Benchmark innovative ecosystems

Research: 2016

Comparative international research shows that Rotterdam has great potential to develop a strong innovation district.



The potential for further developing innovation in Rotterdam is great. This is shown by international comparative research into innovation ecosystems in the cities of Rotterdam, Munich, San Diego and Tel Aviv. For further growth of innovation Rotterdam should focus on existing markets (manufacturing and maritime industry) and making use of its position within the broader innovative region Holland.

The research also shows how the various stakeholders can contribute to this joint challenge.


  • Give innovation a more prominent role in city marketing and branding – Show that innovation does take place in Rotterdam and what focus it has: manufacturing and maritime industry.
  • Make use of Rotterdam’s DNA – Rotterdammers are makers, builders, doers.
  • Make use of existing talent and markets – Innovation should match existing talent (institutes for education) and connect with existing markets, in the case of Rotterdam: manufacturing and port-related businesses.
  • Show Rotterdam as part of a larger innovative context – Rotterdam is part of a larger innovative area, which extends to The Hague, Leiden and Amsterdam. Be aware of this and make use of it.


  • Building the ecosystem – Establishing an innovative ecosystem and making it flourish, is a time consuming process. Mutual trust and cooperation, both needed for innovation, grow gradually and they cannot be forced.
  • Determining DNA – Finding and identifying the DNA of typical Rotterdam innovation to get towards an authentic Rotterdam innovation ecosystem based on available assets (markets and education).
  • Placemaking – The organisation of actual space for innovation, a stimulating environment for meeting, collaboration and cross pollination.


  • The development of a clearly visible, flourishing and authentic Rotterdam innovation district.
  • The innovative power of the region to the economic development of Rotterdam.


Municipality of Rotterdam, Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences, Urban Land Institute Europe.

Benchmark innovative ecosystems

“The strategy we developed with ULI will allow us to better foster the growth of innovation districts within the city.”

Ronald Prins

Director of Spatial and Economic Development , Gemeente Rotterdam

Direct contact

More information

Contact our project developer Natalya Rijk for more information about these and other projects and how you can be part of the SmartPort Community.

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