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.”

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 people come together and make their dreams come true / That’s where profits are 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 decisiveness.”

Action and decisiveness. That is also what the other speakers are calling for in theater Gooiland in Hilversum at this State of the Region, the networking day of the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area. There is energy in the room and for good reason: these administrators, entrepreneurs and change agents are already working hard to create 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 are in a different position compared to where we were a long time ago. Let them lead us to a new future. Dare to dream with those young people.”

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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. And in the Mediapark, our beautiful new hospital and at Nike’s European headquarters, there’s a lot of innovation.”

Hydrogen and clothing

On stage, Janet Nieboer, Thami Schweichler and Marcel Galjee are having a talk, led by Benjah. Galjee is managing director of HyCC, which focuses on the large-scale production of hydrogen for sectors that are hare to make sustainable. Such as aviation, steel and chemicals. He works closely with Tata Steel, Port of Amsterdam and Schiphol.

(Text continues below photo)United Repair Centre | State of the Region | Amsterdam Economic BoardView all photos from this event

“I don’t think we fully appreciate the unique proposition of our region,” 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 shouldn’t just have plans and ambitions, but actually start executing those.”

We see this reflected in the United Repair Centre, which officially opens July 1st and will employ people at a distance from the labour market. Social entrepreneur Schweichler is co-founder and takes Benjah over to the clothing rack on stage. “Clothing repair is one of the most important ways to prevent waste,” Schweichler said. “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.

Read more about how Amsterdam Economic Board is working with partners on Circular Textiles

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 counteract the overproduction of clothing. On the other hand, we are working with groups of people at a distance to the labour market.” Entrepreneurs working on North Holland’s transition tasks can apply to ROM InWest: the development company can help companies with business development and financing, through loans or participations.

Take the lead

The trio emphasises 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.” For that transition, we need to keep thinking big, Galjee stressed. “We have lost our lead in switching from gray to green power because of our slow response. We need 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 are born into a world that is utterly designed. A world in which children know more picture brands than tree species.”

(Text continues below photo)Koert van Meervoort | State of the Region 2022 | Amsterdam Economic BoardView all photos from this event

Van Mensvoort shows that things born and made are increasingly intertwined. “Our inventiveness causes a new situation, a next nature, which is as wild and unpredictable as real nature. We already live in that: we feel naked if we don’t have our smartphone with us.”

In this new normal, we have to find a good mode. “We caused the technosphere and it’s going to stay. But we have to balance it with the biosphere. After all, there is only one sphere, our Earth.”

Working together for fun

Working together to create a metropolis of great class: that’s what Amsterdam Mayor Femke Halsema, chairperson of the Board, called for during the last State of the Region. That message still stands, she said during the closing interview with Benjah. To do so, we must remain aware of the uniqueness of our area. “There are few areas in Europe of small scale 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.”

(Text continues below photo)Femke Halsema | State of the Region 2022 | Amsterdam Economic Board

How can we increase that awareness? By working together more, out of necessity, but above all: for fun. By letting go of mistrust, working to build regional pride and approaching each other as friends and allies. The attendees will surely be putting this into practice as soon as drinks are served. “And please, contradict each other. Contradict Amsterdam too,” Halsema says, laughing, “although I needn’t repeat that to some people here. Amsterdam wants to serve the interests of everyone in the region.”

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State of the Region 2022

Text: Mirjam Streefkerk
Photography: Raymond van Zessen

21 June 2022

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