Eurocommissioner Thierry Breton at opening academic year:

‘Invest more in talent so Brainport can fulfil its potential for the Netherlands and Europe’

September 6, 2022

Eurocommissioner Breton: "Eindhoven is one of the best places to tackle the challenges Europe faces."

The panel discussion at the opening of the academic year, with event host Barry Fitzgerald (left), Philips Netherlands President Sylvia van Es, European Commissioner Thierry Breton, minister Micky Adriaansens, ASML CEO Peter Wennink and TU/e President Robert-Jan Smits. Photo: Bart van Overbeeke.

Yesterday, an exceptional line-up of speakers were on stage at the TU/e Opening of the Academic Year, including European Commissioner Thierry Breton, the Netherlands’ Minister of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy Micky Adriaansens and ASML CEO Peter Wennink. The speakers all lauded the ever increasing relevance of the Brainport region, amongst others for the realization of the European Chips Act. One of the main messages was that talent is key, and more investments in it are required to unlock the full potential of the Brainport innovation ecosystem, so it can deliver a maximum contribution to the Netherlands, the EU and societal challenges.

Thierry Breton. Photo: Bart van Overbeeke.

Technological sovereignty

The theme of the event was ‘Contributing to Europe’s Technological Sovereignty’. Robert-Jan Smits, President of TU/e: “The presence of Commissioner Breton, minister Adriaansens and CEO Wennink at our opening of the academic year shows not only the key role that the Brainport region plays at national and European level, but also underlines the important role of the TU/e to provide top talents to realize Europe’s ambitions.”

In his speech European commissioner Breton emphasized how strong the EU is: “We have so much strength and attractiveness and incredible assets”, said the commissioner. However, he said, Europe needs to be more self-assured, less naïve in defending its economic interests and values, and less dependent on other countries. Which does not mean Europe should become self-sufficient, he stressed. “Openness is in our DNA. We will never do everything on our own in Europe. But we need to achieve the right balance of power with other parts of the world”, he argued.

Also he stressed the need for solidarity in Europe. “There can be no sovereignty, without European solidarity. In the face of the challenges we face, we do better when we stand together.”

Dutch Minister Micky Adriaansens firmly agreed on the need to become less dependent on countries outside Europe when it comes to essential technologies, and just like Breton stressed the need “to find the right balance between openness where possible and protection where necessary.” Because, she said, the Netherlands profits from international ties, for example by attracting smart foreign students.

ASML CEO Peter Wennink fully agreed with the minister and the commissioner. “There can be no technological sovereignty without collaboration,” he said. “We need to work together. The manufacturing of chips demands it. It is mindbogglingly complex. There are just so many different companies, machines and experts involved to mass-produce chips.”

Minister Micky Adriaansens. Photo: Bart van Overbeeke.

Brainport, ‘a golden combination’

Wennink put the Brainport ecosystem in the spotlight as a shining example of the collaboration Europe needs, based on trust, transparency and willingness to share. “This kind of collaboration fits Europe like a glove. Brainport Eindhoven is an incredibly vibrant place,” he said. He also expressed his appreciation for TU/e. “I’m proud to say that Eindhoven University of Technology could and should play a model role for others in its ambitions and actions. Also the university is very instrumental in bringing together the region.”

Commissioner Breton called Eindhoven “one of the best places to tackle the challenges Europe faces”, and referred to TU/e-students as “Europe’s engineers of the future”. Minister Adriaansens hailed the Brainport collaboration as “a golden combination”, and “a leading force at international level” with “the successful collaboration between this university, businesses and the Eindhoven region” as a key success factor.

ASML CEO Peter Wennink. Photo: Bart van Overbeeke.


But if Brainport is to stay relevant, ASML’s Peter Wennink said, we need to look ahead. Given the unrelenting surge in microchip demand “we need to quadruple the inflow of engineering talent in the coming decade.” He called upon the Dutch and the European governments “to get into gear now”.

Commissioner Breton expressed similar thoughts on the pressing need to educate more engineers. “For Europe to achieve its goals, we need a lot of innovation and a lot of science. That is why we need a lot of engineers.” Also TU/e rector Frank Baaijens supported Wennink’s and Breton’s thoughts. “The next decade an estimated 70,000 vacancies need to be filled in Brainport, at all levels. But public R&D investments in Brainport are lagging dangerously behind, which may hurt the growth of Brainport.”

TU/e rector Frank Baaijens. Photo: Bart van Overbeeke.

Committed to contributing big time

“66 years ago, our university was founded because of the high demand for engineers in this region,” TU/e-rector Baaijens told the audience. “Today is no different. The scale-jump of Brainport urgently requires our university to grow. And just like 66 years ago, upfront investments are necessary to enable growth.”

“We are committed to contributing big time to the agenda of both the Netherlands and Europe,” said TU/e President Robert-Jan Smits. “That’s why we are making a case towards our government to provide us with the means to deliver, by growing in size and thereby making more talents available. Not only will this help make the most out of the region's great economic potential, it is also an investment in technological sovereignty.”

Media contact

Ivo Jongsma
(Communications Adviser)

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