a central system lowers costs and increases quality. Meanwhile, new technological developments guarantee privacy with great certainty. For example, the use of federated (decentralized) forms of data storage combined with blockchain. TNO conducts groundbreaking research in this area. The institution applies the principles of federated learning along with the application of multi-party computation technology. These innovative technologies enable learning from sensitive data from multiple sources without sharing this data.
The recent eHealth monitor of the RIVM shows that by 2021 almost half of all doctors and nurses had had contact with patients with video calling, while this hardly happened in 2019. Incidentally, this concerns a relatively small group of patients. In the US there was an even larger increase, which has now been converted into a sharp decline. It seems that in the US primary health care is reinventing itself. Walgreens, the largest US drugstore chain, will begin offering primary care in 1000 of its stores. Apparently, in many cases, physical contact with a doctor is irreplaceable, even if (or perhaps because) the doctor is relatively anonymous.
Video calling is not only important for care provider, but also for informal caregivers, family and friends and help to combat loneliness. Virtual reality (metaverse!) will further expand the possibilities for this. TNO is also active here: The TNO media lab is developing a scalable communication platform in which the person involved (patient or client), using only an upright iPad, has the impression that the doctor, district nurse or visitor is sitting at the table or on the couch right in front.
The effectiveness of a remote consultation is of course served if the patient has already made a few observations him- or herself. 8% of patients with chronic conditions already do this. There is a growing range of self-tests available for, for example, fertility, urinary tract infections, kidney disorders and of course Covid-19. There are also home devices such as smart thermometers, mats that detect diabetic foot complications, and blood pressure meters; basically, everything that doctors often routinely do during a visit. The GGD AppStore provides an overview of relevant and reliable apps in the field of health.
Wearables, for example built into an i-watch, can collect part of the desired data, store it for a longer period and, if necessary, exchange it with the care provider.
More advanced are the mobile diagnosis boxes for emergency care by nurses on location, such as ambulances. With a fast Internet connection (5G), specialist care providers can watch if necessary.
A small but growing group of patients, doctors, and researchers with substantial financial support from Egon Musk sees the future mainly in chip implants. This would allow not only more complete diagnoses to be made, but also treatments to be carried out. Neuralink has developed a brain implant that improves communication with speech and hearing-impaired people. The Synchron brain implant helps people with brain disorders perform simple movements. For the time being, the resistance to brain implants is high.
Meanwhile, all these low-threshold amenities can lead us to become fixated on disease rather than on health. But what if we never had to worry about our health again? Instead, the local health center watches over our health thanks to wearables: Our data is continuously monitored and analyzed using artificial intelligence. They are compared with millions of diagnostic data from other patients. By comparing patterns, diseases can be predicted in good time, followed by automated suggestions for self-treatment or advice to consult a doctor. Until then, we have probably experienced nothing but vague complaints ourselves. Wouldn't that be an attractive prospect?
Helsinki is experimenting with a Health Benefit Analysis tool that anonymously examines patients' medical records to evaluate the care they have received so far. The central question here is can the municipality proactively approach people based on the health risk that has come to light because of this type of analysis?
Medics participating in a large-scale study by the University of Chicago and the company Verify were amazed at the accuracy with which algorithms were able to diagnose patients and predict diseases ranging from cardiovascular disease to cancer. In a recent article, oncologist Samuel Volchenboom described that it is painful to note that the calculations came from Verify, a subsidiary of Alphabet, which not only used medical data (with patients’ consent), but also all other data that sister company Google already had stored about them. He adds that it is unacceptable that owning and using such valuable data becomes the province of only a few companies.
Perhaps even more problematic is that these predictions are based in part on patterns in the data that the researchers can't fully explain. It is therefore argued that the use of these types of algorithms should be banned. But how would a patient feel if such an algorithmic recommendation is the last straw? It is better to invest in more transparent artificial intelligence.
Implementing digital technology
Both many patients and healthcare professionals still have doubts about the added value of digital technology. The media reports new cases of data breaches and theft every day. Most people are not very confident that blockchain technology, among other things, can prevent this. Most medical specialists doubt whether ICT will reduce their workload. It is often thought of as some additional thing. Numerous small-scale pilot projects are taking place, which consume a lot of energy, but which are rarely scaled up. The supply of digital healthcare technologies exceeds their use.
Digital medicine will have to connect more than at present with the needs of health professionals and patients. In addition to concerns about privacy, the latter are especially afraid of further reductions in personal attention. The idea of a care robot is terrifying them. As should be the case with all forms of digitization, there is a need for a broadly supported vision and setting priorities based on that.
Against this background, a plea for even more medical technology in our part of the world, including e-health, is somewhat embarrassing. Growth in healthy years due to investment in health care in developing countries will far exceed the impact of the same investment in wealthy countries.
Nevertheless, it is desirable to continue deliberately on the chosen path, whereby expensive experiments for the benefit of a small group of patients have less priority in my opinion than investments in a healthy lifestyle, prevention, and self-reliance. Healthcare cannot and should not be taken over by robots; digitization and automation are mainly there to support and improve the work of the care provider and make it more satisficing and efficient.
