The history of Kennispark

Started in 1980 with an idea for a Business and Technology Centre. Now one of the most competitive innovation campuses in Europe!


The demolishing of the former headquarters of BTC Twente (Industrial Technology Centre Twente) started in April 2018. A special moment, because BTC Twente has, as one of the Netherlands first business incubators, created an important foundation for the prime location Kennispark is right now for entrepreneurial talent and innovation. Companies such as, Thuisbezorgd, Stratech, Ericsson, 3T and Key Technology found an important partner in BTC Twente to grow into companies with a large national and international impact. After 36 years, the building made way for the Demcon Technology Centre. Below, we look back on the period where the foundation was laid for Kennispark now, and in the future.

1980: the idea for a Business and Technology Centre.
The BTC building is a design by IAA Architects from Enschede. The model (see image) is a first physical image of the BTC building. The idea for a Business Technology Centre already came into existence in 1980. Originally, it was an idea that came from America, where Business and Technology Centres had already proven their added value. BTC Twente wanted to help young micro-electronics companies “to increase the chance of success”. The idea for a Business and Technology Centre in Twente came at just the right time. At the time, Twente faced a relapse in the textile sector, and micro-electronics was on the rise. In January 1981, the idea for a BTC Twente got the green light.

1982: Jan Terlouw lays the foundation stone
Former Minister of Economic Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister Jan Terlouw laid the foundation stone on the 29th of June, 1982. This officially made BTW Twente the first BTC of Europe. A year earlier there were also ideas for a BTC in Italy, France, Belgium and Great Britain. Initially, BTC Twente started as a joint project of the former American computer giant Control Data and the Overijssel Development Agency (OOM). The photo (see image) also shows the then-mayor of Enschede: Ko Wierenga.

1984: construction BTC Twente completed
An aerial photo of Kennispark Twente with a completed BTC Twente on the left. Above, the bridge from the Hengelosestraat is still there. At that time, BTC Twente offered workspace for around twenty companies. Director Ir. Gijs van Driem provided the necessary support that the companies wanted. Business advisers Folkert Brongers and Henk Troost assisted young companies in drawing up a business plan and gave tips for financial administration and financing method. Ron ten Bokum was responsible for the accommodation, rental and the organisation of the BTC building as a whole. A central secretariat and a reception supported the group of four.

The late 80s: Former Queen Beatrix visiting 3T
In the following years, Princess Beatrix – a precise year is unknown – paid a working visit to 3T in the BTC building. In 1982, 3T started as the Centre for Micro-Electronics Twente (CME Twente) and later continued under the name Twente Technology Transfer B.V. Nowadays, 3T is located at the Institutenweg 1, and has a branch in Eindhoven. Kennispark-based Lionix International is a chip design company that originated from 3T. On the photo, Harry van den Kroonenberg shakes the hand of Queen Beatrix. As Rector Magnificus of the University of Twente, he had a significant contribution to entrepreneurship in Twente and is seen as the spiritual father of “the entrepreneurial university”.

2008 – 2010: Symbol moved seven times within BTC
For Dick Theisens – director of Symbol – BTC played an important role in the early stage of the company: “BTC Twente has meant a lot to us in facilitating spaces, internet, telephony and the means to provide training. Since then, we have moved seven times within the BTC building. The fact that we could be so flexible was very important for us to keep growing. Because everyone at Kennispark knew “the BTC building”, they immediately knew where you were. That too was a big advantage for the people from BTC. Because we were so close to the UT and other companies, we also kept up to date with what was going on at Kennispark. Furthermore, due to this, we could easily get involved with current developments. In 2010, we were bursting at the seams and “ready” to open our location (see image).”

2016 – 2018: purchase of BTC building by HMO
In December 2017, the HMO (Restructuring Company Overijssel) definitively purchased the BTC building. The province of Overijssel made this investment possible to further develop the prime working location that Kennispark is. The area contributes to regional employment, and the investment gives the area a nice extra quality boost. Director of HMO Han Wiendels is pleased that an icon such as BTC Twente is given a new interpretation thanks to the purchase: “in the summer of 2016, discussions about this already took place at an administrative level, but it finally succeeded at the end of last year. Kennispark is one of the prime working locations in the Netherlands. The combination with the University of Twente as a central player in the area offers a lot of space and opportunities for creating a great working climate for companies. With the arrival of the Demcon Technology Centre (see image), the high-tech profile of Kennispark is only being strengthened.”

Patrick Welman about BTC Twente over the years
Alderman Patrick Welman looks back on a rich period that has been very important for the region: “Actually, the importance of BTC Twente for Kennispark and the region of Twente cannot be expressed in terms of value. BTC Twente has been extremely important for the development of jobs.” According to Patrick Welman, BTC has not only been very important on a socio-economic level: “BTC Twente also contributed during the period where we were wondering how we could even convert the Technical University Twente to an economic value. Private individuals such as the Ten Hag family contributed and continue to contribute to the economic development of the region. As investors, they made a large network available for companies. They also demonstrated that not only money is important, but skills and knowledge also determine the development of an area.”

BTC Twente moves to Capitool 50
The demolition of the former BTC Twente headquarters started in April (see photo on the left). However, this beautiful icon will be retained for Kennispark in the future. Director of BTC Twente Rob de Koning: “Our offices have moved to Capitool 50, a building that we also manage. BTC Twente will also remain co-owner of building The Gallery “phase 1”, and manages and operates the branch from T-Point and the High Tech Factory (HTF) on the UT-terrain. In all buildings we manage, (starting) innovative technological companies still rent spaces. We support these companies with accommodation, facilities, “starter support”, and support in the form of coaching and guidance. Because of this, BTC Twente is still one of the largest incubators in the world.”

February 22, 2018: launch of the areal strategy

Only by jointly choosing a course can we build a dynamic prime location. This course was officially documented in an areal strategy on the 22nd of February, 2018. This strategy is the result of many interviews, expert sessions, workshops and events to bundle visions and opinions. We did this because of one goal we want to achieve: a dynamic prime location in 2030, where science becomes business. Want to know more about the areal strategy and the things we have agreed on? Read more about the areal strategy here.

November 1, 2018: Kennispark Twente appoints Quartermaster Anne-Wil Lucas
Anne-Wil Lucas has been appointed as Quartermaster Kennispark Twente by the municipality of Enschede, companies from the Kennispark area, the province of Overijssel and the University of Twente. Her mission: translating the areal strategy of Kennispark Twente into concrete actions. Lucas was a member of the House of Representatives from 2010 to 2016, where she fought for technology education, startups and valorisation. Topics that are also the order of the day in her role as quartermaster.


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