In keeping with its reputation as a forerunner, the Dutch healthcare eco-system is currently reinventing itself to ensure it remains ahead of the game in terms of both innovation and excellence.

Market and patient access, transparency, cost-effectiveness and process innovation all feature prominently as industry and government alike band together to forge a more sustainable system in a country that can easily be characterized as a “laboratory for change.” “The Dutch system displays immense propensity for innovation in life sciences and health, and any outward-looking pharma firm that takes innovation seriously should strongly bear this in mind,” counsels Hans Schikan of Health Holland, the communication channel of the Dutch life sciences and healthcare sector.

Ranked as the best performing of 35 European healthcare systems in the Euro Health Consumer Index (EHCI) for the fifth year in a row in 2015, the Netherlands also wields sufficient credibility, gravitas and willingness to be an important driver of public health policy renewal at a Europe-wide level, leveraging its status as incumbent holder of the rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union. “We are eager to capitalize on this opportunity to promote joint price negotiation while championing a collegiate approach to public health based on the principles of ‘a shared interest and shared responsibility’,” declares health minister, Edith Schippers.

Indicative of the sheer importance the Dutch state assigns to healthcare, the “Life Sciences and Health” sector features as one of the nine “top strategic industries” in the EU’s 6th largest economy (attaining a GDP of USD 892 billion in 2015). This designation underscores the government’s vigorous efforts to reform the sector, encourage translational medicine and bolster a strong track record of stakeholder exchange and public-private partnership. “There is certainly a growing sense of collaboration between the Ministry and pharmaceutical companies…today, private enterprise is coopted earlier in the process to inform policymakers on our pipeline developments, while, in the past, we were only permitted to submit dossiers rather than to engage in face-to-face meetings,” reveals Bert De Jong, general manager Benelux of Sanofi Genzyme.

The private sector has also been pulling its weight, and the numbers also look promising in terms of job-creation. “There are presently between 35 to 40,000 high-skilled workers in the Dutch life sciences industry and my target is to help increase that to around 75,000 in five to ten years”, proclaims Gerard Schouw, director of Nefarma, the association for innovative medicines. Additionally, there are additional structural attributes that increase the appeal of the Dutch healthcare and life sciences sector setting apart it from those of sister European economies. “The Netherlands benefits from dedicated Centers of Excellence with strong international reputations, and also well-organized patient organizations, not to mention world class expertise in rare disease treatment,” observes De Jong. “It’s an environment that certainly presents an interesting learning curve…rather like a smaller version of the UK, where the market is also at a highly advanced stage,” agrees Maurits Huigen, general manager of Chiesi.