One of the chapters in my e-book Future cities, always humane, smart if helpful, also deals with health care and offers examples of digital tools. In addition, it pays much more contextual information about the global health situation, particularly in cities. You can download by following the link below. The Dutch edition is here.
In December, the Metabolic Cities team created a series of 3 articles on what future cities can become based on interconnections with nature, communities and resources.
If you haven’t already, take a look and tell us what you think.
An inclusive nature city allows species to thrive: https://www.metabolic.nl/news/interconnected-city-nature/
Interconnected communities, vital for healthy cities: https://www.metabolic.nl/news/interconnected-city-community/
Reconnecting to resources brings operations within planetary boundaries: https://www.metabolic.nl/news/interconnected-city-resources/
Drinkwater is wereldwijd een schaars goed. In Nederland is onze drinkwatervoorziening gelukkig goed geregeld. En toch. Als gevolg van
onze veranderende wereld stapelen de transities op. Zekerheden die we lang voor lief namen worden omgegooid. Onze steden groeien, wat nieuwe kansen brengt, maar ook nieuwe uitdagingen. Dat betekent ook iets voor onze
drinkwatervoorziening. Ons gebruik neemt toe en het aanbod staat onder druk.
Binnen de Provincie Flevoland is men aan het onderzoeken wat er nu al voor nodig is om dit probleem een halt toe te roepen. Momenteel zien we de vraag naar drinkwater stijgen, de drukte in de ondergrond toenemen en door klimaatverandering (denk aan droogte en hete zomers) het watergebruik stijgen. Om voldoende drinkwater van een goede kwaliteit te garanderen moeten we werken aan een systeemverandering. Waterbesparing moet worden gestimuleerd en laagwaardig gebruik van hoogwaardige kwaliteit water moet worden voorkomen.
Het huidige drinkwatergebruik bestaat voor ca. 70% huishoudelijke- en 30% zakelijke gebruikers (regio afhankelijk). Hoe maken we bij deze doelgroepen waterbesparing de norm? En hoe zorgen we ervoor dat de kwaliteit van het water bepalend is voor het gebruik? Dit zijn vraagstukken die in de toekomst steeds relevanter worden, maar ook nú al onze aandacht vragen.
Halverwege maart zal er binnen de Provincie Flevoland een Adviseur Drinkwatertransitie aan de slag gaan die zich met deze vragen bezighoudt.
We vragen jou om hulp!
Samen met de Provincie Flevoland zoeken we daarom alvast de ideeën, ervaringen en het draagvlak van het netwerk op. We zijn op zoek naar actuele kennis over dit onderwerp en mogelijke oplossingen. Daarnaast zijn we ook specifiek geïnteresseerd in ideeën om nu al urgentie te creëren voor dit onderwerp, ondanks dat het mogelijk pas in de toekomst gaat spelen.
Ben jij een expert op het thema, of heb jij relevante ideeën en ervaringen uit andere onderwerpen? Laat je reactie achter in de comments!
Have you ever wondered what it would feel like to live in a fully circular and sustainable city?
Around the world, cities are testing out real-life solutions to urban challenges in small open innovation ecosystems that allow them to demonstrate circular principles in action.
Learn more about how cities are embracing experimentation.
“The essence of systems thinking is that you don't look at an object on its own, you consider everything that it is connected to.” Eva Gladek, founder and CEO of Metabolic.
How does systems thinking look in practice? A systems map is a good way to show how everything is interconnected and how different parts influence each other.
At Metabolic, we use systems thinking as a core strategy to advance our vision of a circular and sustainable economy. Check out how this approach delivers sustainable solutions.
Cities occupy just 3% of the earth’s land surface, but are home to more than half of the world’s population. When we envision cities of the future, interconnectedness with nature, communities, and resources is at the heart of it all. Our team put together a cities vision taking us on a vivid journey to a city in 2050. Lush, green, healthy, sustainable, and livable.
We hope that tangible, and positive image of what cities could look like in the future can bring different groups together, to build the right conditions and drive the actions to achieve it. Our vision is one of many such images, and we would love to hear from you about what you like, dislike, and what your city of the future looks like. In particular, we'd like to move away from a techno-futurist ideal.
Cities of tomorrow will emerge from the cities of today. Just as important as the conversations about what we would like to change, are the conversations about what we would like to keep! What would you keep, from your current city, for decades to come? Take a look and let us know what you think!
The 10th episode in the series Better cities: The contribution of digital technology deals with the impact of ethical principles on four pillars of digitization: accessibility, software, infrastructure and data.
In the previous episode, I discussed design principles - guidelines and values - for digital technology. The report of the Rathenau Instituut Opwaarderen - Borgen van publieke waarden in de digitale samenleving concludes that government, industry, and society are still insufficiently using these principles. Below, I will consider their impact on four pillars of digitization: accessibility, software, infrastructure, and data. The next episodes will be focused on their impact on frequently used technologies.
