Trade Missions Seek Mutual Profit

The Netherlands aims to be an Internet gateway for Russia, providing a high-bandwidth route over which scientists and researchers could collaborate on data-heavy projects. It's just one of the industrial sectors that Dutch delegations are promoting during their visits to Moscow and Kazan.

About 80 companies are joining the delegations, mostly from the sectors of aviation, energy, healthcare, innovation and sports infrastructure.

Already in this bilateral year business people have used key events, such as the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum to meet their counterparts and Russian ministers. These, so-called 'peak moments' also included the Golden Autumn agricultural exhibition at VDNH in Moscow. And this November sees another attempt to cement business ties, coinciding with the official closure of the bilateral year.

Russia and The Netherlands established a Joint Economic Commission, consisting of working groups for the different sectors, which is the framework for future contacts and exchanges at government level. The latest working group, on innovation, was established at the SPIEF in June 2013.

Another vehicle of Dutch economic diplomacy is Partners for International Business or PIB. Jointly financed by government and industry, it brings together groups of companies in the top sectors such as agriculture, chemicals, creative industries, energy, technology, life sciences and health, and logistics.

In aviation, for example, Dutch companies want to help modernize and maintain aviation equipment, contributing to better safety. In the area of innovation, they want to link with innovative regional clusters in Russia, as well as Russian organizations such as Skolkovo Innovation Center, The Russian Venture Company and Rusnano. On the Dutch side, parties include the Association for Applied Science (TNO), and the Association of Dutch Universities.

One aim is to help Russia profit from the knowledge of its researchers in ICT, chemistry, mathematics and physics: turning knowledge into applied science, and to commercialize it using different financing mechanisms, from grants to public private partnership.

Amsterdam has launched itself as the Dutch Gateway To Europe and the hub of the country's ICT sector. Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology and SURFnet are working on establishing a high-bandwidth connection from Skolkovo and Moscow to SURFnet, linking Russia to NetherLight in Amsterdam.

This would allow Russian and Dutch scientists and academics to collaborate even on data-heavy projects, such as the genomics research between Skolkovo, Groningen University and the Vavilov Institute of General Genetics in Moscow.

In the health sector, medical equipment makers are looking for contracts. Dutch delegations are also focusing on financing the conversion of research into manufacturing, in both Kazan and Moscow.

The search for profitable partnerships flows both ways. The Russian Software Developers Association, Russoft, this year opened an office in The Hague. The Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency is the first port of call for Russian companies looking for Dutch opportunities.

Interview With Minister for Foreign Trade & Development Cooperation, Lilianne Ploumen

What proportion of total Dutch trade is with Russia?

Russia is our third largest trading partner outside the EU, after the U.S. and China. In 2012, our imports from the Russian Federation amounted to 20.3 billion euros, 5.2 percent of our total import volume. In the same year, our exports to Russia were worth 7.1 billion euros, 1.7 percent of our export volume.

Which new sectors are most promising and offer scope for developing trade?

Traditionally, sectors like energy, agriculture and logistics have been the backbone of our bilateral trade relationship. While I see plentiful opportunities for increased trade and investment in these sectors, they can hardly be called new. Of course, developments in the life sciences and health sector are very interesting. Both Russia and The Netherlands invest a great deal in health care, creating ample opportunities for the business and knowledge communities to get involved.

With numerous major international events on the horizon, infrastructure is firmly on the agenda in Russia, with many Dutch businesses getting involved in activities ranging from dredging and water management, to stadium architecture and engineering. In this regard, Dutch companies are eager to contribute to the preparations for the World Cup 2018. Companies as diverse as Amsterdam ArenA  in stadium advisory, Philips in lighting, and AkzoNobel in paint are already putting the experience gained in the run-up to the EURO 2000 championships to good use in Brazil, where the World Cup 2014 will be held.

Aviation is another promising sector. Many airports in Russia are in the process of being upgraded and expanded and attention to aviation safety issues seems to be increasing at a rapid pace. Last but not least, I would like to point out the huge potential for increased cooperation in knowledge and innovation.

What is special about this particular trade mission?

We have been able to bring together an extraordinarily strong business delegation of over 50 companies. Together they represent the best of what the Dutch economy has to offer. They are all entrepreneurs who see opportunities in Russia and who want to invest in even better trade relations. To me, the most interesting element of this particular economic mission is that we visit the Russian Federation with four strong clusters of companies and knowledge institutions.

In all four focus sectors (energy, aviation, life sciences and health, and sports infrastructure) of this mission, companies and knowledge institutions have decided to approach the Russian market as a cluster, with support of the Dutch government. In our experience, arrangements in which business, knowledge and government work together — referred to in the Netherlands as the 'triple helix' model — often yield excellent results.

Interview With the Minister for health, Welfare & Sport, Edith Schippers

How extensive is the health business between The Netherlands and Russia, do you have figures?

There is an intense relationship between partners at government level and also between knowledge institutions and businesses; exact figures are yet not available. Depending on the definition it is between hundreds of million euros and a couple of billion euros.

What makes the Russian health sector so promising for Dutch companies and why should Russian institutions be interested in working with them?

The Russian Federation is pursuing the Health 2020 strategic plan which attaches great importance to innovation in healthcare infrastructure. Therefore I'm very excited to head a mission to Kazan that includes a large number of Dutch companies that provide the most innovative solutions for health care development. The life sciences and health sector brings plenty of opportunities for Russian-Dutch partnership. Already, investments in Kazan cover equipment such as high-tech ambulance systems and new medical centers. There are possibilities for creating medical training facilities to link Dutch and Russian universities in the fight against cancer. Another very promising development concerns initiatives to blend healthcare and I.T. This so-called e-health ensures that more can be done with fewer medical staff and ensures better patient involvement. For example, people with chronic conditions are able to actively continue their working life in society through self-management on the spot, supported by nurse practitioners. It is innovative solutions like these that can provide answers to the challenges people in both Russia and The Netherlands face.

What is the most important aspect of the trade mission?

In April 2013 my Russian colleague, minister Veronika Skvortsova and I signed a memorandum of understanding with a focus on cooperation in relevant areas such as mother and child care and infectious diseases. I feel confident that from now on, business communities and knowledge institutions will use these opportunities to start or intensify bilateral contacts. This facilitating role is precisely the added value a government can have in economic cooperation between Russia and The Netherlands.

Russia - Holland 2013
Russia - Holland 2013
The Moscow Times is releasing its new "Russia - The Netherlands 2013" supplement, dedicated to economic and cultural cooperation between the two nations. The current edition is published in partnership with the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
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