First published in AMS business magazine. Author: Rijk van Ark

In April 2016, the European Commission awarded Amsterdam with the iCapital award, declaring Amsterdam the European Capital of Innovation for the following two years. For us at Economic Affairs, the award is an official acknowledgement of the fact that Amsterdam is well-known worldwide for being a creative, innovative and international business hotspot that serves as a gateway to Europe. But the city, and its greater metropolitan area, has another lesser-known strength: it is also one of the top knowledge cities in Europe. Surely Amsterdam is home to a thriving ecosystem of innovation that creates jobs, attracts talent and feeds entrepreneurship. But what makes this city unique is that this ecosystem is powered by a close collaboration between world-leading universities, scientific and corporate research institutes and the many local science-based entrepreneurs and innovators. Thousands of people work on innovations and technologies here, with the aim of helping to solve modern-day challenges.

Amsterdam as urban lab

Building on its scientific strengths, Amsterdam has an asset that is hard to emulate elsewhere: it is an ideal testbed for new technologies and innovative ideas. The Amsterdam area makes a great living laboratory due to its compact size, extremely diverse population (Amsterdam residents have 180 different nationalities) and many ground-breaking spaces for collaboration. The innovation process is guided by a set of principles. These include openness, pragmatism, agility and embracing diversity. These are principles that all stakeholders – from researchers and scientists to businesses and the City of Amsterdam – work together to realise. With innovation in the city’s DNA, Amsterdam is flexible and creative in how it deals with the challenges it faces. Researchers, scientists and the City of Amsterdam all work together to find innovative solutions for these challenges

Amsterdam is the perfect place to employ scientific experimentation to build on our knowledge and generate new ideas for the market place. Our region is increasingly able to translate science-based solutions into practice, and to do so quickly, thanks to the outstanding infrastructure that the city provides to its startups and spin-offs. The city also benefits from its proximity to other major Dutch knowledge cities, such as Rotterdam, Delft, Eindhoven, Utrecht, Leiden and Wageningen – all of which can be reached from Amsterdam within 90 minutes of travel time. The combined research enterprise of the larger Randstad area is formidable, rivalling that of the world’s largest metropolises, such as London or Tokyo. According to a 2015 study by Elsevier and the Urban Innovation Network of 11 European cities, called ‘Mapping Research and Innovation: Understanding Amsterdam’s Competitive Advantage’, Amsterdam’s per capita research output is second only to Copenhagen, and the relative impact of its research is the highest. This enables Amsterdam to attract both young knowledge workers who want to live in a highly educated, collegial city and companies that are seeking to employ that talent.

Amsterdam’s most exciting science

This AMS Knowledge Special highlights some of the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area’s indisputable scientific strengths. It looks at Amsterdam’s contributions in information technology and computer science, life sciences and health, as well as nanoscience and (other) green sciences. The final section in this Knowledge Special illustrates several ways in which the city functions as an urban laboratory by singling out initiatives such as Amsterdam Smart City, the Amsterdam Institute for Metropolitan Solutions (the other AMS), the Knowledge Mile and Amsterdam Water Science.

Highlighting some of Amsterdam’s greatest assets in knowledge, science and innovation illustrates why Amsterdam has become a prime destination for companies seeking to test their innovations as well as do scientific research. For research institutions and knowledge-intensive companies wishing to build upon those strengths, Amsterdam’s scientific and knowledge community welcomes all opportunities to leverage these assets through co-operations and partnerships with stakeholders in Amsterdam, the rest of the Netherlands and abroad.