State of the Region 2022: Collaborating on the Metropolis of Tomorrow
From smart clothing repair to hydrogen and from the love story of nature and technology to alliance: at the fifth edition of State of the Region we discussed the Metropolis of Tomorrow. “We are still too unaware of the unique proposition our region has.”
“Where the people come together and make their dreams come true / that’s where the profit is made.” In their performance, Roemer Gast and Luc Klouwer hit the nail on the head. The Performing Arts students of Nova College in Haarlem recited a text about the Metropolis of Tomorrow, which will only become smart, green and healthy when we work on it together. “Here this afternoon, here, here I want to see action (…) Here today, here I want to see vigor.”
Action and decisiveness. That is also what the other speakers are calling for in the Gooiland theater in Hilversum at this State of the Region, the networking day of the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area. There is an energy in the room and for good reason: these administrators, entrepreneurs and change agents are already working hard on the smart, green and healthy Metropolis of Tomorrow.
Dare to dream
We can really use the help of young people like Roemer and Luc, says Hilversum mayor Gerhard van den Top in the opening conversation with moderator Saber Benjah. “Young people have had a hard time in recent years. They’re in a different position compared to where we were long ago. Let them lead us to a new future. Dare to dream with those young people.”
Van den Top is pleased that State of the Region is taking place in his city this year. “We have the magical combination of nature and innovation here. People from Amsterdam and Utrecht come here to enjoy our nature. At the Mediapark, our beautiful new hospital and at the European headquarters of Nike, there’s a lot of innovation.”
Hydrogen and clothing
On stage, Janet Nieboer, Thami Schweichler and Marcel Galjee, led by Benjah, are having a talk. Galjee is managing director of HyCC, which focuses on the large-scale production of hydrogen for sectors that are difficult to make sustainable, such as aviation, steel and chemicals, and is already working closely with Tata Steel, Port of Amsterdam and Schiphol.
“I don’t think we realize enough yet what unique proposition our region has,” says Galjee. “With the port, aviation, steel, the city, knowledge institutions and an entrepreneurial spirit so close together. The solution to our challenges lies in connection. We should not stop at making plans and having ambitions, but we should also really start doing, by executing those.”
This ‘doing’ is reflected in the United Repair Center that will officially open on 1 July and where people at a distance from the labor market will work. Social entrepreneur Schweichler is co-founder and takes Benjah over to the clothes rack on stage. “Clothing repair is one of the most important ways to avoid waste,” says Schweichler. “With our B2B repair center, we want to not only create 150 jobs over the next four years, but also have a model that we can export.” Clothing brands Patagonia and Scotch & Soda are co-initiators.
ROM InWest is investing in the United Repair Centre, says Nieboer, CEO of ROM InWest. “We think this is a great project. On the one hand, we extend the life of clothing and combat the overproduction of clothing. On the other, we’re working with people who are at a distance from the labor market.” Entrepreneurs who are involved in transition tasks in Noord-Holland can report to ROM InWest: the development agency can help companies with business development and financing, through loans or participations.
Dare to take the lead
The trio emphasizes that a major change is needed. Schweichler: “Our transition to a circular economy starts with a society that works well and where everyone has the opportunity to use their talent.” We must continue to think big for that transition, emphasizes Galjee. “In switching from gray to green energy, we’ve lost our leading position, due to our slow response. We have to prevent that with hydrogen. We should dare to take on a frontrunner position, but that requires leadership and courage.” Nieboer adds: “The future is what you do today.”
Love story between nature and technology
Koert van Mensvoort of Next Nature, artist, philosopher and scientist, tells the love story between nature and technology. Plenty of examples: the telephone pole, disguised as a tree, in a Bloemendaal nature reserve, the reclaimed Markerwadden where we will soon be able to walk in ‘real nature’ and the landscaped Oostvaardersplassen where Scottish Highland cattle pretend to be aurochs. “These are all examples of how we cultivate nature. Nature is an incredibly successful product and sells better than sex,” says Van Mensvoort, showing brands such as Apple, Lacoste and Puma, which base their logo on nature.
The enthusiastic artist and philosopher shows images of the Earth, where there was first a geosphere, three billion years later a biosphere and now — thanks to man — a technosphere. “We were born in a world that is completely designed. A world in which children know more logos than tree species.”
Van Mensvoort shows that things born and made are increasingly intertwined. “Our inventiveness creates a new situation, a next nature, which is just as wild and unpredictable as real nature. We already live in that: we feel naked when we don’t have our smartphone with us.”
In this new normal we have to find a good mode. “We created the technosphere and it is here to stay. But we need to balance it with the biosphere. After all, there is only one sphere, our earth.”
Working together for fun
Work together on a metropolis of great class: Amsterdam mayor Femke Halsema, chairman of the Board, has made that appeal during the previous State of the Region. That message still stands, she reiterates during the closing conversation with Benjah. To do this, we must remain aware of the uniqueness of our area. “There are few small-scale areas in Europe that have so much variety and where the quality of life is so great. Residents are hardly aware of this, and neither are politicians, administrators and entrepreneurs.”
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How can we increase that awareness? By collaborating more, out of necessity, but above all: for fun. By letting go of mistrust, working on regional pride and approaching each other as friends and allies — which those present will put into practice over drinks at the end of the event. “And please contradict each other. Also contradict Amsterdam”, says Halsema with a laugh, “although I don’t have to repeat that to some people here. Amsterdam wants to serve the interests of everyone in the region.”