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Ellen Smit: 'Building on the solid foundation of LSH010 with Rotterdam Square'

The activities of Life Sciences & Health 010 (LSH010) will be officially transferred to Rotterdam Square on 22 March 2023. Ellen Smit is director of this new organization. ‘It’s great for Rotterdam to have a permanent place where business, research and education meet physically.

Where tech meets healthcare. This is the catchy slogan of Rotterdam Square, the foundation that will develop the Erasmus MC Campus into an innovative life sciences & health (LSH) ecosystem. What are the goals of Rotterdam Square? Highlighting the LSH sector in Rotterdam nationally and internationally, organizing events, attracting new companies to the campus and supporting existing ones. ‘We can build on the solid foundation laid over the past eight years by LSH010,’ says Ellen Smit. She has been director of this new organization since summer 2022. ‘I have used the past few months to get to know the Rotterdam LSH network. It is very close-knit and both qualitatively and quantitatively strong. With Rotterdam Square, we are going to deepen and broaden this further.’

Ellen Smit

From Leiden to Rotterdam

‘This is obviously really cool,’ she thought, when she was made aware of the vacancy for director of Rotterdam Square by a former colleague. ‘I worked as a senior account manager at Leiden Bio Science Park between 2006 and 2018,’ Ellen says, ‘I enjoyed that immensely. Not only because of the interesting healthcare innovations, but also because the sector employs many people, many of whom are open-minded and non-hierarchical. I now get the chance to set up such a campus in Rotterdam as well and to be involved in it from the start is super nice.’

Business, Research and Education

Broadly speaking, the Erasmus MC Campus will soon be the same as the Leiden Bio Science Park, Ellen outlines. ‘The campus will be a lively place where healthcare, technology and entrepreneurship come together. Healthcare organizations, innovative companies in the field of life sciences, educational and research institutes will soon work together here to put the latest technological developments into practice. It is great for Rotterdam to have a permanent place where business, research and education meet physically. The location, right in the city center and on the Erasmus MC site, is unique by Dutch standards. All these parties will soon be very close to each other, which helps enormously when you work together.’

Health & Tech

There is an important difference with Leiden Bio Science Park. Ellen: ‘Leiden focuses mainly on biotechnology. The focus in Rotterdam is emphatically on combining Health & Tech. Among other things, we will focus on medical devices and diagnostics. Rotterdam is already known for this, but wants to strengthen that position. From this region, Erasmus MC wants to become the leader in the Netherlands in the field of healthcare technology. We will soon be leading the way here in artificial intelligence and virtual reality, but also in diagnostics and medtech. Rotterdam Square is partly responsible for fulfilling this ambition, we do this by seeking broad collaboration with parties inside and outside the region, where we always maintain a balance. We will not rent a disproportionately large part of the campus to a single party. We want to create an optimal mix of talent, research, companies and (lab) facilities. Whereby it is clear to parties that we are the point of contact in the field of life sciences & health in Rotterdam. Subsequently, it is our job to show the world what great things are happening here.’

Large network

So Rotterdam Square’s task is to bring together and connect all these parties in the campus, and beyond. ‘We will not start companies ourselves or try to get innovations off the ground, we will bring parties together that we know will be interested in collaborating. Whether that is a knowledge institution and a company or two companies, depending on what is needed,  from abroad, or from Rotterdam, it’s all possible. Thanks to our strong network, we increase the chances of finding a suitable match. In that sense, I am glad that Sharon Mullen (read an earlier article with Sharon on the LSH010 website here) has joined Rotterdam Square as account manager, she is hugely experienced in this sector and has a large network.’

Erasmus MC Incubator

The new construction on the Erasmus MC Campus will start in 2024. Rotterdam Square will start earlier, within the existing environment of the hospital. The first step is to bring the Erasmus MC Incubator to the campus. The lab and office facilities of the Erasmus MC Incubator are currently located in the Rotterdam Science Tower, but are outgrowing the space available. The Rotterdam Science Tower remains an important location for LSH companies in Rotterdam. Ellen: ‘Together with the Erasmus MC Technology Transfer Office, I am now busy facilitating the transition of the Incubator to the campus. From Rotterdam Square, we are going to add companies from outside, as the presence of the Incubator is attractive to other companies and organizations and they can tap into the knowledge and innovations from the hospital. And Erasmus MC gains the necessary knowledge and skills to bring innovations to the market more easily and makes innovation more accessible to patients and care workers.’

During Rotterdam Square’s official Kick Off on Wednesday 22 March 2023, speakers will include Constantijn van Oranje (Special Envoy, Stefan Sleijfer (Erasmus MC), alderman Robert Simons (Port, Economy, Hospitality and Governance (districts and small centers) and Real Estate) and Ellen Smit (managing director Rotterdam Square). Would you like to attend? You can register via this link.

Source: LSH010
Date: March 14, 2023