Rotterdam’s growing stature as digital connectivity hub

With daily life permanently a mix of real and virtual, and a large part of our work taking place online, digital connectivity and the availability of data have never been more important. As one of Europe’s main hubs for business, congresses and events, Rotterdam is leading the way, with its port and Erasmus MC two of the key drivers of both the local and national economy and two instigators of digital transformation. In our fast-growing innovation ecosystem, the availability and the exchange of data is of vital importance, and local government, businesses and organisations are collaborating and investing in the position of Rotterdam as digital connectivity hub.

Rotterdam at the forefront of digital developments

The city of Rotterdam is very much at the forefront of digital developments and is actively shaping our digital urban future, in close collaboration with many partners. Besides its physical connectivity and the status of being the Gateway to Europe because of its smart port, Rotterdam is recognised as becoming an important digital gateway. A recent report by fDi intelligence ranks Rotterdam 1st for connectivity in their ‘European Cities of the Future’ ranking. The 2022 Global Startup Ecosystem Report (GSER) has included an article showcasing how startups contribute to future-proofing the Rotterdam economy.

Top Dutch infrastructure

Part of Rotterdam’s acclaim as digital hub has to do with the top existing Dutch digital infrastructure, including state-of-the-art 98% fast broadband coverage and 99% 4G coverage and 5G and fiber internet being rolled out at least in the main urban centres including Rotterdam. Another important contributing factor is the position of Rotterdam as internet crossroads. It is home to internet access and exchange points of NL-ix and AMS-ix (since October 2021), guaranteeing high quality, reliable and efficient digital services for companies, research and knowledge institutes, events and practically everybody living and working in the greater Rotterdam region. A valuable thing, as with growing internet usage and the development of new technologies and applications, the demands put to our digital infrastructure grow and become more diverse by the day.

3D Digital Twin

A very practical and exciting current example of the importance and practical application of Rotterdam’s digital performance is the development of the 3D digital twin city. As major development of the city’s Digital City programme this is a 3D model of the entire city, including all its physical objects and infrastructure. The model is completed with data on how the city is used and how it’s performing. For example, streetlights that aren’t functioning, or data about the occupancy of parking spaces. These data are in turn used to develop new smart tools and applications, to improve the city’s overall performance and liveability.

Digital city benefits all

It is Rotterdam’s goal to be a role model digital city by the year 2025. Big data, sensors, smart applications, robotisation… all these aspects help improve urban life for Rotterdam’s inhabitants, students, companies and even events. Think of sensors that make traffic lights for pedestrians or bikers switch to green quicker when it rains, or trash collectors that are always emptied on time. These and other developments are beneficial to all. Besides these practical aspects, digitalisation and the development of new technologies and applications comes with the creation of new jobs, providing opportunities and strengthening our economy. As part of the European RUGGEDISED programme, Rotterdam is looking to incorporate these developments in such a way that Rotterdam’s inhabitants profit in the best possible way.

Fast growing IT & Tech ecosystem

For companies, Rotterdam’s digitisation efforts mean that everything is in place to do business successfully, with high speed internet and a stable, reliable digital infrastructure, making the exchange of data and working together – wherever you are – easier and safer. The beneficial digital conditions in Rotterdam have contributed to a fast growing IT & Tech ecosystem, with many international startups and scale-up companies choosing Rotterdam as location for their business in key industries like maritime, energy, life sciences & health (health tech), agri & food and transport & logistics. The High-Tech and IT industries have become the leading area for foreign investment, with the municipality strongly supporting start-ups and scale-ups operating in MaaS (Mobility as a Service), Health Tech, predictive maintenance, robotisation, 3D printing, Big Data, AI, sensors, LaaS (Logistics as a Service) and more.

Top universities, Convergence, Erasmus MC Campus

Besides the municipality and businesses, Rotterdam’s digital infrastructure is of great importance to the knowledge and research institutes in the wider urban region, including Erasmus University, Erasmus MC and Delft University of Technology who have joined forces in the so-called Convergence, aiming to drive the conjunction of technology and medicine to nurture scientific discoveries and technological innovations in the healthcare industry. One of the topics these institutes are actively studying is how they can contribute to pressing issues in society and health care through solutions and applications based in AI, and how the global scientific world can take a permanent leading role in this field.

Erasmus MC is also actively developing the new Erasmus MC Campus, in close collaboration with the City of Rotterdam and Delft University of Technology. This news campus will be a place where healthcare, technology, business and education come together. The ecosystem will include state-of-the-art co-facilities and optimal test sites, allowing residents to collaborate and put AI and health tech innovations into practice, while the medical center benefits from the latest technological developments.

Digitalisation at Port of Rotterdam

Port of Rotterdam, as one of the main economic drivers of both the greater Rotterdam region and of the Netherlands, also has digital connectivity and security high on its agenda. Their digitalisation initiatives primarily concern the better control and management of the port and port infrastructure (Port of Rotterdam’s core tasks) or the initiative revolves around improved insight into or efficiency of logistics processes. The port is working hard to maintain its status of having the ‘best port infrastructure in the world’, recently awarded to it by the World Economic Forum for the seventh consecutive time. Efficient use of the infrastructure – which will in turn lead to cost savings among the carriers – will not be possible without further digitisation of the port.

High tech event options

Events and congresses also benefit from the digitalisation of Rotterdam. All main event venues and larger podia have high quality, direct fiber connections to NEP The Netherlands (Media Park in Hilversum), making things like hybrid events, live tv, streaming, live encoding, video on demand, second screen applications and all other professional broadcast services available, in turn making Rotterdam an exciting option for any large and complex event or congress.

This has already led to several IT & Tech congresses and events recognising the digital stature of Rotterdam and selecting the city to be their their stage, including the European Robotics Forum (June 2022, Rotterdam Ahoy Convention Centre), the Envirotech for Shipping Forum (October 2022, Postillion Convention Centre WTC Rotterdam), the Immersive Tech Week (November/December 2022, De Doelen ICC), Public Communication of Science & Technology  (April 2023, De Doelen ICC) and TECIS 2023 (May 2023, Rotterdam Ahoy Convention Centre).

In 2021 Rotterdam Partners organised a series of events called ‘The Rotterdam Experiment‘, which aimed to explore what the future of the event industry might look like. In three hybrid collaboration experiments, innovative solutions within and outside the sector were shared and tested with the industry, including modern technologies like Mixed Reality (AR, VR) and gamification.

Transitional challenges

Digitalisation comes with challenges, such as safety and security and privacy. Security Delta (HSD) is the Dutch security cluster. Over 275 companies, governmental organisations and knowledge institutions have been working together since 2013 to make a difference in securing our digitising society, with a focus on Security & Resilience, Smart Secure Societies and Data & AI/Intel. The Dutch national security cluster has strong connections with South Holland and an inspiring meeting place, the HSD Campus in The Hague, only 30’ away from Rotterdam.

The City of Rotterdam is committed to making digitalisation work in the best possible way for all its inhabitants, companies and organisations. The Cyber Resilience programme aims to utilise digitalisation and data to make the city resilient to outside threats and disruptions, to strengthen its business climate and to help solve transitional challenges our world is facing today. Special facilities and educational programmes are in place to increase the digital skills of the people of Rotterdam and to get more talents into tech.

Header picture: Guido Pijper, Rotterdam Branding Toolkit
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