Social inclusion of expats in Eindhoven

In the last 20 years, Eindhoven has positioned internationally as an European center of knowledge, technology and Innovation creation. Renown technology companies, research institutions and universities have been the engine of this success. Success that is based on its people: the human capital that innovates and bring new ideas.

The city of Eindhoven, has almost a population of 230,000 inhabitants. From this population, more than 20% is considered expats or “high-educated professionals” who come to the city to work on challenging positions or study on local universities. We can consider them a rich source of new ideas and opportunities because of their multicultural and international background (some of them have been already working/studying in several countries). All of this make the city progress.



Unfortunately expats do not always feel at home in the city. They find it difficult to find their way and be part of the social fabric (social and economic ecosystem within the city) where they can be part and contribute.  Thus, most of them leave after 1 or 2 years working/studying in the city. Thus valuable human capital leaves the country.


– What kind of urban conditions are needed so the expat feel at home in the city?

– How can expats be integrated into the social fabric (like volunteering work, create own foundation/start-up, etc)?

Expats as ambassadors  of innovation for emerging markets

Beyond integrating expats in to the Dutch society, we have been questioning ourselves, how the skilled migrants of Eindhoven, out of which lots of them are from the global south, be involved in innovation for the so called Bottom of the Pyramid. A word coined by the famous corporate strategist C.K. Prahalad. He himself was an expat in Eindhoven during the operation Centurion, advising Philips on restructuring and job cuts in the 90s.  Prahalad, is been mostly known due to hist work on “core competences” . Yet his other work on “Fortune at the bottom of the pyramid ” got considerable less attention in Eindhoven.

One of the initiators of this platform Yama Saraj, himself an economist from one the poorest and devastated countries in the world, Afghanistan, has been researching migration and development issues mainly due to some personal experiences. He is stating that 10 million people of his country of origin fled the country the past 40 years. After agonising about this loss of human capital in his country of origin and lack of policy frameworks to leverage on this.  He sees opportunities to facilate these “diasporans” as a vehicle to foster transnational entrepreneurship.  Rather than the charity and aid industry which according to him distorts markets and creates wrong incentives this is a way better approach towards international development than traditional aid model.  In Dutch he calls this the “zieligheidsindustrie” which perpetuates an inferiority complex and a dependency to the receiving agents.  Although according to him many good people work in this industry,  its accumulated result is that some may want to maintain a sad and pathetic view of lets say Africa in order to get their aid money.  Rather why not incentivise people to make money solving problems in the world with trade and innovation as C.K. Prahald proposes???

The Expat Challenge adopted by his foundation YSEA questions how we can use the social and cultural capital of the expats in Eindhoven to foster innovation for emerging countries these expats come from.

Finally acknowledged  for his audacity and “Handlmod”  as he himself puts it, he was part of the first cohort of Unleash innovation lab for the SDG’s.  This has inspired him to set up something similar but from a grass roots level with Eindhoven ecosystem where he is based.  Here some thoughts on his experiences in Copenhagen and about the context of the challenge



Credits to the young brats of Braincandies


If you have any question or comment about this challenge, please  contact us