The role of Expat Centre Leiden in the region's knowledge economy

| Leiden International Centre

In 2016, ECL was adopted by Economie071 to improve the business climate for companies and international knowledge workers. Municipalities of Leiden, Katwijk, Leiderdorp, Oegstgeest, Voorschoten, and Zoeterwoude, as well as Leiden University, LUMC, Entrepreneurs Association Leiden Bio Science Park (LBSP), and Leiden Marketing have since participated in ECL.

To make ECL’s housing more professional, we are moving to the municipal office (Stadskantoor) of the municipality of Leiden. The new location, a shop-in-shop at Bargelaan 190, with all ECL functions together, will be officially opened later this month. International knowledge workers who live or work in the six municipalities are received by our helpdesk, which is expertly staffed by the ACCESS volunteers. Internationals can register and immediately receive their BSN. We can answer their questions in the conversation at the helpdesk.  

Together with our partners, companies that provide services to the international community, we have built a great network over the years. We refer to them for specialist questions. We organize informative events with them and provide internationals with information on our website and via the Expat Newsletter. So, even after the internationals have settled in, we continue to help them. What makes us unique is that we offer services in all six stages of the international's life: talent, orientation, coming, settling, living, and leaving. 

The services we offer internationals will remain. ECL will further develop the proposition to companies next year. We can imagine that there is a need for, for example, introductory programs or tailor-made company information. But we would rather hear it from you. What are the companies facing up against? How could ECL help? Would you like to hire an international but you don't know where to start and does the mountain seem too high? That is why we would like to ask you to complete our survey. 

To share our expertise in the field of working internationally in living in the Leiden region, ECL is part of the Community of the LBSP and two focus groups. In the Community Building focus group, the main point of focus is involving companies with international employees. The 'Hire to Retire' focus group is all about recruiting and retaining employees. We contribute knowledge about international employees. The brand awareness of ECL will also increase as a result. 

That brings me to ECL as a knowledge institute. We know what is going on concerning internationalisation because we actively search for information and forums to join. ECL is part of the national Expat Round Table network with all expat centres, various ministries, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and NFIA (Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency). Among other things, national trends and policies are discussed. We also participate in consultations within the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area (MRA) that started around the arrival of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) in the Netherlands, but which now deal with much broader subjects. The cooperation with Innovationquarter, the regional economic development agency for the Province of South Holland, is doing well. ECL works with them to advise companies that are considering or have just established themselves in the Leiden region. 

There are also partnerships with the Province and Economic Board Zuid-Holland and the other 2 expat centres, particularly in the field of attracting and retaining international talent. Our companies cannot do without international high and intermediate educated talent. ECL plays a role in the branding of the region for international talent and a job portal that may be developed. The ESOF conference, which will allow Leiden to bear the title European City of Science in 2022, is also important for the entire region. Of course for attracting knowledge workers, but also for strengthening the knowledge profile. ECL is indirectly involved in this and will mainly play a role in knowledge sharing via social media and newsletters. In the run-up to that year, the Leiden Convention Bureau, which has also recently been led by me, plays a much greater role in attracting congresses to Leiden in the field of science. Both business units are committed to knowledge and the (international) knowledge economy. Also, there is a good relationship with the municipalities that are affiliated with ECL. We can return knowledge gained and trends that have been identified. We can contribute ideas about labor migrants, international schools, and share our research. 

The municipality of Leiden recently adopted the vision of internationalization in the municipal council, with the corresponding focus on and budget for internationalization and inclusion. Part of the implementation program concerns an independent study into the further development of ECL into an ‘International Centre Leiden’ (working title) with additional services and commitment to larger groups of internationals. These could include start-ups and labor migrants. Naturally, ECL will provide a lot of input for this and your interests will be properly represented. Unfortunately, the vision is not yet ready for download. We will keep you updated. 

All of this is summarized by our vision and mission. 

Vision: We aim to make international employment and life in Leiden and the greater region a successful experience. 

Mission: By building networks and communities we make international people feel at home and help employers with global mobility of their staff. Providing complete support packages, we are establishing Leiden as a region for international talent. This is done in collaboration with a network of local businesses, municipalities, and other organizations. 

I hope to have brought the point across that ECL does much more than help the internationals at the desk. We help them at all stages of their stay. We are also increasingly for companies that employ internationals. We are a knowledge institute for internationalization in the broadest sense; we have and share knowledge about this. The new location, the research into further development, and our partnerships all contribute to putting our beautiful and bustling region on the map as a Talent region. Being the European City of Science in 2022 strengthens our position as a knowledge city and region, a proposition we can use for many years to come. 

Corine van der Ceelen