Eindhoven is one of the most advanced and prominent technological regions of Europe. With a population of 220.000 where 20% are of foreign origin, the talent of expats plays an important role in the innovative character of the region.

A jury selected a list of ten from more than 50 nominated expat-candidates to recognise the contribution of these foreign talents to the city’s growth. The ten winners much contributed for Eindhoven as a city and society through an invention, an individual performance, a critical role in an organisation, the impact of their start-up or simply because they are socially significant. In short, the foreign people to whom Eindhoven is grateful to for their work, relevance and influence in the development of the city.

And I was one of the winners! I am so proud!!!

Read the interview below with:

Designer Jorge Alves Lino (Portugal) is business leader at STRP Biënnale and one of the creative directors of the Designhuis Eindhoven. He speaks five different languages (including Dutch) and he lived in Portugal, Belgium, Czech Republic, Norway, France and since 2007 in the Netherlands. His background makes him a world citizen and a real cosmopolitan. He came to Eindhoven to do his PhD in combination with his role as university lecturer for concept design. Jorge found in Eindhoven a place to live where the social aspect of living is of higher quality.

‘I didn’t know Eindhoven, but after six months I chose it as my basis’

I wanted to finish my master, but in Lisbon there was nobody who could supervise me in the field I wanted to work in: the implementation of new technologies in public space, and its impact in the social and cultural characteristics of city experience. This moved me to Belgium. At that point, I was presenting my work at the FMX Festival, a media festival in Stuttgart, where I met a professor from Eindhoven working in the same field I was interested in. I was then asked to come to Eindhoven to continue my work as a doctoral research and teach at the same time (Faculty of Industrial Design TU/e). I thought: why not? I was younger and free from the burden of responsibilities and attachment to specific places. I didn’t know Eindhoven. I had always lived in capital cities, and I did not know whether I would adapt to a smaller city. So I decided that I would give myself one year to see if the place would fit me, and I would fit the place. After six months I made the decision to stay.”

‘It’s a strength to combine business and creativity’

“Eindhoven has got a bit of a metropolitan aura, but at the same time the approachability of a village. When I first came here I found that the nightlife, for example, had less to offer than what I was used to. Certainly when you compare to Amsterdam or Brussels. Instead of complaining and whining – Dutch do this very often J – I triggered a group of designers and creatives to think of new concepts for nightlife in Eindhoven, and that’s when we started producing the STUX X parties (2011). I felt that if you want to change something, you needed to invest effort and trigger that change yourself, and not simply nagging about it. I have done that till 2014, when I got involved with the STRP Biënnale, where we combine art, technology and culture. At STRP we see the developments in the world of technology, and reflect them within an artistic program. It involves a large-scale installation exhibition, performances, music program, conferences and masterclasses in the field of art and technology. In ten years’ time STRP expanded to one of the greatest indoor art and technology events of Europe.”

‘For me design is about improving quality of life’

“In everything that I do, the social aspect is really important. I have to be somewhere where I can gather people around me who are dear to me. Moreover I want to express myself and that’s all possible here. The open, welcoming attitude in Eindhoven is really nice. As a creative director of the Designhuis I combine talents from different disciplines. Just like I do with STRP. I’m one of the creative directors since 2014. It’s not only an exposition room for designers but also a place where people can brainstorm on new ideas. By bringing people of different interests together, new insights arise, and in this way we want to connect design with the inhabitants of the city. It’s a real bottom-up process, it’s driven from the community. The city hall should be more aware of that, they should have a more facilitating role instead of a leading role in these matters.”

“Before I became active in the cultural sector I’ve worked for ING on customer experience as innovation developer. I really learned a lot, but at the same time it was rather scary to step into the corporate world. Suddenly my plans had to be achievable, it was about thousands of people and millions of euros. It was a big responsibility, but I’ve accomplished to deal with this and that gave me a boost of confidence.

But mainly I discovered that it is possible to think business minded and take in the personal account in as well. I’m following a research about people being unemployed for a long time. This research shows that the longer it takes, the harder it gets to find a job. It’s easy to compute what this costs the community. But also you can seek a way to break through this trend. How do you make sure that people can have an active role in the society? To do this, you have to invest in people. It’s not only about the money you will save on welfare, but about improving the quality of living.”

‘The word expat in my language is has something negative’

“In Portugal the word expat [expatriado] suggests that I have given up my heritage, but that’s not the case. My roots are in Portugal, I’m proud of that. My parents gave me all to let me live the life that I got now. I choose a place where I feel happy, that freedom feels luxurious and nice.”

“The current war on talent between companies is driven by the market. In my view there is too little attention for people or their competences, everything is about figures. Also at Brainport, it was all way too institutionalized. But it gets better, they have more attention for individual skills already. A while ago I was giving a presentation about expats. I was the last one to speak, before me only managers were on the podium. This brought me the opportunity to talk about the social aspect, this is in my view something unexposed in the public debate. People should think more in possibilities for people instead of for companies. That creates a lot more positive energy than only seeing impossibilities. Hereby I welcome everyone to have a cup of coffee with me to talk about this subject.”

Published in e52 magazine, 20 June 2016, interviewed by Milan Lenters.