The Amsterdam Metropolitan Area has a fantastic knowledge infrastructure. This is apparent from research by Network Council member Elsevier: in terms of publications and citations, we are among the absolute best in the world. But the collaboration between business and academia could still be improved, according to Michiel Kolman, Senior Vice President Research Networks at Elsevier.
“Scientific and technological innovation play an important role in shaping the future of society. That is why it is important to monitor the state of this innovation, for the general public, for researchers and for policy makers.” These are the two correct opening sentences of the report Data and Insights on International Science, Technology, and Innovation—Comparative Research Report of 20 Global Cities (2016–2020). Elsevier carried out this research on behalf of the Shanghai Metropolitan Region, which wanted to see a comparison with 19 leading cities in the field of science and innovation. “It’s actually quite special that Shanghai also wanted to compare itself with Amsterdam,” says Kolman. “Because in terms of dynamics we are of course a completely different city than Shanghai. But scientifically, we’re doing very well. Not only thanks to the UvA and the VU, but also thanks to the business community and organizations such as the Blood Bank and the Cancer Institute. So that’s why they like to take Amsterdam as an example.”
The research also shows that Amsterdam is doing well in the scientific field. What did you find the most striking results?
“For example, Amsterdam has the highest number of scientific publications per researcher of all EU cities. Science is all about those articles. As a researcher or research group you want to claim and show: these are my results. In addition, Amsterdam is in the top 3 when we look at the impact of the publications, just after San Francisco and Boston. This means that articles by Amsterdam researchers are often cited on average. We know from research that the more you collaborate internationally, the more impact you make. In Amsterdam, 58 percent of the articles were written with scientists from other international universities; those articles are widely cited. In addition, Amsterdam is also an attractive city for scientists to settle temporarily. As an Amsterdammer, I am of course proud of these kinds of results.”
We are doing very well in life sciences in particular. This fits in well with the ambitions of our Smart Health Amsterdam programme. We are building a network that connects life science organizations with data science and AI.
“Yeah, I thought that was remarkable too. I think that is the result of the good cooperation here in the region: between the universities and the research institutes. Neuroscience and psychology really stand out. We also see that interdisciplinary research is becoming increasingly important and also contributes to a deeper impact. Smart Health Amsterdam is a good example of this: AI, biotechnology, data science and healthcare come together beautifully.”
In which areas is there room for improvement?
“In terms of patent applications, Amsterdam is at the bottom. The number of international patent applications is an indication of the innovation level of a region. We are looking at absolute numbers in this study, so this result is also due to the fact that we are a relatively small region. Yet this must be better. Mirjam van Praag from the VU agrees. She has put the subject of entrepreneurship and innovation high on the agenda. I think we need to take a good look at Eindhoven for this and that researchers should ask themselves at an early stage how their research can lead to something for which they can apply for a patent. In the collaboration between industry and academia, Amsterdam is in the middle of our research. That’s in so‘ A list of top countries is still not bad at all, but it could be better.”
Since 2010, the Board has been working on this collaboration between knowledge institutions, government and industry. How do you think we can strengthen it even further on the themes that we are committed to?
“The Board plays a unique role in Amsterdam and for me the bridging function between the business community, knowledge institutions and the government really stands out. Specifically, I fully support the green agenda: there is still a lot of work to be done. This week Elsevier signed the international Climate Pledge: we will be carbon neutral by 2040. To stimulate cooperation between the business community, of course, investments are needed, but also awareness. And a good network. Business and science need to know from each other what they are doing and we as Elsevier can also contribute to this. As a scientist, for example, you can already contact us if you want to know what kind of research is being carried out at companies. We map out what companies publish or for which they apply for a patent. I think we should also show clearly what such a collaboration can yield. For example, we work together with the UvA and the VU in the field of data science. We provide the data, they provide the scientists. A concrete result is already a new and better way of searching scientific publications. A good search function is extremely important for scientists, because they must be able to quickly find relevant information. We have now also hired some young data scientists. We also support the Amsterdam University Medical Center of the VU and UvA with a portal. There they can showcase their research output: articles, but also medical data sets, for example.”