EY - Netherlands Attractiveness Survey 2014 - Interview

Interviews

Netherlands Attractiveness Survey

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The Netherlands stable and strong EY annually surveys the attractiveness of the Netherlands as a country to invest in.

Over 200 decision-makers of international businesses based in or outside the Netherlands share their views of the Netherlands' attractiveness and their expectations for the upcoming years. The report includes recommendations on how to continue to attract and retain foreign investors. This year's theme is 'sustainable growth'.

Key findings

  • 2013 record year for foreign investment projects in Europe
  • 161 foreign investment projects in the Netherlands in 2013; same as in 2012
  • United States key investor in the Netherlands
  • Most investments made in sales and marketing facilities
  • Local employees' educational level considered key factor in the Netherlands' attractiveness
  • 50% of respondents regard the Netherlands as a country with the proper social and ecological sustainability institutions and policies.
EY - Barometer Nederlands vestigingsklimaat 2014 - Gauti Reynisson Gauti Reynisson
Founder and CEO of Mint Solutions Holland BV


“Attractiveness for start-ups Netherlands' greatest strength”
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    Our main reason for setting up here as a company from Iceland is that the Dutch market offers the best platform for our product.

    The product we offer is medication safety through IT technology. The high degree of automation in Dutch hospitals allows for the perfect infrastructure for our product, because all medication instructions are stored in computers.

    Apart from the attractive market, we had a few more practical reasons for launching our activities from the Netherlands as a start-up with international aspirations.

    Having worked here before, I knew the market and spoke the language. By the way, staff members who do not speak Dutch yet have not found it a real barrier to working and living here.

    The way I see it, the Netherlands' greatest strength is its attractiveness for start-ups. With the exception of the UK, other European countries don’t really seem to understand what start-ups need. Procedures are often elaborate and slow.

    I do see the high degree of employee protection in the Netherlands as a weakness. Hiring employees on a permanent basis is quite a risk for start-ups that have yet to become profitable. It might make us overly cautious, which goes against a start-up’s nature.

    Compared with Iceland, it's easier for us to gain access to capital of European investors here. That's part of the reason we've decided to definitely relocate our head office to the Netherlands shortly.

    We’re still in Almere more or less by chance, but I expect we’ll be moving to the Amsterdam region any time soon. Eindhoven is another option, given its high-tech climate, but it’s far from Schiphol airport.

    Whether sustainability plays a role in our corporate philosophy or in choosing the Netherlands? In all fairness, I can’t say it does. Suffice it to say that we want to help cut costs in healthcare by providing improved logistics and ensuring higher efficiency levels. Isn’t that a great role to play in society?

EY - Barometer Nederlands vestigingsklimaat 2014 - Maarten Camps Maarten Camps
Secretary-General of the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs


“Sustainable entrepreneurship is more profitable”


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    As a business location, the Netherlands has a solid reputation. Without exception, businesses cite the availability of highly qualified workers, with an excellent command of foreign languages to boot, as well as the creative and innovative mind-set of the Dutch.

    There is hardly ever any labor unrest, thanks to the consultative structures inherent in Dutch society. Also, the country’s strategic location and its physical connections with other countries are praised.

    Entrepreneurs’ views vary with respect to its tax climate, but they’re generally positive, although they wouldn’t mind having lower taxes. They often cite the high costs and degree of regulation in the area of employment as a less attractive aspect of the Netherlands.

    Entrepreneurs are clearly concerned about energy politics and energy prices. The latter point, incidentally, is not specific to this country. With shale gas now available at low cost in the US, energy-intensive investors are less likely to opt for Europe. Having said that, as long as the Netherlands is classed among the highest in most foreign investment rankings, we don’t worry.

    I sometimes wish I had a crystal ball, so I knew what the world would look like ten years from now. Unfortunately, we can’t tell now in which industries we’ll excel in ten years’ time. That’s not to say, though, that we don’t have ideas about it.

    We’ve joined forces with the corporate sector to press ahead in developing the smart industry, capitalizing on the trend in which an array of products will soon be connected to the Internet, so that they’ll be easier to use and more efficient.

    Interestingly enough, in the past, sustainability and entrepreneurship used to be regarded as opposites. These days, most people are convinced that the two are inseparable.

    Entrepreneurship without embedding sustainability into the corporate strategy and methods is an untenable position, eventually. It has meanwhile become clear that sustainable entrepreneurship can also be profitable - what's more, non-sustainable entrepreneurship is, eventually, not profitable.

    It is crucial that we don’t put up with complacency. We’ll need to keep innovating and remain agile, so that we can respond quickly to developments as they manifest themselves. The world will look completely different in ten years’ time, I can tell you that for a fact. I don’t need a crystal ball to know that.

EY - Barometer Nederlands vestigingsklimaat 2014 - Ratna Kroneman Ratna Kroneman
Partner bij EY Belastingadviseurs


”With our tax regime, we belong to the top worldwide”


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    If you were to ask me for my opinion of the Netherlands as a business location, I could sum it up in a single word: strong. The Netherlands has a solid tax regime that places it among the top worldwide.

    The country was the first to offer a participation exemption and – being a nation of international trade – has always been a frontrunner in concluding international tax treaties. As a result, the scope and quality of its current network of treaties are of an exceptionally high level.

