"Our company proves to be a good example for other Chinese companies looking to expand their business to Europe", says Oleg Zhao, General Manager of Seine, the EU Branch of Ninestar printers and printing supplies. With the help of Invest Utrecht, Seine set up a European distribution center in Mijdrecht in 2005. "As far as I know, we're the first Chinese enterprise that has set up a branch in the Utrecht region. By moving to Mijdrecht, I think we've made a smart choice."
Invest Utrecht helped Seine to set up business in Utrecht. "The geographical location of Mijdrecht is beneficial to us because ninety percent of our business concerns sea containers coming in from the port of Rotterdam. It was also imperative to be located near an airport for air shipments. Mijdrecht meets all of the requirements we've laid out for our warehousing and logistics needs", according to Zhao.
He continues: "The Invest Utrecht representatives assisted us in registering with the Chamber of Commerce, prepare European bank accounts, set-up a human resources department, and lots of other things. We developed a very deep relationship and they continue to help us. We're pleased to see that Invest Utrecht joined a business delegation to China, where they found time to visit our headquarters and discuss relevant topics with government officials, such as settling in Europe, getting the right resources and how companies and local organizations could support each other more."
Seine currently employs fifteen people. "We're developing our business step by step and are seeing that other Chinese companies follow suit and are thriving in Utrecht. It's good to have relationships with Invest Utrecht and other Chinese companies that allow us to share knowledge and expertise on how to do business here."
"In choosing a location for our new innovation center, we considered two options: the Netherlands or France. The Netherlands was the most attractive option for us, in particular due to the extensive knowledge network in the area of nutrition and health, which has led many prominent players within the care and nutrition industry to establish themselves here.
Utrecht is situated close to Schiphol and because we work closely with other R&D departments within Danone, including Paris, Singapore and Shanghai, this was a key factor. Additionally, Utrecht is a hub of international talent and the city offers a range of facilities that are specifically aimed at people who have come here from abroad. Furthermore, our new research team in Utrecht is creating fantastic ways to accelerate innovation."
"Invest Utrecht has opened doors for us, that otherwise would have remained closed. As an international company, you need local market access. Renting a suitable office is not a complex task to arrange from abroad, but establishing local business relations is", says Andreas Bruck, Head of Corporate Communications at Wincor Nixdorf, a leading provider of payment solutions in banking and retail. In 2013, the company opened a corporate office in Utrecht to boost their global software development business. More than 1500 software specialists worldwide are now being supervised from Utrecht.
"Our management board set the goal that the Utrecht office has to breathe a real software culture", says Bruck. "Of course, software development is not a novelty for Wincor Nixdorf, but traditionally we are seen as a hardware manufacturer. With this, we want to convey and express that we're also a strong player in software. But that requires a different culture: younger, less formal, with flexible working hours and little hierarchy. We also wanted to be able to attract new talent and exchange knowledge with companies in the region. Looking back, those targets have been met."
Around 100 people from 17 different nationalities are currently working in the Utrecht office of Wincor Nixdorf. Bruck: "Should specialists leave, we can quickly find international managers to replace them. It's a good thing to see the potential that we have here to get the right people on board."
"Invest Utrecht has provided great services by bringing us in contact with clusters of relevant IT companies and other German companies operating locally. In addition, they also helped us to build relationships with the University. They feel responsible for delivering good services to us. We have a contact person who has deep down knowledge of local terms and conditions and has an extensive network of relationships", says Bruck, who concludes: "We're pleased to operate in a highly international and attractive environment."
Bruck is confident that the Utrecht operations will prove its significance also within the future new Diebold Nixdorf company – a business combination which will bring two leading innovators in banking and retail technologies together in rapidly transforming industries.
“Invest Utrecht helped us to find the right location for our new manufacturing facility. In addition, they have also looked at subsidy opportunities and supported us in dealing with regulations. We are very pleased with this valuable, substantive cooperation”, says Kees Huussen, VP of Finance & Operations at Applied Medical, an international medical device company specializing in solutions for minimally invasive surgery.
Due to the close proximity to their existing European headquarters, Applied Medical decided to build their first manufacturing facility outside of the U.S. at the industrial estate De Wieken. Applied Medical chose the location with the help of Invest Utrecht and the City of Amersfoort. “Amersfoort is an ideal place for our business and team members for many reasons. For example, due to the central location and robust public transport, it is easy for our local as well as our international colleagues to travel to and from our headquarters. We also find that being based in Amersfoort provides us with access to the diverse, well-educated and international workforce that we need. Furthermore, our team members find Amersfoort and the neighboring cities to be very pleasant places to live”.
