An interview with Camille van der Harten, Director at GeoBusiness Netherlands.
Amersfoort is increasingly profiling itself as geo-city, which may have something to do with the presence of industry association GeoBusiness Netherlands, which settled in the Railway Station Area in late 2015. Its director, Camille van der Harten, and his team had set their sights on Amersfoort for some time. With a smile: “Well, what with Amersfoort being the geographical center of the Netherlands, it was a match made in heaven.”
“We love it here,” says Van der Harten. “It feels like a natural and logical business location. When we decided to relocate in 2015, Amersfoort soon proved to be our destination. There is quite a concentration of geo-related companies here, such as Royal HaskoningDHV, Arcadis, Sweco, Neo, Vicrea and, since late last year, a Geomaat office. In this building you’ll also find Geonovum, a government organization specializing in geostandards. It’s important for us to be around such organizations. Moreover, the authorities are also profiling Amersfoort as a geo-city, and we value their support.”
The geo-industry is flourishing in the Amersfoort region, says Van der Harten. “The nice thing is that the geo-industry is represented here across the board in all shapes and sizes, ranging from major engineering firms to companies that gather or apply information. We do sometimes daydream about an environment in which we collaborate with start-ups from this sector. This building, right opposite the railway station, would be perfect for that.”
A connective role
In 2007, GeoBusiness Netherlands arose out of a merger of the Geo-Information Business Platform and the Dutch Society for Geodesy. The association now represents the interests of well over 90 companies operating in this industry. Thanks to GeoBusiness’s connective role, these companies are now increasingly collaborating, aiming to improve their utilization of geo-information, increase their market volume and keep an eye on market forces.
Geo-information is everywhere and is increasingly being incorporated into modern technology applications. This is why Van der Harten thinks his discipline is “incredibly interesting.” “What’s special about it is that we make use of geo-information on a daily basis and that technology is making it up close and personal without people being aware of it. Geo-information is feeding many services in our everyday lives. In the old days you got your paper map out when you wanted to know where you were. Now you grab your phone to check GoogleMaps. There’s a lot of information that goes into feeding such applications: all roads must be digitalized, for instance, before you can have satellite navigation in your car. All intelligence involved, all mapping elements: geo-information required. All utilities we use: same story. Gathering and applying such information, that’s what geo-companies do.”
The industry has a specialist and innovative character, not in the least due to the many newcomers entering the geo-market, who are often operating on the interface of Geo and IT. Van der Harten: “It’s our challenge to include these newcomers into our federation, just like we’re seeking to conquer new areas of application, such as sustainable energy and new infrastructures.”
The Dutch geo-industry is certainly not lagging behind, Van der Harten hastens to add. If anything, it is running ahead of the game in many ways. “I always like to say that the Netherlands is the best-surveyed piece of land in the world. There’s a huge number of people in a relatively small area. This means you’ve got to be smart in how you handle space. We’re frontrunners in this field, just like we’re good at unlocking data. In showing how the corporate world, the government and science can collaborate, we’re putting up an example to many other countries.”