Holland Gets Talent

Sarah Greaves ,

Tegenlicht follows two young entrepreneurs to Shanghai where they have spotted a gap in the market and started an agency to select highly promising students in Shanghai for a research position in the Netherlands.

In the Netherlands there is a shortage of highly skilled talent for specialised jobs. Both universities and companies that thrive on innovation (like ASML, the company that controls 80% of the market in the machines that produce the ever smaller chips that go into our iPhones and computers) need more technical researchers than are currently available in the Netherlands. This is not just a problem in Holland but part of a wider global issue.

Tegenlicht follows two young entrepreneurs to Shanghai where they have spotted a gap in the market and started an agency to select highly promising students in Shanghai for a research position in the Netherlands. In a time of serious financial crisis and cut backs in many areas of daily life, there is money available to take new talent into PhD and postdoc positions and hone them for work and life abroad.

However, this talent recruitment comes with many problems for the candidates and the receiving institutions. The students are thrown into a new and alien culture and must learn to integrate. Some are more able to cope with these changes but language challenges and family obligations present many barriers to these new opportunities.

From a business point of view, employers and professors are looking for candidates who are innovative and who can think creatively. They are not simply looking for expertise on product development, they are striving for new inventions. Although these candidates are highly specialised in their fields, some of the ways in which they have gained their skills have stiffled their creative thinking.

Moreover, the competition from well-known American and British universities is fierce and the political climate rather inward-looking. Highly skilled migrants find it difficult to get residency for their partners and people fear foreign researchers come over to steal ‘their’ knowledge. The idea of a ‘brain drain’ scenario (where talented people leave their country to utilise their skills elsewhere) is still more prevalent than that of ‘brain circulation’ ( the opposite effect of the brain drain situation).

What investment is needed now to keep up with international knowledge competiton and what is the actual economic value of this knowledge? How can the Netherlands continue to attract a highly skilled work force? Tegenlicht takes a look at just some of the problems facing universities and innovative industries in Holland in their continued search to stay afloat and keep up with modern trends and technological advancements.