“From our Amersfoort office, we have over 120 team members supporting the needs of our customers and sales representatives across 14 European countries, as well as the Middle East. Our teams in Amersfoort manage a wide array of functions including, Sales, Logistics, Customer Service, Regulatory Affairs, Branding, Clinical Development, and Clinical Education”, says Huussen. “We are proud to have our European headquarters in Amersfoort and look forward to expanding our business and impact on healthcare with the support of Amersfoort city and Invest Utrecht”, says Huussen.
Gushen is a Chinese provider of soy protein and oil for food and a big international player in this market. Before deciding to opt for the Netherlands as a base for our new distribution center, the company looked at several other West-European countries, including Belgium, England and Sweden. The port of Rotterdam, the quality of the infrastructure and the fact that we already have a well-established client base here clinched the matter.
The reason we ended up in the Utrecht region has to do with the central location. It’s also very near to Utrecht University and Food Valley. We are looking into establishing a research center here in the not too distant future and we feel that we will have no difficulty in finding the highly trained staff we need.
Thanks to Invest Utrecht we feel at home here. Our contact at the agency speaks Chinese, which made a big difference. She also brought us into contact with a legal advisor and an accountant, and advised on office space. We’ve been in the heart of Amersfoort since mid-June 2014. Yes, I’m the only Chinese person working there at the moment. We want to recruit local people to help develop Gushen in the Netherlands".
"We are very enthusiastic about Utrecht. Its centrality is crucial as it’s very easy to get here from Schiphol. This centrality and ease of access is a big advantage, as it makes it easier for us to attract talent from other cities.
I am very pleased with the services of Invest Utrecht. My contact was responsive to the range of different questions I had. It’s great that Invest recognises all the surrounding aspects of running a business, such as family life. I’m really satisfied with the amount of information and attention that I’ve been given."
"The thing I like most about Invest Utrecht is that we run into them everywhere - at entrepreneurial meetings and business events for example. They are happy to introduce us to all kinds of interesting people", says Sjoerd Wennekes, founder and CEO of game and toy developer Monobanda Digital. "Therefore they're important in networking with parties that are of interest to us."
Monobanda Digital emerged from game development company Monobanda, which was founded in 2008. Two and a half years ago it was decided to split the company into two separate firms. This resulted in the birth of both Monobanda Digital and Monobanda Play. "These are two completely separate companies", says Wennekes. "We're physically at different locations, operate with different teams and develop non-comparable products. Monobanda Digital was created because we saw a big uptake in commercially-oriented projects in which we're developing games for a wider audience. After difficult internal deliberations, we decided that Digital will focus on this mission."
Since its founding, the company operates from Dutch Game Garden in Utrecht, which is home to Holland's most promising game studios. "We work with three people in our core team. Depending on projects, we hire extras on a temporary basis." Wennekes responds with enthusiasm when asked if he's comfortable with the Game Gardens location: "To be so near to an important train station, means this is a convenient location for us. Next to the luxury of nearby public transport, we are happy to hold office in the middle of the country. Our spin-off company Tovertafel ('Magic Table') demands that we deliver our computer tables throughout the country - in that regard Utrecht is a pleasant centrally based location."
Wennekes regrets that Utrecht suffers somewhat from an inferiority complex with respect to Amsterdam. "That's unnecessary. Foreign parties think anyway that Amsterdam and Utrecht form one city because of the short distances in the Netherlands. Fortunately, Invest Utrecht recognizes this issue and allocates resources to mitigate it. Most importantly, we would like to continue to grow in Utrecht. We're happy doing business here and look to a successful future with confidence."
"It is unique in Europe that the organizations responsible for establishing foreign companies in the province of Utrecht are working so well together", says Dominique Vandenberghe, Head of Quality at Cipla Europe. The worldwide pharmaceutical company was assisted by Invest Utrecht in their search for a suitable location for the construction of a laboratory for the European quality control of medicines.
"After we talked with the Utrecht Science Park (USP) about a suitable location, we came into contact with Invest Utrecht", says Vandenberghe. "They have helped us on multiple issues, especially with financial matters, such as applying for subsidies. Earlier we benefited from the efforts of the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency (NFIA). There is no region in Europe where there is such a smooth cooperation between national, regional and local institutions. I would like to challenge other countries to look closely at this fine Dutch example of cooperation between government, knowledge institutes and companies."
