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EBB for 30 April: Geert Wilders doesn’t care about ASML

(Editor’s note: Dispatches covers tech and business because so many of our highly skilled internationals are engineers and entrepreneurs. This edition of the Eindhoven Business Briefing covering the continuing ASML saga is part of our Tech Tuesday series.)

If you believe the local Dutch media, ASML executives have already decided to keep Europe’s most valuable tech company in Eindhoven.

They really haven’t.

Yes, ASML officials have said they’d like to keep facilities here and have agreed to work with Eindhoven officials to “investigate” whether Brainport Industries Campus near the airport could figure into ASML’s future.

Dig a little deeper, and you realize that two Dutch politicians have made that decision for them.

Geert Wilders and his Party for Freedom (PVV) won a plurality in last year’s election, but Wilders has so far failed to form a government. Though he’s walked away from the negotiating table, Pieter Omtzigt and his NSC party are key to Wilders forming a government and becoming prime minister.

Both Wilders and Omtzigt are ultra-nationalists, selling policies that any MAGA would love, including limiting immigration, cutting off tax incentives to foreign workers and maybe even leaving the European Union. Not exactly the political environment you want if you make the most advanced semiconductor technology on earth with the help of at least 42,000 highly skilled internationals representing 142 nationalities.

Wilders is fresh off a triumphant speech at CPAC Hungary, a far-right gathering in Budapest that included luminaries such as Hungary’s autocratic Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and American fringe extremist Jack Posobiec, who promises to “overthrow democracy.”

Themes of Wilders’ Budapest speech “seem to be a harbinger of what awaits Dutch politics in the coming years,” according to the Volkskrant.

The fact that CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference, is an American far-right movement that loathes collectivist Europe, and that Wilders addressed the group in English, seem to be lost on his acolytes.

At CPAC, Wilders attributed the PVV victory to “the rebellion of the Dutch people against the establishment.” An establishment that has, since World War II, placed the Netherlands among the most affluent and stable countries in the world.

ASML does finally have the attention of local and national officials, who seem amenable to the reality that Eindhoven has to up its game.

The Dutch government has thrown in 2.5 billion euros to fund a vague plan to do stuff that has been on the drawing boards for decades, including a bus station under the existing central train station. (We have no idea what the advantage is of an underground bus station.) For their part, ASML is going to hire 70,000 people. They’re going to acquire Brainport Industrial Park on the edge of Eindhoven Airport. The two parties even signed an agreement of intent to “investigate” the plan, which will be submitted to the city government in June.

Okay, it was a non-binding memorandum, but still.

The problem is, this ASML crisis started when Wilders’ Party for Freedom (PVV) became the largest party in the Dutch parliament. But Wilders is far from the only populist agitating to close the Netherlands. Eurosceptic politician Pieter Omtzigt has built his new party, New Social Contract, around the issue of the number of international students in the country and the anglicization of its higher education system.

Omtzigt’s goal: Dutch universities with Dutch professors teaching Dutch students in Dutch.

He is not alone in this sentiment.

Last year, Omtzigt submitted a motion proposing that Dutch should be the main language of instruction in Dutch universities, and it was overwhelmingly approved by the Dutch Parliament. Only the liberal D66 voted against it. Which is brilliant considering the global business world, engineering and finance speak English.

Omtzigt and his NSC party could be key to Wilders becoming prime minister.

“We’ll probably get a right-wing government, but not one that is pro-business,” said Rem Korteweg, a senior researcher at Dutch think tank Clingendael, according to Politico.

Yes, there are other issues factoring in to ASML’s decision to stay or leave, including Eindhoven’s lack of housing and a stressed transportation matrix, neither of which have quick fixes. But at its core, the ASML v. Eindhoven issue is about access to talent, specifically international talent. “If we cannot get the people here, we can get them in Eastern Europe, Asia or the U.S. Then we will go there,” said recently departed ASML CEO Peter Wennink.

