Shimano foresees considerable growth opportunities in Brabant

Shimano’s European head office is set to open on January 1, 2017 at the High Tech Campus in Eindhoven. Marc van Rooij, President of Shimano Europe, discusses the magnetic effect of Brabant in general and the High Tech Campus in particular. “Every time I walk down The Strip, I see this flow.”

For the few who are unfamiliar with Shimano, what do you do?

Shimano is a listed 95-year-old Japanese company that most people know for the bicycle parts we manufacture for professional cyclists, but in reality that’s just a small part of our business. The bulk of our sales are parts for ordinary bicycles, ranging from bike gears to brake levers and disc brakes to hub dynamos. We are also the global frontrunners for fishing rods and reels and we make shoes and foot stretchers for rowers – which is presently still a relatively small market for us.

How important is the European market to Shimano?
Europe is Shimano’s biggest market and it generates around half of our worldwide sales, which stands at a little over billion. Our European branch employs 650 people, divided between the head office, the logistics centre in Nunspeet, and local marketing and sales offices spread across the continent.

Construction on your new office at the High Tech Campus started in April 2016. What kind of building can we expect?
Our mission statement is: "To promote health and happiness through the enjoyment of nature and the world around us". We stand for green products such as bicycles, and we would like our new premises to reflect that. That’s also why our architect, Thomas Rau, won us over with the sustainable character of his design. We will be generating approximately 50 percent more energy than we need, which is also one of the reasons we were awarded a BREEAM 4 certificate. That makes our office one of the most sustainable buildings in the Netherlands. The High Tech Campus in Eindhoven will be the location of our European head office, and it will be home to 185 people. But the building can hold 300 people, a clear demonstration of our growth ambitions.

To be honest, we were three steps further in Brabant than anywhere else. Marc van Rooij

Why did you end up in Brabant?
We outgrew our current offices in Nunspeet, which is why we went to Japan in March 2014 to discuss the options with Mr. Shimano, the company’s present president and grandson of the founder. He gave us very clear instructions – “Find a location where Shimano Europe can maintain its present position as the market leader for the next 25 years. It doesn’t matter if it’s in Portugal, Switzerland, the Netherlands, or Finland, just find the best location” The human asset was naturally a very significant consideration. If we were to move to Finland or to Portugal, you know what’s going to happen – you lose all your staff. With this in mind, we soon started talking to a number of development agencies in the Netherlands, and I must admit that the Brabant Development Agency (BOM) really stood out. BOM excelled and there was the High Tech Campus – a combination that very quickly tipped the scales.

What was so special about BOM’s approach?
From the very beginning, the staff of BOM Foreign Investments were completely convinced that we would decide on Brabant, and in clearly communicating that fact to us we too became even more convinced. To be honest, we were three steps further in Brabant than anywhere else. While other organizations were still presenting proposals to us, in Brabant we were already working on the practical aspects of how we would achieve the project. BOM played a very proactive role in this, and nothing was too much trouble when it came to proving that Brabant was the only true option. And when we expressed our preference for Eindhoven, BOM immediately sprung into action to introduce us to the right people.

Why did you choose the High Tech Campus?
Firstly, there was its proximity to a variety of institutes of technology and colleges, not just in Eindhoven and Tilburg but also across the border, including Leuven, Dusseldorf and the German Sport University in Cologne. We are always looking for new talent, so this was an important factor for Shimano. Then there was also the feeling of being centrally located in Western Europe. Germany, our largest market, is nearby, while the major airports in Brussels, Amsterdam, and Dusseldorf are easy to reach and the local airport is increasingly focused on business flights. It also emerged from Eindhoven’s bid that they are working on an ecosystem revolving around sports and technology, which appealed greatly to us.

How will the High Tech Campus contribute to your growth plans?

We still see considerable growth opportunities in two categories – fashion accessories for cyclists, such as clothing, sunglasses, and footwear, and parts for e-bikes. Growth in the electric bicycle market is enormous, and it includes integration with wearable technology and other products that focus on the health-conscious consumer.

The High Tech Campus is extraordinarily attractive to technology companies that are trying – just like us – to anticipate these developments. We are pleased to interact with these companies so that we can find out how we can create added value for consumers, which in turn can lead to new products. This contact is now available to us on the High Tech Campus, and we’re not even there yet! We’ve already been approached by well-known companies who hope to discuss new ideas with us. Some of our staff are already regularly in Eindhoven in order to exchange thoughts with them. What this all means is that that ecosystem already been created.

Are you often on the High Tech Campus, and if so, what appeals most to you?

I spend around one day a week on the High Tech Campus. Every time I’m there and I walk down The Strip, I see this flow. It’s a true case of: “Wow, look at everything that’s happening here…” The energy that the Campus radiates, the people you’re in contact with, and the enthusiasm generated when innovation is discussed come together to place you all in that flow. It’s not just me; my colleagues say they feel exactly the same way. I foresee considerable growth opportunities thanks to the new contacts we will make on the Campus. Often we find ourselves talking about win-win situations for all the involved parties: 1 + 1 = 3, which is something we believe we can make come true in Eindhoven.

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