In Bilthoven, a town with an excellent infrastructure and a known global reputation in health research, Cipla built a lab in 2015. The site employs 15 people at the moment, but employment is expected to grow in the next five years with at least 50 to a maximum of 100 jobs, according to Vandenberghe, who was responsible for the establishment of the lab.
The quality lab tests drugs specifications. Each manufacturer with a factory outside Europe must have a relevant lab within EU-borders to operate within its market. Vandenberghe: "After evaluating different sites across Europe, Cipla chose Utrecht relatively fast, mainly because they best met the requirements. In the coming years we expect to continue to benefit from the relationship with Invest Utrecht - they keep our objectives well in mind at all times.”
"When we recently decided to move, we contacted Invest Utrecht to accompany this process. They've done a fabulous job", says Rodney Voogel, Country Manager Benelux at ASUS. The Taiwanese manufacturer of computers, computer equipment and mobile devices is based in Nieuwegein since 2002, but has grown to such an extent in the past few years that the need arose for a larger facility.
ASUS is currently busy finalising the selection for a new building in the city of Utrecht. Voogel: "We want to innovate as a business and radiate energy. In this regard Utrecht is a better fit. Invest Utrecht has presented several options to us, that proved to be very interesting opportunities straight away. Of course, we have also looked at other locations in other provinces, but these considerations quickly disappeared into the background because Utrecht offers us many advantages, particularly in terms of accessibility. Also the staff expressed their wishes to stay in the region. The good support from Invest Utrecht made the choice easy for us."
"The ongoing communication with Invest Utrecht is excellent,” says Voogel. "If you submit a question, you get an answer back quickly. That nurtures a cooperative relationship. We recently asked that we wanted to have additional options for the larger building, for example. In no time we got a response with possible appointment times for viewings. To us Invest Utrecht is a very pleasant partner to do business with."
ASUS is planning to complete their move to a new location in Utrecht during the first quarter of 2016. "We are the largest European office and therefore play a pivotal role. Our presence is growing and the company is rapidly becoming more mature. Last year we grew by 25 percent in the Benelux; we now have 60 high-quality staff, but that number will increase. For example, we recently moved the legal department for a large part of the continent to our headquarters."
The efforts of Invest Utrecht rolled out the red carpet in China for the Dutch company GreenPeak Technologies. "Utrecht’s provincial government representatives have been instrumental in opening up the Chinese market for GreenPeak", says Frans Frielink, VP Business Development at the worldwide operating manufacturer of semiconductors. Company employees of GreenPeak previously invented the WiFi wireless communication technology. The current Utrecht business is now doing the same for the so called 'smart home'”, says Frielink. "Without help from Invest Utrecht we couldn’t have been so successful in China in this new ball game."
GreenPeak builds the communication chips for commercial smart home consumer electronics. The company is also actively engaged in the emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT). "Our main market is the United States, which takes up 70 to 80 percent of our total sales. But besides the US we are increasingly active in China, where we are in business with the major telecom operators", says Frielink.
Employees of the company are more than pleased to work from Utrecht. Frielink: "The province is quite focused on the business opportunities for foreign companies that are situated here. Also, Invest Utrecht and partnering organizations are looking for opportunities that can make them more successful abroad.” In China, the province recently organized a round table in the Chinese city of Guangzhou with top CEOs of the country. According to Frielink such initiatives will eventually bear fruit. "This results in the fact that the Netherlands is increasingly perceived as a technological viable country by foreigners. Invest Utrecht is fully committed to this goal."
The acquisition of a company in the Netherlands can be difficult. Indian IT service provider Stellar Data Recovery experienced this first hand when it bought a datarecovery company in Utrecht. "As a Dutch manager, I was appointed in 2009 to make Stellar’s European ambitions a reality," says Kees Jan Meerman, Managing Director at Stellar Data Recovery Netherlands. "Although I’m familiar with the Dutch way of doing business, I was glad to be able to consult Invest Utrecht now and then, to assist with dealing with local regulations and housing foreign employees in this province. They can always help or refer you to the right organization, if necessary with a letter of recommendation. I’ve had helpful and pleasant experiences with Invest Utrecht."
