The 9th International Advisory Board (IAB) Conference took place on 19, 20, 21 May 2015.
We are all aware of our changing environment. Current trends drive profound changes in political, economic, societal and organisational systems. The world’s population is growing rapidly and massive urbanisation is tipping the balance on the way humanity has up until now inhabited this planet. The consequences of climate change are manifesting themselves. It is clear that we are in the middle of another industrial revolution, driven by these trends and by ongoing digitization and technological advances. It is also clear that our existing systems and structures are not geared towards dealing with this latest industrial revolution. This ‘Next Economy’ calls for ‘Next Cities’ and calls for governments, businesses and societal structures that are much more flexible and resilient than the rigidity of existing systems allows. Just like the rest of the world, Rotterdam faces the challenges presented to us in this next economy. However, Rotterdam also happens to be one of the best-placed and bestequipped cities to take on these challenges and turn them into opportunities, provided we move ourselves into a leading-edge position to take the most advantage.
Rotterdam has an enviable natural delta position with world-class state-of-the-art port facilities. The largest challenge for humanity in the coming decades will center around the three most important basic needs of people: food, water and energy. These three basic needs translate into major global sectors that provide these basic needs to people. Rotterdam is unique in the world in that it happens to be world-leading in these three specific sectors, supported by world-class logistics to enable distribution of products, services and the sharing of knowledge.
However, these three sectors are still for a large part producing and functioning according to the existing systems and being supported by the old structures of government, rules and regulations. Rotterdam and the Netherlands can boast many major innovations in the fields of food, water and energy, and the companies and main actors within these sectors are very aware further innovation is needed. However, rapid progress towards making the most of opportunities provided by the next economy is imperative. Government, businesses, science and the educational sector, and citizens need to work closely together to make this happen.
Rotterdam is well underway to realising this potential, but speed and focus are needed by its key players. Rotterdam has a strong and diversified economic base well positioned for the growth and connection of the sectors food, water and energy. Rotterdam has a strong knowledge-base and a flexible and resilient attitude within its people. Rotterdam has strong networks that it needs to know, be aware of and interconnect so they can build on each others’ strengths. Rotterdam has a very young and creative population: a new generation that needs to be challenged and encouraged in experimentation, inventing and entrepreneurship.
The members of the IAB were impressed by the tangible progress of all the physical changes in the city, and were particularly inspired by all the activities and initiatives they found at grass roots level in the neighbourhoods. The overall conclusion is that Rotterdam has real treasures, real dynamics and vibrancy and real sources for growth and progress available within its population. In short, Rotterdam has everything it needs to be a leading discovery city.