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Rotterdam. Maritime Capital of Europe

Rotterdam’s Make it Happen spirit makes it an ideal location to future-proof your maritime business

Ask European business leaders to tell you about Rotterdam and they’ll almost certainly say, “it’s Europe’s biggest port.” They might also mention that it’s home to Erasmus University, one of Europe’s leading business schools. If they’re an occasional visitor, perhaps they’ll rave about the stunning modern architecture or the hip bars, restaurants and oh-so-cool spirit described by Lonely Planet.

Rotterdam is all of those things and more. But, the most fitting description is that it is Europe’s Maritime Capital. Its strategic location near the North Sea, Atlantic and major European rivers, has led to the development of a world-class cluster of maritime expertise, backed up by centuries of experience in shipping and trade. The Rotterdam of today is the centre of maritime innovation attracting companies and talent from all over the world.

What makes Rotterdam special?

The port of Rotterdam is the economic powerhouse at the heart of this maritime ecosystem. The huge port infrastructure supports a wider maritime cluster that is the most complete in Europe, employing 384,500 people and accounting for 6.2% of Dutch GDP (€45.6 billion). Here you’ll find international businesses offering everything from logistics and offshore operations and maintenance, to maritime technology and the full spectrum of maritime business services.

This strong maritime community has an open attitude towards innovation, which makes Rotterdam special in an otherwise traditional sector. Companies of all sizes see Rotterdam as a great place to develop, test and adopt innovations that can renew their business. That creates unrivalled opportunities for collaboration between large corporates and SMEs to create new technologies and solve real world problems.

Why it’s all happening in Rotterdam

“We have everything you could possibly need to develop and service the maritime sector right here in our backyard,” says Bas Ort, Chair of the Netherlands Maritime Technology board. “It’s all happening in Rotterdam because of our distinctive network and the fact that everyone – researchers, suppliers and government ­- works together. We attract smart people from around the world to exchange knowledge and take initiatives to the next level.”

Rotterdam’s innovation ecosystem

This infographic gives an overview of the innovation ecosystem in and around Rotterdam. It encompasses industry groups, knowledge institutes, governmental and semi-public organisations, test and prototype facilities, start-up accelerators, network organisations and investment funds.
You can see an interactive version of this infographic here

From start-up to market-ready in 100 days

The world’s first Port and Maritime Accelerator programme, PortXL, founded in Rotterdam in 2015, encourages innovation in the global maritime industry. It also gives maritime related start-ups from all over the world access to hands-on mentoring, masterclasses and opportunities to network and find clients. Each year, the selected start-ups are intensively coached to validate their market, build their business model and get their idea ready to enter the market in 100 days.

Dutch maritime contracting company, Van Oord, is a founding partner and main sponsor of PortXL. “So far, we’ve worked with start-ups specialising in Virtual Reality safety training, diesel purification systems, and software apps to provide medical care at sea,” explains Van Oord’s COO, Paul Verheul. “We’re also collaborating on a research project to find seabed materials that protect the foundations of offshore wind farms and boost the growth of oyster beds (oyster beds prevent erosion of the seabed and increase biodiversity).”

“Working with start-ups focussed on sustainability and digitalisation fits with our innovative business culture,” continues Paul. “And, it energises our own employees to come up with disruptive ideas that can add value to us. It’s a collaboration that represents maritime ingenuity at its very best.”

An open city, welcoming the world

Cogoport launched in India in 2016 and now has around 16,000 customers using its digital international freight exchange platform. The company’s Europe CEO, Carmit Hoshen Glik, says they’ve chosen Rotterdam as their European HQ because, “it offers a unique business opportunity to be close to customers and suppliers. Here in the Gateway to Europe, we can reach 80% of European consumers very quickly.”

“As an international start-up, we’ve also found Rotterdam welcoming and an easy place to do business,” continues Carmit. “Everyone speaks English and, with lots of universities, access to talent is no problem. There’s also a strong and inclusive maritime network here.”

“We’re using the latest technology to make complex processes easier for the freight industry and to provide the best customer experience. In Rotterdam, we get to collaborate with experts across the maritime sector. It’s a highly innovative and open community – there are no barriers to reaching out to people to do business.”

Supporting new ideas and bringing them to market

“We always say that you can develop, test and bring to market anything you want in Rotterdam,” concludes Bas Ort. “As well as cutting edge infrastructure and digital technology, we have a sophisticated maritime services sector, covering banking, insurance, law and finance. It’s been established over decades, to support new ideas and bring them to market.”

If it works here, it works worldwide

You can see examples of this ecosystem working to drive innovation and business opportunities all over Rotterdam. Many international companies recognise Rotterdam’s role as a vital test market and the ideal gateway to the European market. Cogoport’s Europe CEO, Carmit Hoshen Glik, sums it up perfectly, “Cogoport’s a young company, full of tech savvy entrepreneurs, engineers, designers, innovators and thinkers – and we feel right at home in Rotterdam.”

For more info: Rotterdam Maritime Capital and why invest in Rotterdam

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