Keynote speech by Martijn van Dam, Dutch Minister for Agriculture, at the opening of the CSITF
20 April 2017, Shanghai
Click here for a plain text version of the speech.
Ladies and gentlemen,
First of all, I’d like to thank the Ministry of Commerce, the Ministry of Science and Technology, the State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO) and Shanghai Municipality for inviting me to deliver the opening speech.
Thank you, too, for hosting this special event.
It’s my first visit to China, but certainly not my last. I have been here for three days now. I’m very impressed by what I have seen so far. Both by your rich history and the impressive developments. I have had the honour to visit the great wall and I have met very inspiring Chinese entrepreneurs.
And now I have the honour to stand here on this exciting day, the start of the China Shanghai International Technology Fair. And being an engineer myself, coming from the region of Endhoven, one of the most important high-tech regions of Europe, I feel at home here.
This year, the Netherlands is the Guest Country of Honour.
The Dutch would be nowhere without innovation, driven by collaboration among companies, knowledge institutions and government.
We know how important the themes of this Fair are: innovation-driven development, intellectual property protection and technology trade promotion.
Without innovation, the Netherlands would be nowhere, literally. Seen from above, the Netherlands is like a human body, with its left side open to the ocean, its feet in the sea and its left arm stretched over its head, surrounded by salt water. Had it not been for strong dykes and large delta works, our country would have been swallowed by the waves.
Innovation lies at the heart of our existence as a small, but ambitious country. It’s how we came to be the world market leader in lithography machinery. But also the world’s second biggest exporter of agricultural products.
Open innovation between private and public partners, and scientific knowledge translated into tangible business results has been instrumental in this success.
Innovation can be the answer to societal challenges.
A current example of the synergy between science and business is space farming. It’s not about growing potatoes on the moon – though we wouldn’t say no to such a project!
The Dutch government recently financed a project that allows open data to be used freely for precision farming.
Farmers can use satellite data, for instance to measure exactly how much water their crops need. The satellites also collect data on changes in water quality and the environment. It’s stunning to think that satellites, circling the earth at a height of between 500 and 900 kilometres, can make a farmer’s job easier, more efficient and more sustainable. That’s why a Dutch newspaper called these farmers ‘space farmers’.
At the Chinese Academy of Space Technology, which I visited on Tuesday, they could see the connection between an astronaut’s job and a farmer’s job.
From outer space to the dinner table! This must surely be one of the most exciting examples of society-driven innovation.
The Dutch government believes that innovation is key to the challenges that all societies face: affordable healthcare, enough good-quality food, climate change, preserving the natural environment. We share this belief with China – that’s clear from today’s slogan: ‘Better technology, better life’. And from the great strides you are taking towards clean energy.
We also believe in open innovation. Knowledge is power, but sharing knowledge is even more powerful. It is key to real progress. Especially when it comes to agriculture and food production. Keeping the world supplied with nutritious, tasty, sustainable and healthy food is a huge challenge for us all. The solutions we find to issues like these need to be shared.
Let me give you one more example of Dutch innovation. All over the world, soil quality is threatened by salinisation. A Dutch company has found ways to breathe life into brackish soil by using salt-tolerant plant varieties. It has set up the Salt Farm Foundation, so that this innovation can be shared with countries that need it.
One of the dilemmas we face is wanting to harvest the fruits of the earth, without depleting the earth’s natural resources. That’s a dilemma in any country – including China, with its growing prosperity and the resultant pressure on clean air and water. Bringing together bright minds to study such dilemmas, and involving companies in the process, forms the core of society-driven innovation.
That collaboration is of utmost importance.
Take the Advanced Research Center Chemical Building Blocks Consortium (ARC CBBC). Scientists are finding ways to use CO2 in the production of sustainable materials, and to produce ammonia using cleaner technologies. An appealing example of how fundamental research can connect with companies for a cleaner future.
We all have to make the transition towards more sustainable agriculture and food production, and more sustainable technologies. With more room for open innovation. Let’s inspire each other in making this transition!
That is why it is important that China and the Netherlands continue working and innovating together.
I’m looking forward to Chinese and Dutch experts exchanging experiences during this fair.
The Netherlands is of course a very small country – China is over 200 times bigger! But we are a serious partner in the field of agriculture, chemistry and green technologies.
This year, we’re not only celebrating the 45th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the People’s Republic of China and the Kingdom of the Netherlands. We’re also celebrating our joint search for innovative solutions to the challenge of trying to be ‘more green’ yet produce enough food. Traditionally, the main focus of our food and agriculture collaboration has been on export. Over time, the Netherlands also set up centres to showcase Dutch innovations. And these days a third dimension has been added. We’re innovating together.
I’ve brought companies with me who can tell you themselves what they do in chemistry, green tech and agriculture, and what we can learn from them. You can find them at the Dutch Innovation Pavilion and at some of the seminars over the next few days.
We plan to come back on other missions, to discuss themes like agricultural waste management and clean energy.
For now, let’s exchange thoughts, enlighten each other and see how we can help each other move forward to a smart, healthy and sustainable future.
I wish you all a productive and inspiring Fair.