COLUMN: Melissa Ablett



I was recently asked: “How would you describe Rotterdam in one word?” After a few moments, there was one that clearly came to mind: “Ambitious.”
I began working in Rotterdam over five years ago, flying back and forth from Boston at first. We at the Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC) were investigating Rotterdam as our first international location. On my second or third trip to this city that was already impressing me with its attitude, its drive, and its straightforward approach to doing big things, I happened to be present for the opening of the new Central Station. I was awed by the ability of this city and its people to re-envision an area – previously regarded as bleak and unwelcoming – and transform it into a gleaming and imposing beacon of a new city.
At CIC Rotterdam, we are very lucky in that we get to see this kind of ambition first-hand each and every day. In Central District, on the 3rd and 4th floors of the Groot Handelsgebouw, we house more than 220 startups and innovative companies. These entrepreneurs are working on solutions to some of today’s most important challenges. From climate change to refugee crises, but also energy transitions, urban mobility and cancer treatments; we see the Rotterdam spirit being applied for the benefit of the Netherlands and the rest of the world. It’s inspiring.
What comes next? I’m hoping to see the city double down and invest in the strengths that have made it into the place it is today. We must further cultivate, promote and invest in Rotterdam’s position as a leader in all things maritime, logistic and energy-related. We should continue to make the world more aware of the innovations in health and medicine in the city and region. And we need to keep encouraging the students in our region; young, bright minds who will invent the future of these industries and be the workforce powering them. In another five years from now, I am certain that the changes in this city (which I now call home) will be even greater and even more progressive, with perhaps some of our current ideas already transformed into something different. Despite all the change, I have no doubt that the Rotterdam ambition will remain.
Melissa Ablett
CIC Rotterdam