Port Innovation Barometer 2016

Research: 2017-2018

The Port Innovation Barometer shows how the innovative climate evolves in the port of Rotterdam.



The Port Innovation Barometer is a large-scale research conducted by the Erasmus University Rotterdam among the companies in the Rotterdam area. The Barometer provides insight into the innovation climate in the Rotterdam port and its surrounding industrial complex. In 2016 the survey was conducted for the first time, about one third of the companies from the region participated. Questions, among other, were: what drives companies to innovate, what makes companies successful in innovation and when it comes to innovation, what do companies currently invest?

Research results

The main conclusions based on the first edition of the Barometer are:

  • Leading role for Port of Rotterdam Authority – Companies expect an active and stimulating role for the Port of Rotterdam Authority in developing and renewing the digital infrastructure and energy infrastructure in the port.
  • Clients drive innovation – Companies believe clients are more important for innovation than start-ups. Companies believe collaboration with clients is important for innovation activities. Cooperation with suppliers is also found to be important. However, companies rarely involve start-ups in their innovation processes.
  • Current investments mainly in technical innovation – Companies know that social innovation is more important than technical innovation. Nevertheless, in the short term, investments are more often made within the technical field.
  • Current focus is on incremental innovation – Rotterdam is further developed and more active when it comes to incremental innovation (continuously improving products and services) than radical innovation (introducing brand new products and services to the market).
  • Success factors of innovation – Success factors of innovation are: entrepreneurial orientation, multi-employability of staff, empowerment of employees, and a decentralized organization structure.

Other findings are:

  • Digitalization, automation and the energy transition are leading in the strategy of port companies – The port business sector sees two developments in particular as promising and of influence on their long-term strategic decision making: firstly, digitalization and automation, and secondly, the increase in production and use of renewable energy.
  • Social innovation is decisive – Non-technological innovation, called social innovation, such as new ways of managing, collaborating and working, is decisive for both the innovation capacity and the business performance of companies in the port.
  • Future employees must have intra- and interpersonal skills – Companies believe that in the near future so-called intra- and interpersonal skills are very important to employees: the ‘new port worker’ is self-conscious and entrepreneurial and is focused on cooperation, interaction and communication with others.


  • Understanding how businesses approach innovation, what they see as driving developments for innovation and which parties they see as partners in or promoters of innovation.
  • Understanding of the innovation climate and, when the survey is conducted repeatedly, its development.


Port of Rotterdam Authority, SmartPort
Knowledge partner: Erasmus University Rotterdam

Port Innovation Barometer 2016

“This comprehensive baseline assessment of the innovation climate in Rotterdam’s port and industrial area, with almost a third of port business participating, has provided various interesting insights that contribute to further strengthening the international innovation driven competitiveness of the area.”

Henk Volberda

Professor Strategic Management & Business Policy, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

Direct contact

More information

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

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