Accessibility refers to the availability of high-speed Internet for everyone. This goes beyond just technical access. It also means that a municipality ensures that digital content is understandable and that citizens can use the options offered. Finally, everyone should have a working computer.
Free and safe Internet for all residents is a valuable amenity, including Wi-Fi in public areas. Leaving the latter to private providers such as the LinkNYC advertising kiosks in New York, which are popping up in other cities as well, is a bad thing. Companies such as Sidewalk Labs tempt municipalities by installing these kiosks for free. They are equipped with sensors that collect a huge amount of data from every device that connects to the Wi-Fi network: Not only the location and the operating system, but also the MAC address. With the help of analytical techniques, the route taken can be reconstructed. Combined with other public data from Facebook or Google, they provide insight into personal interests, sexual orientation, race, and political opinion of visitors.
The huge internet that connects everything and everyone also raises specters, which have to do with privacy-related uncertainty and forms of abuse, which appeared to include hacking of equipment that regulates your heartbeat.
That is why there is a wide search for alternatives. Worldwide, P2P neighborhood initiatives occur for a private network. Many of these are part of The Things Network. Instead of Wi-Fi, this network uses a protocol called LoRaWAN. Robust end-to-end encryption means that users don't have to worry about secure wireless hotspots, mobile data plans, or faltering Wi-Fi connectivity. The Things Network manages thousands of gateways and provides coverage to millions of people and a suite of open tools that enable citizens and entrepreneurs to build IoT applications at a low cost, with maximum security and that are easy to scale.
Computer programs provide diverse applications, ranging from word processing to management systems. Looking for solutions that best fit the guidelines and ethical principles mentioned in the former episode, we quickly arrive at open-source software, as opposed to proprietary products from commercial providers. Not that the latter are objectionable in advance or that they are always more expensive. The most important thing to pay attention to is interchangeability (interoperability) with products from other providers to prevent you cannot get rid of them (lock in).
Open-source software offers advantages over proprietary solutions, especially if municipalities encourage city-wide use. Barcelona is leading the way in this regard. The city aims to fully self-manage its ICT services and radically improve digital public services, including privacy by design. This results in data sovereignty and in the use of free software, open data formats, open standards, interoperability and reusable applications and services.
Anyone looking for open-source software cannot ignore the Fiwarecommunity, which is similar in organization to Linux and consists of companies, start-ups and freelance developers and originated from an initiative of the EU. Fiware is providing open and sustainable software around public, royalty-free and implementation-driven standards.
Computers are no longer the largest group of components of the digital infrastructure. Their number has been surpassed by so-called ubiquitous sensor networks (USN), such as smart meters, CCTV, microphones, and sensors. Sensor networks have the most diverse tasks, they monitor the environment (air quality, traffic density, unwanted visitors) and they are in machines, trains, and cars and even in people to transmit information about the functioning of vital components. Mike Matson calculated that by 2050 a city of 2 million inhabitants will have as many as a billion sensors, all connected by millions of kilometers of fiber optic cable or via Wi-Fi with data centers, carrier hotels (nodes where private networks converge) to eventually the Internet.
This hierarchically organized cross-linking is at odds with the guidelines and ethical principles formulated in the previous post. Internet criminals are given free rein and data breaches can spread like wildfires, like denial of service (DoS). In addition, the energy consumption is enormous, apart from blockchain. Edge computing is a viable alternative. The processing of the data is done locally and only results are uploaded on demand. This applies to sensors, mobile phones and possibly automated cars as well. A good example is the Array of Things Initiative. Ultimately, this will include 500 sensors, which will be installed in consultation with the population in Chicago. Their data is stored in each sensor apart and can be consulted online, if necessary, always involving several sensors and part of the data. Federated data systems are comparable. Data is stored in a decentralized way, but authorized users can use all data thanks to user interfaces.
There is a growing realization that when it comes to data, not only quantity, but also quality counts. I will highlight some aspects.
Access to data
Personal data should only be available with permission from the owner. To protect this data, the EU project Decode proposes that owners can manage their data via blockchain technology. Many cities now have privacy guidelines, but only a few conduct privacy impact assessments as part of its data policy (p.18).
There is growing evidence that much of the data used in artificial intelligence as “learning sets” is flawed. This had already become painfully clear from facial recognition data in which minority groups are disproportionately represented. New research shows that this is also true in the field of healthcare. This involves data cascades, a sum of successive errors, the consequences of which only become clear after some time. Data turned out to be irrelevant, incomplete, incomparable, and even manipulated.
Those for whom high-quality data is of great importance will pay extra attention to its collection. In. this case, initiating a data common is a godsend. Commons are shared resources managed by empowered communities based on mutually agreed and enforced rules. An example is the Data and Knowledge Hub for Healthy Urban Living (p.152), in which governments, companies, environmental groups and residents collect data for the development of a healthy living environment, using a federated data system. These groups are not only interested in the data, but also in the impact of its application.
