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June 16, 2005

Brabant bound

Another day, another new European city-region. Yesterday I was in Breda, one of five cities in the south of the Netherlands that are joining forces (and 1.2 million citizens) to form a new entity, Brabantstad. The format of the day was interesting. Delegates were grouped into three blocks – investors/property developers; policy makers and city government people; and members of the “creative class”. The idea was to stimulate interaction among the three groups and thereby to foster a “Creative Revolution”in Brabantstad. Some policymakers were irked that the creatives seemed more interested in Brabant’s pigs, than in nanotech; we then debated whether pigs are a knowledge-based industry. Mind you, I don’t think my own first proposal – that Brabantstad should create large design-free zones filled only with free WiFi – was well-received by the developers. We did agree, though, that ‘creativity’ in abstract is a hard thing to implement. Rather than simply assert that it is creative, I proposed that Brabantstad should select an interesting aspect of daily life (such as food systems); commission collaborative, real-world innovation projects; and thereby create new domain knowledge that could be branded “innovated in Brabantstad”. This food-related proposal seemed to go down better. The lavish (and therefore most un-Dutch) lunch served at the conference confirmed my prejudice that the farmers and Catholics in the south of the country are more hospitable than their Calvinist neighbours to the north.

Posted by John Thackara at June 16, 2005 01:53 PM


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