How a Brainport venture builder contributes to
a sustainable transition

John Bell



John Bell, with an economics background and experience in joint ventures, partnerships and strategy, has worked with notable companies such as Philips and Johnson & Johnson. He started working with HighTechXL in 2013. John has extensive knowledge of the startup ecosystem, and he worked with HighTechXL startups as former Vice President of Strategy and Partnerships. John is deeply passionate about sustainability and fully committed to creating impactful ventures that tackle significant societal challenges. With his extensive expertise in open innovation, new business creation, partnerships, and strategic planning, he is well-equipped to lead HighTechXL as they build 100 deep-tech ventures in 10 years. With HighTechXL, John aims to build a bridge between ventures and large companies, fostering partnerships and driving disruptive innovation and solutions.

Which unique attributes will help Brainport become the high-tech sustainability capital of the world?

Brainport's path to achieving this goal lies in a strategic approach that centers on its core strengths in deep-tech and high-tech industries. As a smart region, Brainport possesses distinct capabilities in developing essential deep-tech equipment and products that contribute to sustaining and enhancing human life. By prioritizing sustainability explicitly and uniting efforts, Brainport can lead in addressing global challenges such as climate change through refurbishment, recycling, energy reduction, and innovative energy solutions.

How will Brainport benefit from becoming the high-tech sustainability capital of the world?

Focusing on its strengths in deep-tech and adopting sustainable and impact-focused practices will enable Brainport to lead in responsible innovation. Embracing sustainability is not only a responsibility but also an opportunity to make a positive impact on the environment and society. Collaborating with global ecosystems will optimize efforts and set a positive example for all. However, neglecting sustainability could lead to adverse consequences, such as businesses leaving the region and entrepreneurs seeking better environments elsewhere. To thrive and succeed, Brainport must fully commit to sustainability and make it an integral part of its endeavors, ensuring a brighter future for all.

How can HighTechXL, as a venture builder, contribute to sustainability?

Sustainability and impact are at the heart of everything we do. Combining deep-tech inventions with impactful value propositions is the number one goal at HighTechXL. We measure our progress on sustainability genuinely, ensuring that we do not engage in greenwashing. It is a core value we uphold in our approach to creating impactful startups. A sustainability board and specific criteria are in place to ensure startups meet these standards before receiving investment. In fact, all startups who join our venture building program must address one of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Period. If the venture doesn’t focus on making significant change, it won’t make the cut. This approach is essential in driving startups towards meaningful and sustainable innovations.

Could you please share HighTechXL's philosophy behind the selection and support of startups and which criteria takes priority?

The focus and mission of every venture is to solve grand societal challenges, including climate change and the energy transition, plastic recycling, healthcare, security, agriculture and food and other focus areas. In addition to evaluating their technology readiness level (TRL), we also have a sustainability readiness level (SRL) that assesses their propositions and how they organize themselves. This includes criteria such as diversity, pollution management, and the materials they use. The SRL is one of the eight dimensions we consider in building successful startups, alongside technology, products, market, finance and team.

In what ways does HighTechXL specifically contribute to the mission of positioning Brainport as a high-tech sustainability capital?

HighTechXL, being in the middle of this region, contributes to positioning Brainport as a high-tech sustainability capital by focusing on creating completely new disruptive solutions that address current and future social challenges. As a mobilizing force in the region, HighTechXL connects global ecosystem partners, builds deep-tech ventures and drives innovation in directions that complement existing businesses. This ecosystem, including HighTechXL, investors, and startups, with its strong willingness to embrace disruptive innovation, allows Brainport to stay well positioned in the pursuit of its sustainability mission. The involvement of small companies with passionate individuals willing to overcome obstacles plays a key role as large companies often find it challenging to pursue such disruptive innovations.

What advice do you have for the region?

We should embrace Brainport as a dynamic mindset and ecosystem, aiming to attract individuals and companies who share meaningful values and are committed to sustainability. By approaching this mission with genuine passion and dedication from the heart and soul, our efforts will become stronger and more authentic. Together, we can create a thriving and sustainable future, making a positive impact on our world. Therefore, we must focus on connecting and collaborating with like-minded individuals and organizations. Forming partnerships with those who share the same passion yields more effective results. If we unite our efforts and leverage each other’s networks, there is greater potential for significant progress. Many in the region are already enthusiastic and open to participating in these efforts, making it easier to gain initial support and commitment. Though challenges may lie ahead, taking the first steps together and working as a united front will increase the chances of success.