Many cities apply the 'open by default' principle and make most of the data public, although the user-friendliness and efficiency sometimes leave something to be desired. Various data management systems are available as an open-source portal. One of the most prominent ones is CKAN, administered by the Open Knowledge Foundation. It contains tools for managing, publishing, finding, using, and sharing data collections. It offers an extensive search function and allows the possibility to view data in the form of maps, graphs, and tables. There is an active community of users who continue to develop the system and adapt it locally.
To make the data accessible, some cities also offer training courses and workshops. Barcelona's Open Data Challenge is an initiative for secondary school students that introduces them to the city's vast dat collection.
As the size of the collected data, the amount of entry points and the connectivity on the Internet increase, the security risks also become more severe. Decentralization, through edge computing and federated storage with blockchain technology, certainly contribute to security. But there is still a long way to go. Only half of the cities has a senior policy officer in this area. Techniques for authentication, encryption and signing that together form the basis for attribute-based identity are applied only incidentally. This involves determining identity based on several characteristics of a user, such as function and location. Something completely different is Me and my shadow, a project that teaches Internet users to minimize their own trail and thus their visibility to Internet criminality.
There is still a world to win before the guidelines and ethical principles mentioned in the previous episode are sufficiently met. I emphasize again not to over-accentuate concepts such as 'big data', 'data-oriented policy' and the size of data sets. Instead, it is advisable to re-examine the foundations of scientific research. First and foremost is knowledge of the domain (1), resulting in research questions (2), followed by the choice of an appropriate research method (3), defining the type of data to be collected (4), the collection of these data (5), and finally their statistical processing to find evidence for substantiated hypothetical connections (6). The discussion of machine learning in the next episode will reveal that automatic processing of large data sets is mainly about discovering statistical connections, and that can have dire consequences.
Follow the link below to find one of the previous episodes or see which episodes are next, and this one for the Dutch version.
It’s all about the money: A Smart RESILIO Blue-Green Roof might sound a little pricey. But is money all what counts? Are these roofs affordable? In this third part of the RESILIO blue-green roofs movie sequence we explain to you the overall value and benefits for the society and how to approach these in a financial matter. Maybe we have to broaden our view on how we assign value to an object and use these outcomes as a solution for financing. Daniel van den Buuse, PhD and Hans de Moel tell us all.
Our cities are evolving. Fast. How can we ensure they are sustainable, liveable, and healthy?
Metabolic has developed a nature-inclusive, community-centered, and circular city's vision.
This vision of the "ideal" city is only one of many. What's your favorite? Please share the story, vision, book, podcast, or image that best represents the city you hope to live in, one day.
Ever wondered what life would look like in a sustainable, regenerative city?
With cities occupying only 3% of the global land surface but contributing to 70% of emissions, positive change can have a big impact. Metabolic CEO Eva Gladek reflected on how we can all become city makers. In light of COP26, it might be time to refocus on our cities.
Ready to take action? Find out how in the link below.
This post is the third and last in a series of articles about the startup ecosystem in Amsterdam Delta (Amsterdam metropolitan region). The first dealt with the dual challenge for start-ups to become socially and environmentally sustainable and to empower employees to be entrepreneurial through shared leadership. The second one was a review of the strengths and weaknesses of the Amsterdam startup ecosystem by the authors of the 2021 Global Startup Ecosystems Ranking.
Weaknesses and strengths
The 2021 Global Startup Ecosystem Report revealed several weaknesses in the Amsterdam startup ecosystem, which – I accentuate - should not overshadow the city’s position of Amsterdam as the world number 13 startup ecosystem. In terms of market reach, the overall score is satisfactory (7), but the Amsterdam Delta startups are primarily focused on global markets and score low on the local market. In the field of talent, the overall score is more than sufficient (7), due to the quality of technology students and graduates, but their number is inadequate, resulting in high vacancies and salary costs. Partly related to this, the growth potential (scalability) of the Amsterdam startup ecosystem is also insufficient, due to a limited reservoir of experienced entrepreneurs. Overall knowledge success is assessed as poor (1!) due to the unsatisfactory number of life science patents.
Amsterdam Policy plan 2019 - 2022
Most of the underlying data of the 2021 report is from 2019 – 2021, a time frame that coincides with the start of the new policy plan for startups in Amsterdam in the period 2019 - 2022. The inventory of challenges in this report mirrors several weaknesses mentioned above. Looking at the future, the report states: We have reached a point where growth of the local ecosystem does not have to mean that the local government wants to encourage as many companies in Amsterdam as possible but encourages activity that adds value to the city in new ways. In the coming years, we must also lay the foundations for a more inclusive society, in which the local startup and scaleup ecosystem also plays a role. A step towards inclusiveness means significantly increasing the business sector’s ambitions for social responsibility. In other words, a focus on quality in general that is aligned with at least the first challenge in the first post I referred to above.
How cities can support their startup ecosystem?
Below, I discuss highlights from the policy report 2019 - 2022 within a broader vision of possibilities for municipalities to support start- and scale-ups, partly based on an earlier edition of a The Global Startup Ecosystem Report.
