Competitiveness of Dutch regions and sectors, 2010

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The main competitors of Dutch industry are primarily located in large, high-density regions with good national accessibility and international connectivity.

Competitor benchmark

To implement a successful policy to strengthen the competitive position of Dutch companies, it is important to monitor the performance of the Dutch regions at the international level, in particular with regards to agglomeration power and network position. PBL has investigated the competitive position of the Dutch regions and the business environment in these regions for each sector, based on 30 indicators that were benchmarked against 256 European regions (Raspe et al., 2012). Included in the comparison were European regions that compete with the Dutch regions in the sense that they have a strong export market overlap and aim to attract the same foreign investors. Because of the data available within Europe, this was based on the NUTS-2 level which, within the Netherlands, means the provinces. Where reference is made to regions, therefore, these are provinces in the Netherlands. The focus in the comparison is on the top sectors in the Bedrijfslevennota policy document (EL&I, 2011).
As it turns out, the regional scale is important for determining major differences in international competitive power within countries (Raspe et al., 2012; Thissen et al., 2011; Weterings et al., 2012). Properties of this scale level account for 70% of the spatial distribution pattern of foreign investors in Europe, and properties of the country scale for 30% (Weterings et al., 2012). The suggestion is often made that 'the Randstad as a whole' could be compared with regions with the largest agglomeration power. However, the density in the whole of the Randstad is no higher than that of the separate urban areas, and this density is particularly important when it comes to agglomeration benefits (Glaeser, 2011). Also, the Randstad still lacks mass compared with its major competitors (PBL, 2010). More importantly, however, the Randstad does not operate as a whole (Ritsema van Eck et al., 2006). In the Netherlands, the urban districts are more important economic entities.

Main conclusion

One of the main conclusions is that each sector in a region has different competitors and deals with these competitors differently as far as the business environment is concerned. However, some factors are seen again and again with relation to a good international competitive position. In particular, agglomeration power, mass and urban area density are strong characteristics of the most competitive regions. The same applies to good road and air connectivity. In other words, the main competitors of Dutch companies are primarily located in large, high-density regions with good national accessibility and international connectivity.
Comparing the agglomeration power of the Dutch regions with that of its main international competitors, agglomeration power in the Netherlands is noticeably lower. Dutch companies therefore lack a competitive advantage compared with their main competitors in other countries. The policy of urban concentration has had a slightly positive effect on the formation of agglomerations (PBL, 2012).
This makes the connectivity and the quality of the physical surroundings even more important. Connectivity between the Dutch urban regions, in particular with regard to the 'wings' of the Randstad, can help compensate for the lack of agglomeration power. Raspe et al. (2012) call this the 'borrowed size' strategy. High-quality physical surroundings are therefore an extra factor in ensuring an excellent international business environment (Weterings et al., 2011).


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Reference of this webpage

CBS, PBL, RIVM, WUR (2024). Competitiveness of Dutch regions and sectors, 2010 (indicator 2132, version 02,

) Statistics Netherlands (CBS), The Hague; PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, The Hague; RIVM National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, Bilthoven; and Wageningen University and Research, Wageningen.