Improving the accessibility of the Northern Netherlands is a tremendous step forward for our region. But our success does not depend solely on a Lely Line or a Lower Saxony Line. Above all, our success is managed by ourselves.
Connect. That is the magic word for the future of the Northern Netherlands. Or Northern Netherlands, as the recently published brochure "Building Blocks for the Delta Plan" talks about. That brochure by the four major northern cities and the four northern provinces contains good recommendations for strengthening the economy and livability of the North. Unfortunately, here and there the brochure is flattened into a vulgar barter: build the Lely Line, and we will build houses.
We should pay much more attention to increasing the economic opportunities caused in part by the construction and improvement of rail lines. These are not only opportunities for the Northern Netherlands, but also potentially major contributions to the economy of the whole country.
First of all, let us see the term Delta Plan as a growth plan with the Power of the North. So not as a plan that insinuates that the Northern Netherlands must be saved from destruction, and that that rescue must come from outside. It's not like that. Above all, we have to do it ourselves. With the Power of the North, we can. We can strengthen ourselves considerably by focusing on promising projects.
Not that we should jettison infrastructure improvement - the main theme of the Northern Dutch brochure - of course. The construction of the Lely Line and the Lower Saxony Line, as well as the improvement of the existing track, undoubtedly have a beneficial effect and a positive business case. A better connection with the rest of the Netherlands and Germany results in better utilization of the economic growth potential in the North, in addition to alleviating the housing challenge in the Netherlands. In short, investments in the Northern Netherlands are not only good for the North. They contribute to the economy of the entire country.
Better accessibility should be seen as a useful contribution to, not a prerequisite for, the economic progress of the Northern Netherlands. Nor will that come naturally; we have to work for it. Routes like the Lelylijn remove the bumps that still exist. But behind those bumps is plenty of activity. We in the North would do well to increase that activity ourselves, so that the better connections have all the more effect.
Connecting is what the Northern Netherlands must also do among itself, and not only by rail. Economic initiatives gain strength when taken together. We need to throw energy into it, make investments, be ambitious, strengthen ourselves and see the better accessibility with the rest of the country as support. We do this best by being cohesive.
Enough is already happening in the Northern Netherlands that can be considered a good example. The brochure already lists many sectors in which we are good and the opportunities even better: energy transition with a focus on hydrogen technology; medical technology, green chemistry and healthy ageing; smart and circular (manufacturing) industry; the circular economy; production of healthy food; safe water. Please, that's a list to be proud of.
Let me pick out a few. Startup culture is thriving here like never before, thanks in part to an extensive network of incubator facilities, which we could do a little better at tying together. With Amsterdam and Eindhoven, Groningen is among the top of the Dutch startup scene. With a sophisticated financial instrument, we can strengthen incubator facilities in Leeuwarden, Delfzijl, Groningen and Emmen and, as the Northern Netherlands, contribute even more to the national task of helping the companies of the future.
The greening of chemistry is rising to great heights in the Northern Netherlands. With Chemport Europe as our flagship, we have been able to work together, first in our own region, but now increasingly beyond. We are among the frontrunners in this part of the economy that will become increasingly important in the future and are therefore able to contribute much more than our Gross Regional Product would initially suggest.
Another wonderful example of joining hands is Fascinating. In the search for the food of the future and its cultivation, government, knowledge institutions and industry are working together in an unprecedented way.
The Northern Netherlands' position in the digitization of SMEs is definitely an important one. We are proud hosts of a Smart Industry Hub. A European Digital Innovation Hub is in preparation. We also occupy a prominent place in the Dutch AI coalition. Hundreds of companies are now active in these partnerships. That says a lot. They are collaborations on a regional scale with a national and even international impact. An immense list of SMEs joined the AI coalition Northern Netherlands in a short period of time, thus making a substantial contribution to national and European tasks to make companies smarter and to cope with competition in the field of artificial intelligence from other parts of the world.
It is possible in the Northern Netherlands, it is happening in the Northern Netherlands. As long as we as entrepreneurs, knowledge institutions and governments put our shoulders to the wheel and continue to seek each other out, we have the future with the Power of the North. Better accessibility helps us with this, just as it helps us move the entire country forward.