Venlo, innovative student city. About attracting and retaining students and improving their contribution to regional innovation

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Nowadays within the knowledge economy, emphasis on knowledge and innovation is increasingly evident. Many cities want to be part of this knowledge economy and are therefore occupied with attracting and retaining knowledge for their city. Whereas students are important carriers of knowledge, attracting and retaining these students has become very important in this respect. City marketing is used because students are an important target group within this field. This process of attracting and retaining students is an important goal for the municipality of Venlo, so within this research is has been tried to investigate how this process could be improved. Furthermore it has been investigated how these students and their knowledge when retained for the city can contribute to regional innovation. Both are multi-stakeholder processes with emphasis on the ‘triple helix’. These two processes combined formed the main objective within this research, namely to figure out and formulate recommendations about how students could be attracted and retained for the city of Venlo and how these students could then contribute to regional innovation, by using city marketing and a ‘triple helix’ perspective. Several questions have been formulated that contribute to the main objective, with the main question, “which city marketing strategies could be used by Venlo to attract and retain students and how could these students contribute to regional innovation, making use of a ‘triple helix’ perspective”? To find adequate answers, a case study research has been conducted in Venlo. All he necessary information has been gathered by conducting 27 semi-structured in-depth interviews and focus groups, by doing an observational walk within the city centre and by studying several policy documents. The whole research is based on four theoretical concepts, namely ‘triple helix’ theories, city marketing theories, theories about factors to attract and retain students and regional innovation theories. The most important results regarding student attraction have been that adequate focus on students as a target group is lacking, too little attention is paid to actual student demands, general focus among stakeholders is lacking and it is neglected to create a unique and attractive brand for the whole region. For student retention, career opportunities and connection between education and business are important. Factors that are also important for enabling student contribution to regional innovation. The results turned out that student awareness about career opportunities within the region is too marginal and there is still a gap between education and business. Conclusions and recommendations directly correspond with these results. Focus on students should be increased, students’ demands should be increasingly heard, general focus among stakeholder on students as a target group should be improved and Venlo should more actively brand the whole region by using the strong regional aspects: logistics, agro/food, manufacturing and cradle2cradle. Even the small iii scale of Venlo could be implemented within a ‘crossover brand’. Regarding career opportunities, business organizations should more actively present themselves and in this respect the ‘Venlo Partners’ business website could also be improved. The gap between education and business could be reduced by improved and increased interaction between teachers and business people, in order to become increasingly aware of each other’s demands. This way, education and business could become more complementary towards each other and that could be beneficial for students. Especially regarding their choice whether or not to stay within the Venlo region after graduation and regarding enabling their contribution to regional innovation.
Faculteit der Managementwetenschappen