According to the 2021Global Startup Ecosystems Report, the funding of new businesses is not a big problem in Amsterdam Delta, also because of the generous tax facilities(!) in the Netherlands. However, investment relies heavily on local investors and governmental grants: 54% of the capital flowing into the ecosystem comes from domestic sources, 25% from the rest of Europe, and just 21% from the rest of the world.
The City of Amsterdam subsidized the Innovation Center for AI (ICAI) at Amsterdam Science Park, requiring that at least 20% of its revenues will be reserved for innovative SMEs and startups.
While funding is not an overriding problem, Amsterdam can improve its coordinating role in providing financial support, as for example Seoul has done by the creation of the Dream bank, a one-stop agency for all financial matters.
Growth of markets
The market position of Amsterdam start- and scaleups can be improved, especially in the home market, but also internationally. Besides, every new startup must start from scratch by creating a market. An agency called Amsterdam Trade and Innovate has commissioned trade developers to organize domestic and international activities that support promising companies in clusters such as technology, health, life sciences, and creative industry.
Expanding the reservoir of entrepreneurs
Amsterdam focuses on women and young people with a migration background, most of whom never received tech-related training. Initiatives such as House of Skills, Action Plan W&T, House of Digital offer a range of technology-based courses to make up for these shortcomings, alongside startup schools such as BSSA, Growth Tribe and The Talent Institute.
In December 2020, the City of Amsterdam announced it will invest yearly US$ 856,500 in RISE, the Female Hub Amsterdam. There is a high demand in sectors such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, robotics, life science and energy storage, while relatively many university students in technology seem to prefer media studies and gaming and the fintech market is almost satorized. Studying will become more attractive by combining study and jobs and affordable (co-)housing and childcare options, both of which are both are seriously lacking.
In addition, the ‘Warm Welcome’ program aims to attract ambitious tech talent from abroad. Unfortunately, the pandemic has significantly reduced the influx of potential talent from abroad while market opportunities for innovative tech startups and scaleups were improving.
Innovative and research-oriented start-ups prefer the proximity of comparable small and medium-sized companies in campuses. They also prefer locations in mixed urban environments. A campus offers space for complementary companies, large and small, and facilities to collaborate, such as shared laboratory spaces. Amsterdam develops urban innovation districts through regional development and transformation. These areas that can accommodate rapid growth and opportunity for clustering ‘anchor companies’, leading (knowledge) institutions, startups, scaleups, incubators and accelerators. The main areas are: West Innovation Park, Amsterdam Sciencepark, Marineterrein , AMC-Amstel III and VU-Kenniskwartier/Zuidas.
Participation in the network of incubators and accelerators
Startups and scaleups need support. Incubators help companies to settle, accelerators help them to grow steadily. One of the best things any city can do is actively participation in these incubators and accelerators. They can become a one shop-stop for all prospective participants, providing virtually all the support start- and scaleups need. 31 of the 89 incubators and accelerators in the Netherlands, are active in the Amsterdam metropolitan area. A rich pallette of incubators and co-working spaces such as TQ, WeWork, Spaces, Startup Village, Rent24 and B.Amsterdam have been set up. Accelerators are Rockstart, Startupbootcamp, Fashion for Good, ACE and Collider.
Within an incubator or accelerator, the municipality can be primary responsible for legal matters, offering work- and living spaces (initially for free and later rented out at attractive rates), trade missions and procurement.
In some cities, startups can practice aspects of social and environmental sustainability in public administration. An example is the Startup in Residence program that started in Amsterdam and has now been spread over 20 other Dutch cities, regional governments, and ministries. The program is open to both Dutch and foreign entrepreneurs. Professional coaches provide intensive training and support. Workspace is available too. Under certain conditions, local, regional, and national governments become launching customers or partners. A report provides a detailed overview of the program in Amsterdam and its impact on the participants and the community.
Taking care of starters in general
Only a small but previously unknown part of all starters becomes a startup. Moreover, the number of starters outsizes that of startups and some can become valued companies too In the Netherlands, each year more than 100.000 starters are registered with the Chamber of Commerce.
Short evaluation Amsterdam policy plan 2019 - 12022
I doubt whether the current Amsterdam policy on start- and scaleups will result in a better ranking next year, also because in many cities startup ecologies are growing faster. Personally, I believe that consolidating a position in the top 20 is the best possible and still admirable result. This certainly applies if Amsterdam can achieve its ambitions in the field of qualitative rather than quantitative growth. Amsterdam wants to become an inclusive community and the first circular city in the world. The city wants that start- and scaleups becoming forerunners in reaching these objectives. I am partly disappointed in the content of the policy report 2019 - 2022 regarding this ambition. Indeed, becoming a more inclusive community is reflected in supporting the growth of the number female entrepreneurs. However, I looked in vain at policies encourage activity regarding developing start- and scaleups that add value to the city in new ways for instance contributing to the development of the circular economy. These businesses will make the difference in the future startup ecosystem.
