The rationale of spatial economic top sector policy

Dutch top sector policy is aimed at the economic sectors that are the most important to the international competitive position of the Netherlands, such as the knowledge-intensive and export-oriented sectors. To date, the spatial aspects of this policy are not very elaborate. After all, spatial economic policy no longer is considered the primary responsibility of the national government, but rather that of regional and local authorities. This nevertheless begs the question of how and where these responsibilities connect. The Ministry of Economic Affairs requested PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, in collaboration with Statistics Netherlands (CBS), to research the rationale of the national government’s spatial economic top sector policy.

To find the answer to this question, a clear understanding of the spatial concentration of top sectors is crucial. As the facts and figures on this subject were lacking, top sectors literally had to be put ‘on the map’.

This study provides insight into the location of the spatial concentrations of top sectors and the regions that are crucial to these top sectors. Charts depicting clusters of economic activity were made, based on the CBS definition of top sectors. These so-called clusters of economic activity were determined on the basis of the exact location of all economic activity in the top sectors and the degree of proximity these companies have to each other. The charts provide insight into the spatial pattern of the top sectors and whether they could be addressed in policy concepts such as Main ports (e.g. with regard to logistics), Green ports (e.g. for horticulture and propagation materials) and the Brain port (e.g. for high-tech activities), but also the various valleys (areas with a specific economic specialisation) that have been defined in recent policy documents.

This report is the translation of the Dutch PBL publication ‘De ratio van ruimtelijk-economisch topsectorenbeleid’ (2012)


Otto Raspe, Anet Weterings (both PBL), Margreet Geurden-Slis, Gusta van Gessel (both CBS)


Publication title
The rationale of spatial economic top sector policy
Publication date
20 March 2013
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