An interview with Geert Lenders, General-Secretary of Brabant C. (This interview is part of Projeto NAVE, in partnership with Orbe, an initiative to create innovation between the Netherlands and Brazil.)
BrabantC is an investment fund focused on culture and the Creative Industries, and one of the main institutions supporting the Dutch Design Week 2017. The region of Brabant is known as being the European heart of smart solutions and its capital Eindhoven is the headquarter of the biggest design event of Northern Europe. Please visit www.brabantc.nl.
Could you define Dutch Design, or what you think are the main characteristics of Dutch Design?
Lenders: ‘For me, Dutch Design stands for a certain playfulness; a playfulness, one could say, that can go so far that it starts undermining the usefulness of the product. Dutch Design is leading when it comes to conducting research, and in finding new ways to do things. It is very broad, both in terms of material and appearance.’
What is the role of Brabant in the Dutch creative industries, and how does it relate to the other provinces of the Netherlands?
Lenders: ‘It is my understanding that Brabant is the focal point within the Dutch world of design. Of course, a lot is happening in the country, also in the Randstad, but because of the Design Academy Eindhoven and the fair amount of ‘spinoff’ companies around it, I think it is fair to say that Brabant is the place where the concentration of creative companies is very high, and where a lot of ideas and developments originate from.’
Do you know how foreign creative companies look upon the Dutch creative industry, what kind of stereotypes – if any – exist, and what Dutch creative companies can do to overcome those stereotypes?
Lenders: ‘Well, what surprised me about a recent application we had at BrabantC, is the fact that the conceptual aspect of design is out there (see the answer to the first question), while at the same time, the usefulness of the product remains somewhat on the insufficient side. I think that in general, the research mentality of Dutch creative companies is striking, but it also comes with the consequence that it often proves to be difficult to find a big market for the products they deliver. The innovation is there, no doubt, and a huge amount of exciting things happen and are being conceived and invented. This is their strong point, but they aren’t as good in bringing their product to the market and earn money with it.’
So, what you are saying is that a lot of wild ideas are conceived in the initiation phase, but the realization of those ideas is something else entirely?
Lenders: ‘No, those wild ideas come a long way. A lot of things happen, get refined and become a final product. But the image that persists is that the innovations, inventions and creativity, are validated more easily by foreign companies than in the region – in this case Brabant – they originate from.’
Would you say that this is something foreign creative companies are aware of and which they capitalize on or anticipate to?
Lenders: ‘I don’t know, but what I do think, is that foreign creative companies could create a very strong alliance with the creative companies in Brabant, because the content created in Brabant is of such a high level. This content is what other companies need, of course, to run a successful business, and I believe that is what foreign companies, or companies outside of Brabant, are better at. And I think that within that combination, both foreign and Dutch companies could mean a lot to each other.
The interview was conducted by Jay Plaat, one of the collaborators of Borda. Jay holds a BA in Cultural Studies and an MA (cum laude) in Creative Industries. An arts and culture devotee, specialized in film and currently writing about film for online cultural magazine 8WEEKLY. In the past, he has written about art for Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant.