Investing in top sectors

Investing in top sectors

Agri-food, Horticulture and propagation materials, High Tech, Energy, Logistics, the Creative Industry, Life sciences, Chemicals and Water. These are the sectors in which the Netherlands excels globally and are a government priority. Another area of focus is head offices.

Top sectors

All top sectors have a strong international position. Industry and science share a wealth of knowledge and jointly develop innovations.

Products and technologies produced by these top sectors contribute to finding solutions to societal issues. The food and horticulture sectors for instance invest in developing healthy foods for consumers. This will help reduce healthcare costs and absenteeism rates.

The first nine sectors were established in the ‘To the top’ policy document (in Dutch). The head offices theme added later. The establishment of head offices in the Netherlands helps sustain the country’s strong economic profile, and it also creates jobs, which makes it important for all top sectors.

Focus on challenges and opportunities in each sector

Each sector has its own challenges and opportunities. Take for instance the port of Rotterdam and Schiphol airport, both working hard to stay ahead of other ports and airports competing in the global logistics sector.

Businesses in the creative industry excel in designing and producing art, music, buildings and games. But there is unexplored potential in marketing these products. The food and horticulture sectors aim to expand their international positions. The energy sector sees opportunities in the development of renewable energy sources.

Action plans

The top sector approach is geared towards providing a solid exchange between businesses, knowledge institutes and the government (the ‘golden triangle’). The government does not make its own proposals for the sectors, but invites businesses and scientists to draw up action plans.

A top team has been put together for each sector, consisting of:

  • an innovative SME entrepreneur ;
  • a scientist;
  • a civil servant;
  • a standard bearer for the sector.

The top teams talked to businesses and scientists and HCG Diet mapped out the various opportunities and challenges. They presented action plans detailing their ambitions, what they advise and a plan of approach. The government responded in its policy document ‘To the top: towards a new enterprise policy’ (in Dutch). The top teams are now fleshing out the plans into concrete lines of action.

Key points and plans

Items that will be dealt with in all plans:

Knowledge and research

Knowledge must be converted into new products and services faster. This can be achieved if businesses, the government and knowledge institutes step up cooperation. They can bundle specialist research. For this there are plenty of opportunities. Institutes like the NWO (the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research), KNAW (the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences), TNO (Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research) and the large technology institutes are adjusting their programmes to the top sectors. NWO approves research proposals based on scientific criteria and assigns resources to the various plans in collaboration with the top teams.

Foreign policy

The objective: to support top sectors through Dutch foreign policy. The top sectors will be the focus of economic diplomacy for instance, or foreign missions, or proposals to involve businesses in development aid. Moreover, efforts will be made attract foreign companies and top talent to the Netherlands.

Conditions for the sectors
The objective: to remove as many obstacles as possible in areas such as tender regulations, healthcare regulations, spatial planning, infrastructure and tax schemes.

Education and training

The objective: to improve education and training. For instance through exchange programmes between schools and businesses, or by closing the gap between education and the needs of industry. Professional training institutes and the industry could work together in defining educational needs for instance. Or schools and institutions in professional education could be challenged to specialise in a particular sector through Centres of Excellence and Centres for Innovative Professionalism.


The objective: to make sectors more sustainable. The transition to a bio based economy is an important theme for the top sectors to stimulate innovation and economic growth.


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