I will regularly share ‘snapshots’ of the challenge of bringing socially and ecologically sustainable cities closer using technology if useful. These posts represent findings, updates, and additions to my e-book Humane cities. Always humane. Smart if helpful, chapter 4 in particular. The English version of this book can be downloaded for free below.
The City of Amsterdam launched a platform for entrepreneurs who want to collaborate on innovation with the public sector.
If you want to work with government and other large organisations, you need to apply for tenders and grants. These application procedures are often complex. Using clear information and useful checklists, Innovatie Partners makes tenders and grants accessible for small entrepreneurs, such as startups, scale-ups and MKB.
On the platform
- Projects from organisations such as Gemeente Amsterdam, the Metropole Region Amsterdam (MRA) and Startup in Residence. Take a look at past and current projects (in Dutch).
- Road maps of how to apply for your tender or grant of choice.
- Explainers on what tenders and grants are and how they work, such as a glossary of unavoidable jargon (in Dutch).
- Detailed instructions and screencasts of how to fill out complicated forms (in Dutch).
In the recent past, the value of startups in Amsterdam Delta (Amsterdam metropolitan region) has taken a giant leap. In 2015, Amsterdam startups were valued at $11.1 billion. Today, Europe's number 3 ecosystem is worth $83.3 billion. The extraordinary success stories of Adyen and Takeaway have been a major contributor to this success, but its base is much broader. On the annually published Global Startup Ecosystem ranking Amsterdam Delta rose from the 19th place in 2015 to 12th place in 2020. Everyone was curious about the 2021 ranking. Well, as the table shows, Amsterdam Delta has been overtaken by Paris and Tokyo, but only lost one place due to a significant drop in Stockholm.
The value of rankings is easily overestimated. However, the value of startups should not be underestimated. More than 30% of the 4000 startups in the Netherlands are located in the Amsterdam metropolitan region. Together, the Dutch startups have created more than 100,000 jobs and are responsible for 60% of the annual job growth.
Globally, 2020 and 2021 were amazing years for startups as the pandemic fueled technology. According to the Global Startup Ecosystem Report 2021, Internet capacity increased by 35% and global broadband traffic by 51%. Consumers bought 30% more food online. Global venture capital funding nearly doubled to $288 billion in the first half of 2021, compared to the first half of 2020. Startups have benefited from the explosive technology market, supported by significant government support. Following China and the US, the European Union has been generous to startups, and the same goes for its member states. The Dutch government offers tax credits to innovative companies and environmentally friendly investments. The city of Amsterdam promotes startups that support inclusive growth and diversity, for example by subsidizing female entrepreneurs.
The Amsterdam Delta startup ecosystem can be characterized as vibrant. Still other ecosystems in the world are growing faster, including those in some European cities. In the global top ten emerging ecosystems, we find Copenhagen in second place and Barcelona, Madrid, and Zurich in places 5, 8 and 9.
To detect possible vulnerabilities in the Amsterdam Delta startup ecosystem, analyzing of success factors of the 30 highest-ranked ecosystems in the report is informative. In terms of performance, Amsterdam's composite score is in a middle position (6 out of 10 points). In terms of funding, the position is good (8). In terms of market reach, the overall score is satisfactory (7): The Amsterdam Delta startups are primarily focused on global markets and score low on the local market. Like most European ecosystems, Amsterdam Delta scores excellent (9) in connectedness, which is related to its strength on the global market. In terms of talent, the overall score is satisfactory (7), but the components differ considerably. The quality of technology students and graduates is good, but their number is insufficient, resulting in high salary costs. The scalability of the Amsterdam startup ecosystem is also insufficient, due to a lack of experience, which keeps many startups small. The overall knowledge success is assessed as poor (1) because the number of life science patents is disappointing.
When assessing the success factors, it should be considered that the population of Amsterdam Delta is about 10% of the population of London, and in this perspective the need to improve the global 13th place is not urgent. On the contrary, understanding why the Amsterdam Delta is performing so well is more relevant than looking for opportunities to improve it.
The explanation of Amsterdam's success has its roots in the fundamental strength of the Netherlands as a whole, which has at least ten other vibrant startup ecosystems. Against this background, one might be curious about the Global Startup Ecosystem ranking of the Randstad, including Eindhoven as a whole. According to the report, the strength of the Netherlands is its well-educated population, international orientation and English proficiency, excellent infrastructure, an 'extremely high quality of life' and business-friendly laws. Amsterdam is also the headquarters of many international companies, a large pool of potential startup founders.
In a next post, I will focus on Amsterdam's policy towards startups and evaluate whether a higher ranking is within reach or whether more qualitative objectives are preferable, taken into account the considerations in a former post on the Amsterdam Smart City website.
I will regularly share ‘snapshots’ of the challenge of bringing socially and ecologically sustainable cities closer using technology if useful. These posts represent findings, updates, and additions to my e-book Humane cities. Always humane. Smart if helpful. The English version of this book can be downloaded for free below.
As the world grapples with vaccinations, variants, and how to return to "normal", it’s a good time to reflect on whether or not we are fully equipped to prevent future shocks.