    In terms of horizontal supervision, too, the Netherlands is a standard-setter. Other countries increasingly acknowledge that it’s useful to agree matters upfront, so as to avoid debates later.

    Although the Netherlands is a frontrunner in this respect, I do believe that the concept of horizontal supervision offers room for improvement. The Dutch Tax Office, the corporate sector and tax advisers have a joint responsibility in this area.

    The worst thing the Dutch government and politicians could do is rest on their laurels. I believe it’s crucial that we commit ourselves to an offensive strategy.

    The Netherlands must remain an attractive location for entrepreneurs, Dutch and foreign alike. That requires pursuing an attractive tax policy, which means that our government will need to keep up that policy in a competitive way, so that we keep our relative lead.

    Within that context, it’s a good thing that the Netherlands has clarified the rules that set out the substance requirements for foreign companies locating in our countries. Businesses that establish a presence here need to undertake real activities to be eligible for relief. This allows our country to bind companies that make real contributions to its economy.

    There are various tax incentives in the area of corporate sustainability, particularly in indirect taxation. Also, entrepreneurs may invoke our special Innovation Box relief scheme for sustainable development purposes. Sustainability is here to stay, so I would welcome having more tax incentives in this field.

    So, all in all, I’m positive – both about tax policies and about the Dutch Tax Office itself. I’m sure things go wrong every now and then in terms of practical implementation, but I venture to suggest that our Tax Office is among the best in the world.”

EY - Barometer Nederlands vestigingsklimaat 2014 - Wonder Wang Wonder Wang
CEO van Huawei Technologies Nederland


“Other countries try to unveil the secret of the Dutch success formula”


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    We came to the Netherlands in 2004 to launch our European operations. We didn’t make that choice for nothing - at the time, the Netherlands truly served as the gateway to Europe.

    We started out with five people in Amsterdam. By now, there’s almost 6oo of us in the Netherlands, and we keep growing.

    We operate in about 170 countries as a global corporation, so we’re in an excellent position to compare the business climates in those countries. The Netherlands stands out in terms of its innovative culture, which is very important for a technology company such as ours.

    It's not for nothing that we’ve set up one of the largest European professional service knowledge centers in the Netherlands; there's simply an awful lot of knowledge available locally. The knowledge center is the hub in the support we offer our corporate and private customers. It employs people of a range of nationalities, and they all feel at home in the Netherlands.

    Other strengths are the country’s excellent connections, its political stability, its tax climate and its very transparent policies. Also, the fact that sustainability is really a high-profile topic in the Netherlands is something that appeals to us.

    It is our international corporate philosophy that we work with local partners to launch win-win initiatives in the area of sustainability in every country in which we operate. Incidentally, we chose to set up our offices in the Netherlands because we wanted to be near our principal customers.

    Of course, our ICT products enable us to communicate very well across large distances, but we also have a strong belief in working together based on personal contacts.

    I would wholeheartedly recommend any business seeking to conquer the European market to start from the Netherlands, but I would nevertheless cite two points for improvement.

    First, I want to keep calling for transparency in decision-making about companies. I can’t help feeling that Chinese companies are sometimes at a disadvantage compared with European companies.

    Also, I would recommend the Netherlands to continue investing in the concept of being a gateway to Europe. Although the country still has a leading edge over other countries, I've noted that they are trying their utmost to unveil the secret of the Dutch success formula.

EY - Barometer Nederlands vestigingsklimaat 2014 -Patrick Gabriels Patrick Gabriëls
Partner, EY Accountants, and co-founder of Startupbootcamp HighTechXL


“The Netherlands could offer start-ups more incentives”


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    I dare say the business climate for start-ups in the Netherlands is excellent, hands down. We’re one of the leaders worldwide, for which we have our clear focus to thank.

    Eindhoven has an ecosystem in which high-tech start-ups thrive, Amsterdam houses the true creatives and everything related to software, Rotterdam brings together activities connected with water management and the port, while the nation’s south boasts chemical industries and smart materials.

    Attracting start-ups to the Netherlands not only gets you smart ideas, but also fresh talents. This country is in desperate need of talented technicians, especially the ones that have an entrepreneurial streak.

    Those types of entrepreneurs are totally averse to traditional business methods, and they understand full well that sustainable production is a precondition for survival in the long run.

    I know plenty of examples of such sustainable initiatives that multinationals have a keen interest in. If you manage to establish that link between start-ups and established corporations, the potential is huge.

    What we’re seeing in the Netherlands is that the collaboration between the government, knowledge institutions and the business community, the "triple helix", is much more effective than elsewhere. However, the country could devote more attention to attracting start-ups by offering them appealing incentives.

    A relief scheme such as the Innovation Box isn’t of much use to start-ups, really, if they’re in their early stages. Multinational corporations will benefit from a cut in profits tax, but start-ups do not make any profits yet.

    The limited availability of capital is another issue. A potential solution would be to have an investment model in which the government and institutional investors provide equity when private parties decide to invest in a start-up, the way it happens now sometimes.

    Conversely, my advice to start-ups would be: start connecting to external parties, go out there and look for investors and partners!

    Mind you, I can see why entrepreneurs don’t find it easy to grant investors a degree of control over their business. I always tell investors that it’s better to have a small stake in something priceless than to have a big stake in something worthless.