"Together with the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency (NFIA) the services of Invest Utrecht were extremely important to build up our business," says Meerman. Out of Utrecht Stellar Data Recovery revives European consumers’ and businesses’ data from all types of media. "In addition to those offerings, as of recently we are also offering services for erasing data. This is a rapidly growing market which is becoming essential to us."
The Delhi-based parent company exchanges staff with the European headquarters in Utrecht on a regular basis. "It is enormously important to us that an unimpeded flow of knowledge and skills between the branches can exist. The Indian company invests a lot in us and thus makes the Dutch economy stronger. Yet there is growing need for simpler legislation for highly specialist workers. We suffer from this limitation, but the efforts of Invest Utrecht ensure that this issue is now being brought to the attention of policy makers in The Hague."
"We share the ambition of Invest Utrecht to put the Utrecht region on the map of biotechnology, anywhere in the world", says Roeland van Dam, CEO of Bilthoven Biologicals. "From the onset Invest Utrecht has established itself as a party that stands by its principles, in more than one way. They volunteered to develop plans where necessary, and have shown us how to tap into the resources of the Economic Board Utrecht. In addition, I maintain good personal relationships with Invest Utrecht’s management team."
Bilthoven Biologicals is not a new or recently established business in Utrecht. Prior to the acquisition in 2012 by the Serum Institute of India - the world's largest vaccine producer - the manufacturer was owned by the Dutch government, who decided that production of vaccines for children should belong in the public domain. Today Bilthoven Biologicals mainly focuses on the production of high-quality, yet affordable vaccines, used predominantly in the developing world in the fight against diseases like polio. Following the acquisition, the workforce of the Utrecht company doubled to a current total of about 400 employees.
Only recently, the site where Bilthoven Biologicals is situated, was acquired by the Indian mother company. Coming years the location will expand into a new science park, complementary to the existing Utrecht Science Park. “Thanks to the efforts of Invest Utrecht, we have already found a number of new companies to join us on this site and establish a business here. Invest Utrecht showed us that it is an organization with strong abilities and therefore a key player in the region”, according to Van Dam.
"The big advantage of being in Utrecht is that a number of major multinational companies have offices here. It’s an attractive prospect to be located in their neighborhood. Another key aspect is the high level of education of Dutch employees, as well as the fact that many of them speak several languages, especially in the Utrecht region. That’s a real help, given that our customers also have large numbers of non-Dutch-speaking staff.
Furthermore, our staff lives all over the country, and the Utrecht area is very central. Also, we are on the lookout for many highly-educated people, and plenty of those live right here. Our new office is on the edge of one of the country’s premier university cities — Utrecht."
"With Invest Utrecht we have maintained a long relationship that can be described as fruitful, even though we were already operating here before they were founded", says Edwin Groeneveld, Managing Director at Ubisoft Benelux & Eastern Europe. The French game developer is based in Utrecht for more than twelve years. "Should the opportunity arise to move, the company would prefer to remain in the region", Groeneveld says. "We have nothing to complain about, we're comfortable doing business here. Utrecht is the center of the Netherlands, and equipped with a more than decent public transport network. Also, there are plenty of fine restaurants and our international guests enjoy staying in the local hotels."
Groeneveld indicates that if, for example, the game company decides to open a development studio in the region, Ubisoft is likely to do business with Invest Utrecht again. "By that time, we may need a party that will show us the way, help us and support us if obstacles arise."
According to the director, Utrecht holds an important position in the entertainment world with many gaming start-ups active in the province. Still it is difficult to achieve international success with a small game company. "Therefore, I offered Invest Utrecht to help start-ups with our advice. Particularly in commercial strategy these talented developers are prone to mistakes."
Residing in two offices in the Netherlands and Belgium, Ubisoft Benelux currently employs 22 people in marketing, sales and finance. "We're currently adjusting our consumer approach by getting in touch personally with our audiences, instead of just selling games in both online and retail stores. Therefore, contrary to our early days, Ubisoft is now handling and processing massive amounts of data. We analyze data thoroughly to prepare for better-targeted campaigns", says Groeneveld.
Invest Utrecht, the Foreign Investment Agency of the Province of Utrecht is a one-stop shop for practical assistance and information services to help companies establish and maintain operations in Utrecht. We actively help foreign companies set up their business, but we also support the more than 900 foreign companies that are already established in the province. All our services are free of charge and confidential.
Have a look at the company profiles and find out more about the key players already doing successful business here.