Building true resilience means addressing the systemic issues that make our world increasingly fragile, by understanding the deeper structures and mental models at the root of a problem to create lasting solutions.
Check out our article done by Metabolic last year about building back better.
The term regenerative agriculture is popping up more and more often in news and articles. Often mentioned as the key to agricultural green transition, important for carbon sequestration purposes… but what is it exactly?
Regenerative farming, or farming in line with nature, also known as restorative agriculture or eco-agriculture, is a nature-based solution, and it is significantly different from organic farming.
Learn more from this article.
Today the bioeconomy is everywhere: We see it in the clothing we wear, the packaging that comes to our house daily, the house we live in, the food we eat, and the energy that fuels our life.
For the bioeconomy to truly be sustainable and circular, it must meet certain conditions:
• Using fundamentally renewable biological feedstocks
• Maximizing the varied types and cycles of biological resources
• Contributing to the biological cycle
Learn more from this article.
For centuries, entrepreneurship was linked to art and craft and rewarded by personal fulfilment, satisfied customers, and a good life. The term entrepreneur is still associated with giving direction, shape and content to new activities based on personal motivation and skills and thereby creating socially approved value. A description that applies to the self-employed, business entrepreneurs, franchisees or intrapreneurs and includes both commercial, institutional, and artistic activities.
However, there are two problems. Overcoming them opens the way to become a better business.
The plunder of the earth
Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz has warned that the creative power of entrepreneurship can easily become destructive. A 'maker' becomes a 'taker' once creating value becomes making money in the first place. Indeed, for centuries, companies have robbed resources around the world, destroyed nature, traded millions of slaves and exploited domestic workers, creating the divide between rich and poor countries.
The creative power of entrepreneurship can also be aimed at sustainable prosperity, for their employees, the country, and the world. In that case, the “purpose” of a company precedes the pursuit of profit. Unfortunately, still a minority of all companies are moving in this direction while others pretending.
The decline of engagement and passion within the workforce
There is more. In developed countries, the blatant exploitation of labour has disappeared. Instead, the majority of employment relegates into low strain jobs. Research by Gallup and Deloite has shown over consecutive years that over 64% of all employees worldwide are not engaged or passionate. Find John Hagel explain this in a short video. The reason is clear. 20th century companies have organized their production according to principles of scalable efficiency and have top-down planning and control. Room for initiative is therefore neither expected nor desired. Moreover, detailed protocols and regulations limit employment for people at a distance from the labour market.
In a rapidly changing world, companies must be adaptive and innovative. They therefore need flexible, interdisciplinary teams with a high degree of self-government and less pay differentials. According to recent research in 17 countries, this type of organizations (8%) outperforms in all respects.
Summarizing, to become a better business requires a double challenge:
· Replacing the dominance of the pursuit of money with a social and environmental purpose.
· Mobilizing the entrepreneurial and other capacities of their whole work force by forms of self-organization and shared leadership.
Why focussing on startups?
As only a limited number of companies meet these conditions, employees consider starting their own business. In the US alone, approximately two million workers give up well-paying jobs every year and become self-employed. 127,000 starters were registered in the Netherlands in 2018. Of them, only a minority will become a startup, which means that they will successfully commercialize a promising technological innovation and grow rapidly on an international level.
Start-ups are potential engines of growth and innovation. In the US, their steady growth is compensating for job losses in the rest of the economy. Dutch startups created 20.000 of jobs in 2018 and 2019. A recent reportoffers excellent documentation of the identity, growth and potential of the 4,311 Dutch startups in 2019, most of which have fewer than 10 employees. 34% of Dutch startups can found in the Amsterdam metropolitan area.
The hope is that start-ups will rise to both challenges by nurturing their social and environmental purpose end fueling the commitment and passion of each employee, and thereby become a better business.
Yet, like any other businesses, startups risk becoming takers rather than makers, trading their social and environmental purpose for the pursuit of money and losing the engagement and passion of their employees. Fortunately, they can prevent this.
Eleven ways to become or stay a better business
1. Embrace self-organization and shared leadership.
2. Involve all employees in the continuous strengthening of the social and environmental purpose of the company.
3. Enable all employees to become shareholders or even better co-owners.
4. Cherish diversity within the employees.
5. Secure shares in a foundation while enabling shareholders to support the purpose of the company.
6. Cap the profit to a level that guarantees the continuity of the company.
7. Ban greed, cancel bonuses, or at most pay a limited and equal allowance to all employees.
8. Place surplus profits in a foundation that spends money in accordance with the purpose of the company.
9. Being a fair taxpayer who refrains from tax avoidance practices.
10.Create a supervisory board to monitor the purpose of the company.
11.Focus the founder/director/CEO role on monitoring the purpose of the company and the commitment of all employees and on fueling the discussion on how to deal with changing external conditions.
Rapid societal changes require a reinventing the concept of entrepreneurship. Because of their flexibility and commitment, startups are apt to embrace the dual ambition of pursuing a social and environmental purpose and of mobilizing all employee’s engagement and passion.