Neither Wilders nor Omtzigt ever explain who’s going to do the work or pay the taxes once the internationals leave. The percentage of Dutch 65 and older is now above 20 percent. The problem is the percentage of the population of Dutch 15 and younger is only about 15 percent. That’s the making of a major labor shortage as people retire.

Does that sound like that an issue that’s going away?

Philips pays $1.1 billion to settle sleep apnea device case

Okay, you would think that handing over $1.1 billion, which even these days is a fairly significant sum, would be a bad thing. As it turns out, it is not.

The BBC is reporting that Philips settled lawsuits related to a sleep apnea device for $1.1 billion yesterday, 29 April. The company that begat ASML, Philips has had a tough run over the past few years, with multiple lawsuits over asbestos in its breathing device developed by its U.S. subsidiary

Last January, the Food and Drug Administration reported it had received 116,000 reports of problems, with 561 deaths linked to the devices. This settlement covers a class action lawsuit as well as individual personal injury claims in the U.S., according to the BBC.

In the announcement, Philips stated they did not “admit any fault or liability or that any injuries were caused by the devices. Which is baffling. The settlement was much lower than many analysts had expected, so the company’s share price rose more than 40 percent after the settlement was announced.

Now maybe Philips can go back to doing what it does best … creating the most advanced technology, then spinning it out into more ASMLs and NXPs.

Big events coming up

There are a number of big events coming up including:

Draper’s Silicon Spring Pitch Prize

LUMO Labs is rolling out what has become its signature event, a pitch competition for a chance to go to The Valley and hang out with entrepreneurs and billionaires who can help you build your startup.

The grand prize is five weeks – 24 June to 26 July – at Draper University’s Hero Training program in San Mateo, Calif., expenses and airfare paid.

They’re looking for software and smart hardware startups.

This five-week entrepreneurship program includes eight modules, numerous speaker sessions, workshops and team activities. The package includes flight costs, on-campus accommodation and co-working space in downtown San Mateo, California, USA. Value: $14.000. Offered by Draper University.

You can apply with by email. Send your pitch deck and motivation letter/video to: [email protected]

The application deadline closes Thursday, 2 May.

If you want to see the pitches, you can register here on Eventbrite.

Pitching Finals
13 May, 4 p.m.– 7:30 p.m. at the Conference Center
High Tech Campus Eindhoven
Submission deadline: 2 May

Fe+male Tech Heroes Conference: From FemTech Lows … to Glows

Christine Brown

16 May, 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. at High Tech Campus Eindhoven’s Conference Center. The theme for the fifth edition of the Fe+male Tech Heroes Conference is “From FemTech Lows … to Glows”

The release we got says, “Embark on a transformative journey through the dynamic landscape of innovation, equality, diversity and inclusion. From celebrating triumphs to tackling challenges head-on, we’ll explore the highs, lows, and everything in between. Get ready for thought-provoking discussions, groundbreaking achievements, and heartfelt stories that will inspire every tech enthusiast.”

We were at the Fe+Male Tech Heroes awards event back in November, and it was one of the best organized, emotional and interesting events we’ve ever attended. If this one is half that good, you won’t want to miss it.

For this event, the plenary program will include three keynotes, including one from Christine Brown, senior director, Development & Engineering at ASML. Christine was awarded Female Tech Hero of the Year at the awards ceremony.

There will be career workshops at the Conference Center, then the group goes on “tech safari” to innovation hubs around Campus for tech talks and demos. Networking activity/drinks/networking will be in the Summer Tent on The Strip. So yeah, it’ll be a party.

Tickets are 15 euros and you can get them here.

Open Day at High Tech Campus Eindhoven. Open Day is Saturday, 8 June. This bi-annual event opens the doors to Campus companies and to innovation hubs at Europe’s largest R&D campus, with lots of interactive displays, food and music. In 2022, we were there and the event drew 10,000-plus people. It rocked.

There’s no entry fee or registration. Just come.

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Co-CEO of Dispatches Europe. A former military reporter, I'm a serial expat who has lived in France, Turkey, Germany and the Netherlands.

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