Cahier 4: introduction

On June 17, 2011, a team representing the Life Sciences & Health sector presented a sector plan to the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation. This action plan addresses all stakeholders in this so-called topsector. In addition, the plan proposes a governance structure for the sector to which the High Profile Group (HPG) would give substance. In its bedrijfslevenbrief, the government reacted positively to the plan and committed to several actions. This cahier details the set-up of the Regiegroep, its way of working in the coming years, and the implementation of the first actions of the plan.

Life Sciences & Health topsector plan

Minister Verhagen launched the topsector policy in February 2011, identifying nine key sectors for the Netherlands and requesting plans to support economic growth and social progress from each. The Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation aims to use the plans to design its new industrial policy.

Life Sciences & Health is rightfully one of these nine sectors. In our opinion, it is one of the most important topsectors for society, and one with huge economic promise.

A “golden triangle” team – consisting of Roel Fonville (chair), Clemens van Blitterswijk, Roland Lageveen, Douwe Breimer and Paul Huijts – was asked to lead the development of the Life Sciences & Health topsector plan. The team gathered input from all corners of the sector, organizing discussions with companies, regional groups, academic institutes, regulators, interest groups, the HPG and more. The entire sector participated in the development of the plan. The resulting topsector plan is a detailed action plan that asks all stakeholders in the golden triangle (companies, (academic) institutes and government) to take responsibility for and make steps towards a stronger Life Sciences & Health sector that contributes to the improved quality and sustainability of healthcare. On June 17, 2011, the team – backed by the sector – presented its plan to Minister Verhagen, together with the eight other topsectors. A summary of the Life Sciences & Health topsector plan is provided in the appendix of this cahier. The full text is available at www.top-sectoren.nl (in Dutch only).

The government’s response

On September 13, 2011, the government responded to the nine topsector plans through a letter, the so-called bedrijfslevenbrief. Figure 1 lists planned actions of the government that are relevant for the topsector Life Sciences & Health. The government’s bedrijfslevenbrief is a constructive reply to the topsector plans. The planned actions of the government respond to many of the requests of the topsector Life Sciences & Health. And the execution of these plans will further strengthen partnership in the golden triangle. The Life Sciences & Health sector especially has much to gain from improvements in the legal and regulatory landscape. And in a time of public budget restrictions, this is one of the areas that can improve the competitiveness of the sector without large public investments. The bedrijfslevenbrief is clear in the government’s commitment to such improvements and the sector expects a lot to happen in the legal and regulatory area in the coming period.

The bedrijfslevenbrief, however, does not give body to the action plan of the topsector in terms of creating a strong, accessible (fundamental) knowledge base, and strengthening the shared public-private innovation infrastructure. Instead, the government announces that it will invest in the knowledge and innovation infrastructure of the topsectors through already existing budgets like NWO and TNO, but does not provide (preliminary) allocation procedures or commitments for each topsector. And without an alternative for previous FES (Fonds Economische Structuurversterking) financing, this represents a cutback. Furthermore, it remains unclear from the bedrijfslevenbrief whether developing aid budgets are accessible for Life Sciences & Health innovation activities – for example in the area of neglected diseases where large social and economic challenges in developing countries align with Dutch knowledge and entrepreneurial strengths. Decreasing public investments represent a large challenge for the sector in safeguarding its excellent knowledge base and innovation infrastructure. The sector, however, is committed to facing this challenge head on.

The Regiegroep evolved from the HPG

Since 2008, the High Profile Group has brought together leaders from the Dutch Life Sciences & Health sector to discuss and advise on the opportunities, hurdles and future of the sector. The HPG met several times a year and published its findings in “cahiers”. The first cahier introduced the HPG. The second cahier presented a vision for the life sciences and the public-private innovation infrastructure therein. The third cahier focused on value creation in the life sciences.

This, the fourth cahier, is the result of several meetings between the HPG and the team that led the development of the topsector plan. This cahier is one of the first results that spun out of the Life Sciences & Health topsector plan, and confirms the sector’s full support of the topsector plan. This fourth cahier represents the start of the Regiegroep for the topsector Life Sciences & Health.

The Regiegroep contains many changes in composition with respect to the previous HPG. Many new members have been welcomed. The Regiegroep wants to thank the departing members for their great contributions to the field: Hans Hoogervorst, David Nicholson, Jo Ritzen and Jan Zuidam, who left during the preparatory phase of the topsector plan about a year ago, and Paul Smit and Ton Rijnders who are leaving now.

The current members of the new Regiegroep are:

Rob van Leen – large industry, chair of the Regiegroep
Geert Blijham – university medical centers, practitioner
Clemens van Blitterswijk – scientist and entrepreneur
Jeroen van Breda Vriesman – health insurer
Fred Dom – small industry, entrepreneur
Henk van Houten – large industry
Paul Huijts – government
Len de Jong – small industry, entrepreneur
Eduard Klasen – university medical centers
René Kuijten – venture capital
Colja Laane – public-private partnership
Roland Lageveen – small industry, entrepreneur
Marcel Levi – public-private partnership, practitioner
Sijbolt Noorda – academia
Tom Oostrom – health foundation
Anton Pijpers – academia, veterinary
Joep Pluymen – large industry

The sector has taken a next step in its self-organization with the development of the topsector plan. The Regiegroep wants to contribute to further strengthening this self-organization, and will take a facilitating role. The Regiegroep calls upon all parties in the sector to work together on our joint ambition. Our interests may sometimes differ, but a strong sector will unite us. Together we care.