My next post will look at how cities can help start-ups to settle, grow and become better businesses. The history of entrepreneurship, its growing distance from ‘makership’ and its possible revival by start-ups is documented in chapter 4 of my e-book Humane cities. Always humane. Smart if helpful. The English version of this book can be downloaded for free below.
The impact of circular principles on the construction sector will be large and beneficial because buildings are responsible for more than 50% of the total use of materials on earth, including valuable specimen such as steel, copper, aluminium and zinc.
The picture above – the interior of the Circle pavilion of the ABN-AMRO bank in Amsterdam is an example of a new building that uses as many existing components as possible and new components of the building are designed to be reused. Think of:
• 1200 m2 of wooden floors
• Partition walls of a demolished building
• 16.000 garments of employees for isolation purposes
By circular construction we mean designing, building and demolishing a building in such a way that, in addition to the high-quality reuse of materials, justice is done to sustainability ambitions in the field of energy, water, and biodiversity and ecosystems.
New materials are often more expensive than new ones
In case of demolishment, nowadays many components are already reused, but at a very low level, for instance concrete and stones as the foundation of new roads. Apart from the limited necessity to construct many new roads, this type of recycling destroys the intrinsic quality of materials and does not diminish the use of new materials. The biggest problem is that recycled materials are often more expensive than new ones.
Evidently, progress can be made by planning, designing, developing, and building circular buildings. A number of options are mentioned below.
Dedicated urban planning
Challenges for planning are the use of inner-city vacant land and issuing mandatory requirements regarding the construction of new buildings, for instance the use of less cement, glass and steel, the mandatory application of a certain percentage of reused materials, and becoming energy positive or at least energy-neutral. Switching to sustainable timber is an option for 90% of homes and 70% of offices being built.
Mandatory reuse of existing components
Reuse of existing materials means that glass is reused as glass and concrete pillars as pillars. The same applies to doors, frames, carpets, wall-cladding materials and so on. To start with, after demolishment all materials must be selected, cleaned, registered, and stored in new-to-develop warehouses. A materials passport, which contains an overview of all materials and components that are used to construct of a house or building, is a useful tool as well. The obligation to reuse a large percentage of existing components has far-reaching consequences for the design and construction of new houses.
Industrial production and 3D printing
Construction of components in factories, deploying industrial processes, will reduce costs by 30 percent and the delivery time by at least 50 percent. In 2014, the Chinese company WinSun printed and assembled ten houses, each 195 square meters, in 24 hours, for an amount of €5,000 per house. The company used 30 - 60 percent less material than in traditional construction. The “ink” for their 3D printers is a mixture of dry cement and construction waste. WinSun plans to open 100 recycling plants in China to convert waste into cost-efficient ink. This video below demonstrates the printing activities of WinSun
The size of apartments will decrease, partly due to costs, but also because of the presence of shared guest rooms, lounge areas and terraces for working and socializing, spaces for washing and drying laundry. The need for office space will decrease rapidly due to sharing space and working home. Already now, IBM has only one desk available for 12 employees. Given the presence of 300,000 employees, this has led worldwide to savings on real estate of around € 1 billion in the past 10 years.
Modularity and durability
A key barrier for better use of floor space is the lack of flexibility in the design of buildings and room configurations. A modular design, which provides for easy replacement of partitions and placement of complete pre-fab units (kitchens and bathrooms, walls, and roofs as well) facilitates adjustments in case of new construction or as the use of a building changes. DIRTT builds interior components that are modular and standardized and offer maximum interchangeability in both existing and new buildings. This video gives an impression of the production and application of these flexible and inexpensive solutions.
Forget new construction at all
Anyway, a first step is more efficient use of existing buildings and houses.
As families become smaller and offices need less space, existing space becomes underused. Many thousands of one family houses can be transformed in apartments. Well-thought adjustments to the lay-out of existing houses and buildings can improve their efficiency without reducing their functionality and amenity. Look here for inspiring examples.
I will regularly share with you ‘snapshots’ of the challenge to bring social and ecological sustainable cities closer using technology if helpful. These posts represent findings, updates, and supplements of my e-book Humane cities. Always humane. Smart if helpful. The English version of this book can be downloaded for free below.
Note from ASC: What are your thoughts on this? Let Herman know bellow.
Een gezonde stad is vitaal, veerkrachtig en toekomstbestendig – zowel maatschappelijk als economisch. Maar vanzelf gaat het niet. De druk op de stad is groot en de situatie is urgent, want er moet veel en liefst tegelijk: meer woningen, minder lawaai, schonere lucht, minder hittestress, een lager energiegebruik. Dit lukt alleen als we het slim, samen en in samenhang doen.
En er is goed nieuws: al die transities scheppen niet alleen verplichtingen, maar ook geweldige mogelijkheden. Zo biedt data science kansen om tot goede plannen en oplossingen te komen, om deze te visualiseren en communiceren én om participatie en besluitvorming te organiseren. In bijgaand artikel uit Binnenlands Bestuur geeft mijn collega Jan de Wit een overzicht van kansen.