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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.

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