In 2000, a number of researchers set up a small business that makes vaccines with a cell that had been removed from an aborted fetus ten years earlier. It is smart science, innovative, applicable. And profitable. In 2011 the Utrecht company, Crucell, is taken over for billions by pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson. The directors of the company, once boring scientists, are suddenly filthy rich.
Crucell is a so-called spin-off: a company that is founded by researchers or students and that uses scientific knowledge acquired at the university. Since the establishment of Crucell, scientists are increasingly exchanging the lab coat for the tailor-made suit. All Dutch universities together have about 2,100 spin-offs, of which 600 have been established in the last five years. These include spin-offs such as Crucell that market knowledge of the university, but also companies without a direct link with science, such as Thuisbezorgd.nl. A small fifty thousand people are currently working on special high-tech campuses, where many spin-offs are established. A complete economy around spin-offs has emerged.