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08 June 2017
  • Impact City
  • Peace & Justice
  • Talent

The Hague has a huge appeal for innovative thinkers and doers

The Hague, the international city of peace and justice, has just about everything nearby – government agencies, commercial enterprises, international schools, knowledge intuitions, business centres and international organizations. So connections are easily made; it’s a place where you can readily expand your network and exert influence. Our close stakeholders give you an insight to why The Hague is this vibrant city to work and live in. First in line is Gideon Shimshon, director of the Centre for Innovation.


Where are we?

At the Centre for Innovation of Leiden University, the oldest university in the Netherlands. In recent years, Leiden University has relocated an increasing number of faculties and departments to Campus The Hague, including the Centre for Innovation. The Hague has become a lively student city attracting young people from across the world. Together with students, scientists and social partners, the Centre for Innovation works on digital and other solutions to various global issues. Parts of its facilities are housed in the ultra-modern new-build complex in the heart of the city, the Wijnhavenkwartier.


Who is our guest?

Today, we’re are interviewing Gideon Shimshon, director of the Centre for Innovation. According to Gideon, the Centre for Innovation has a much wider audience than the 3,000 students currently enrolled in The Hague: “Scientific communities are almost by definition international, if not global. Our centre connects 600,000 online students who, in one way or another, contribute to the research issues we’re working on. We establish connections between students, researchers and global challenges. There are only a few cities in the world where this is possible – New York, Geneva, Nairobi, Vienna and The Hague, places that host clusters of large international organisations.”

“Our Centre for Innovation serves 600,000 national and international students online.”

What makes the centre for innovation attractive for enterprises?

“It’s vital to attract talent to succeed. Organisations and companies must therefore seek out talent wherever it may be found. It might be interesting to note that this campus was set up 20 years ago by prof. dr. Jouke de Vries in The Hague as an annex of Leiden University. It’s where senior officials were educated in public administration, political science, law and governance. Now it’s the other way around – students and organisations are specifically attracted to us. The latest example of this is UN OCHA, which is opening a data centre in The Hague because – in its opinion – the city is where innovation thrives, it’s the place to be. The Global Innovation Conference organised here in the spring of 2017 by the World Food Programme is further testament to this. We have an excellent infrastructure, and the organisations, the students and the many expats all reinforce one another.”


How is The Hague’s Innovation different to that different to that of Silicon Valley?

“We know that Dutch innovation is valued as highly as the type of innovation coming out of  Silicon Valley. But there’s a fundamental difference, which is rooted in our origins. As we place so much emphasis on humanity and themes like peace, governance and justice, we always include these aspects when implementing new technology. We not only look for innovation because it’s technically possible, we also look at how it can be done responsibly.”


What is the Centre for Innovation’s level of ambition?

“The highest possible at the international level. It’s quite telling that an international diplomat like Kofi Annan graduated from The Hague Academy. In 2016, we welcomed 100 universities from around the world to brainstorm about the future of education. Guests included the presidents of Yale and Penn. It’s precisely that level of ambition that attracted the World Food Programme (WFP) to our city. In the past two years, we’ve launched projects with the WFP aimed at helping one million Syrian refugees living in camps in Lebanon. Software developed here is used to provide aid there, but ironically, it’s the type of news that never makes headlines. Even so, enterprises and organisations that are aware of what they’re looking for increasingly know how to find us.”

“It’s viral for organisations and enterprises to attract talent to succeed. A lot of that talent is right here.”

What can the city learn from the university?

“At the Centre for Innovation, we are strongly inspired and influenced by the UN Sustainable Development Goals. We want to help achieve these goals globally by 2035. The wonderful thing is that The Hague city council has decided to focus on this in its own urban development policies; in other words, ‘practice what you preach’. If you attract frontrunners, you want to be one yourself.”


If you would like to know more about The Centre for Innovation or what The Hague is all about. Please contact us.