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Regional Innovative Ecosystems & the role of universities of applied sciences

-Position paper-

UASNL is an alliance of 17 Dutch Universities of Applied Sciences, who work together to strengthen the European impact of applied research and innovation. In UAS, knowledge transfer, applied scientific research and educational activities are strongly intertwined. Labs, projects, internships and workplace learning are often implemented in research programmes, fostering the mutual learning between businesses, education and research. The professional orientation of the UAS student makes them a valuable contributor to the labour market and increases the graduate’s employability skills. In addition, UAS students frequently participate in research projects leading to innovation through new businesses. This provides a win-win situation for the region, institute and the student. The UAS uses research outcomes to improve their curriculum or further research, and the student has gained hands-on work experience that can be utilised by companies in the region.

UASNL would like to offer its experience in knowledge impact, ecosystem approach to innovation and regional networks to help develop the European Innovation Area.

Europe is facing large societal challenges. Whether it be the current pandemic, climate change or security, we need new knowledge that is instantly applicable in the process of tackling these challenges. Practice based research at universities of applied sciences (UAS) delivers, and through their research they bridge the gap between fundamental science and society. They are strong knowledge and education hubs in the region. As such, they systematically interlink stakeholders in the regional ecosystem to tackle societal challenges together with citizens, public and private partners with a direct contribution to social and economic development as result. UAS are strongly rooted in the region they operate in, and facilitate collaboration and exchange between public, private, societal and academic partners. This is the way forward, where economic growth stems from collaboration and the focus on improving the lives of people through social and technological innovation. In such climate, SME’s, Start-Ups and Scale-Ups excel, because they find the right partners in UAS to grow their business in the ecosystem.

UASNL welcomes the development of the EIA, and underlines its complementarity to the EEA and ERA as a third pillar in the knowledge triangle. UAS are in the driver’s seat to facilitate, participate in and coordinate this knowledge triangle. We would like to share expertise and best practices of our UASNL institutes to develop the EIA. The following pages provide practical examples of the way of working for UAS, and show their position and impact in the region.

‘Universities of Applied Sciences are important players in the region. They connect theory and practice, ideas and implementation, research and applications. This makes them a linking pin spanning research and education, business and society. Together with the regional partners, they form the backbone for transitions we need to face. I wholeheartedly welcome this regional engagement and wish the partners every success’. (Prime minister Mark Rutte, Speech delivered during opening event UASNL, October 2020).

Please find some examples of Dutch regional innovative ecosystems below, involving UASNL partners.


Cross-Border Business Development, Fontys Venlo

In Europe’s border regions, spatial, economic and social dynamics can be observed, all influenced by the nearness of the national border. Such border related dynamics are also present in the Dutch-German border region. On a daily basis the border’s presence influences the behavior (daily urban system) of the region’s inhabitants. It influences, among other things, consumer behavior as well as the choice of study, career, and place of residence. Oftentimes, the border is seen as barrier, as the end of the living environment, which fosters an inland orientation towards the economic and political centers of the country. As a consequence, border regions miss out on many opportunities. In theory border scholars refer to the half-moon syndrome: a region which is divided by the border in two parts.

Smart Solar Charging Utrecht

Smart Solar Charging is a sustainable energy system on district, city or regional level. Locally produced solar energy is stored in (shared) cars with Vehicle2Grid technology: a smart and dynamic quick charging and storage system. This creates flexible storage capacity that reduces peak loads on the power grid. The stored energy can be released to the district at a later time, when energy prices are high or there is risk of network congestion.

By learning from practice, Smart Solar Charging is prepared for large-scale transition to the use of renewable energy sources. The energy system with electric cars as ‘batteries on wheels’ is further developed within five living labs in the Utrecht district. In these living labs, researchers and entrepreneurs work together to optimise the innovative system on energy performance, user behavior and value models.

Knowledge Mile Amsterdam

The Knowledge Mile is a livinglab in Amsterdam that runs from the Amstelplein to the city hall of the municipality of Amsterdam. The Wibautstraat and Weesperstraat are the two main streets at the centre of this area. Both are well known for the urban challenges they face, such as high traffic volumes, flooding and air pollution. The area is also known as a world-class knowledge cluster with the campusses of the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, the University of Amsterdam and Amsterdam University of Arts. The Knowledge Mile is a place to establish crucial connections and to achieve productive partnerships, fruitful networks and creative interaction. With a community of 30.000 residents, 60.000 students and more than 700 organisations, companies, hotels, museums, social and municipal institutions together we aim to improve the quality of life in the area, by improving and sharing knowledge and facilitating new connections at our Meetup’s. The Knowledge Mile is also a business investment area where all organisations join forces to improve the work/life climate in the field of joint investments in communication/marketing, security, viability and physical movement.

Dutch website: & English information

Regional (knowledge) networks Artificial Intelligence & Big Data

East is the region in the Netherlands where innovations are being worked on for a better, more sustainable and healthier life. Making Artificial Intelligence (AI) applicable plays an important role in this. With the start of the East Netherlands AI hub, this region is committed to showcasing and connecting leading companies and knowledge and public institutions that drive developments around AI. The hub focuses on the development of AI applications in the areas of Health, Smart Industry, Food and Energy: themes that have a positive impact on people’s lives. More than 350 companies are actively involved in the development of AI around these themes. More than 500 scientists and PhDs are researching the possibilities of AI at the regional knowledge institutes.  The AI hub will be the showcase for these developments and will help companies, knowledge institutes such as RU, HAN UAS and Saxion UAS and governments to find the cooperation.

AI hub Oost-Nederland van start | Nederlandse AI Coalitie (

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