A two-day event for CEOs designed to connect the Netherlands and China through their academia and industry centred on innovation and transformation, and on ‘being smart and sustainable’. It was organised by Dr Ying Zhang, Associate Dean of China Business at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) and Academic Director of the Erasmus China Business Centre, in collaboration with the Chinese CEO Outbound Programme from Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business (CKGSB). The September event included presentations from notable professors and leaders from government, academia, and industry, lectures and panel discussions, and took place on campus with visits to the Port of Rotterdam and Priva BV.

It was attended by 26 Chinese CEOs, all alumni of CKGSB, which is China’s first faculty-governed independent business school that takes an unconventional approach to business education and focuses on the educational needs of executives to boost their companies’ development; more than 5000 executives at CEO- or chairman-level in top Chinese and multinational companies have been through the school.

Welcome dinner

As an academic institution, RSM is dedicated to research, and has established its mission to make a positive impact on societal challenges said Kristel Baele, the President of Erasmus University Rotterdam, at the welcoming dinner. She said: “Not only do we have a joint responsibility to help society move forward with our knowledge, expertise and ideas, but we can help each other to move forward as well. We can learn from one another and enhance one another, with our different fields of expertise, our variety in cultures and our ideas for the future of our societies.”

Moving from theory to practice: innovation and transformation

The programme was designed to involve learning and communication with a view to an inclusive world. Three topics were discussed specifically: circular economy, open innovation, and leadership.

The importance of mindset

Knowing each other is the prerequisite for trust and then cooperation so the event began with two introductory lectures about the Netherlands and Europe. Prof. Jan Peter Balkenende, Professor of Governance, Institutions and Internationalisation at the Erasmus School of Economics, former prime minister of the Netherlands, and an affiliated member of the European Covered Bond Council (ECBC) delivered the first lecture of the conference. Describing the history, culture, economy development of the Netherlands, he identified four characteristics of Dutch society: “Co-operation, internationalisation, innovation, and specialisation,” and two values of a typically Dutch mindset, respect and openness. Then, Dr iur Urs Lustenberger, partner at law firm Lustenberger.pro explained the legal system and investment regulations in Europe and the importance of mindset in doing business between Europe and China. “The process is not only based on the rules of the law, but more importantly based on the mindset,” he said. Urs Lustenberger is also chairman of the Swiss-Asian Chamber of Commerce, and an affiliated member of ECBC.

Although there are cultural and systemic differences between Europe and Asia, “We all possess a collaborating mind, and emphasise respect for others,” said one Chinese CEO during the interactive session, commenting that the foundation for co-operation is to seek common ground and set aside differences. The lectures helped participants to learn from each other said Ji Bo, Assistant Dean for Global Executive Education at CKGSB.

Circular economy

This is critical to increasing social prosperity and reducing dependence on primary energy and resources. “Rather than classic linear model of production, ‘take-make-dispose’, the circular economy is restorative and iterative by design. It utilises natural resources as efficiently as possible. Discovering and recognising the value of finished products throughout their life cycles,” said Tjitske Ypma, a senior policy advisor at the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment.

Open Innovation

The key is to find attractive and motivated co-creators through efficient and useful incentives and with clear governance mechanisms is also crucial said John Apesos, founder and CEO of GrowX. He explained that structuring and breaking down the problems enables contributors to participate effectively.

Christian Diderich, Vice President for International Cloud Sales and Business Development at Huawei Technologies, showed that open innovation is productive when communities are implementing innovation within clear rules and transparent processes such as goal setting and conflict resolution.

Meanwhile, the quality of open innovation products influences economic development from open innovation. Dr Shaoxian Zhang, CEO of Vision and Action explained how great technical enterprises rely on accumulations. “Enterprises should establish long-term goals in terms of open innovation that should emphasize more on ‘quality’ versus ‘quantity’”.

Emile Hoogsteden, Vice President Containers, Breakbulk and Logistics at Port of Rotterdam, emphasised the importance of ensuring quality in the development of technology, and described digital technology that is being used to build a worldwide Smart Port network.


Meiny Prins, CEO of Priva, and Distinguished Alumna of RSM in 2011 emphasised two key characteristics of her leadership: cohesive vision and mutual development. “Leadership grows with people you work with, and you need to inspire your team to cohere around your central vision.”

More information

Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) is one of Europe’s top 10 business schools. RSM provides ground-breaking research and education furthering excellence in all aspects of management and is based in the international port city of Rotterdam – a vital nexus of business, logistics and trade. RSM’s primary focus is on developing business leaders with international careers who can become a force for positive change by carrying their innovative mindset into a sustainable future. Our first-class range of bachelor, master, MBA, PhD and executive programmes encourage them to become critical, creative, caring and collaborative thinkers and doers. Study information and activities for future students, executives and alumni are also organised from the RSM office in Chengdu, China. www.rsm.nl

For more information about RSM or this release, please contact Marianne Schouten, communications manager for RSM, on +31 10 408 2877 or by email at mschouten@rsm.nl.

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