Immediately after it was announced that ASML will establish the Institute of Nanolithography INL in Amsterdam critical remarks appeared in the news and on twitter: two Amsterdam universities and the municipality fund the initiative of the company! Even the word ridiculous was used by a well-known publicist: a profitable company like ASML whose share price has doubled over the last year on the stock market, should not be subsidized by public money.
On the contrary I would like to argue that it is rather wise of these public institutes to invest money in order to bring in a renowned company. ASML, a high tech chip manufacturer, took initiative to launch INL Research Institute, which will contribute to future chip technology to be used in smartphones, tablets, pc’s etc.
Amsterdam won the beauty contest of Eindhoven with its University of Technology, Nijmegen and the German technology centre in Aachen. The Amsterdam universities, the municipality and research institutes will provide about 50-70 million euro, which is an important contribution to the founding of INL. Compared to the region of Eindhoven where ASML is rooted, there is more intellectual power in Amsterdam and more appeal to international scientists. But still one could wonder why the company has upset their home base to move to the Science Park Amsterdam.
What is so special about this location?
I was for years involved in the development of the Science Park Amsterdam, a campus where the University of Amsterdam and the municipality jointly developed their property. A campus where education, research and knowledge-intensive business would settle and develop synergy. It is my conviction that a site where excellent students live and study has more to offer than the usual business parks.
The Science Park Amsterdam is not only attractive through the settlement of research institutes, science oriented companies and one of the most powerful internet hubs in the world. But also through the fact that a lot of bright young people live and study here at the faculty of Science or at the Amsterdam University College. Their proximity makes the difference.
Last year, I visited one of the participating research institutes, AMOLF who do for example research on solar cells in film. The director told me how happy he was with the presence of the students of the Amsterdam University College on Science Park Amsterdam. These students, while living on campus, are bringing in a lot of vivacity. Moreover, there are an equal number of female and male students, which is still rare in a beta environment. AMOLF didn’t have experience with internship of bachelors till recently. They expect however that they awaken a curiosity in these very motivated students that leads in to a possible future career in likewise institutes.
So much for the attractiveness of this Science Park. The question remains: Why do universities and a municipality that are nowadays confronted with austerity and severe budget cuts invest in the advent of the new institute to Amsterdam competing with Technical university of Eindhoven and Aachen in Germany? Why is it so important to bring in a company like ASML to Amsterdam and more specific to the Science Park?
Amsterdam, including its universities, will benefit from the new high tech institute associated to the ASML Company, not only for the 100 qualified scientists that will be appointed, but also because of its appeal to other companies. This spin-off effect is necessary as the Science Park has still vacant plots, due to the delayed development as a consequence of the financial crisis. Every new initiative that falls within the focus of the park will get a warm welcome to fill in the empty lots. Moreover it is of huge interest for Amsterdam to create jobs, to attract high potentials for the knowledge institutes and to strengthen the attractiveness of the city and its universities.
The new institute of ASML fits perfectly in the goal to enhance the interaction between research and business and to offer perspective for the future of the next generation.
The money is well spent!