Prof. dr Peter Nijkamp #

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Prof. dr Peter Nijkamp #

Professor of Regional, Urban and Environmental Economics
© Copyright VU University Amsterdam

Research fields: urban development, transport and technological innovation, and the maintenance of historic buildings.

Nijkamp started his career as a quantitative economist, which is to say that he mainly specialized in models, statistics and econometrics. When he later made the move to regional, urban and environmental economics, he was able to apply many of the techniques that he had already acquired to this relatively new field.

Cultural heritage

In addition to the more obvious areas such as urban development, transport and technological innovation, Peter Nijkamp’s list of research fields includes the restoration and maintenance of historic buildings. “Our cultural heritage is economically significant because of its very scarcity. It does have a value, but not one that is easily expressed in monetary terms. As with other goods that are in short supply, making rational choices is a matter of the utmost importance.” Nijkamp’s first experience of this field was in the late 1980s, when the region around Naples was struck by earthquakes. Quite a large sum of money was made available for the restoration of the damaged cultural treasures. “A situation like that is rather like giving a child ten euros to spend in the sweet shop. The child will first run excitedly around the shop, but after ten minutes it will probably be driven to distraction by the sheer range of sweets on offer. Using a software package that I created, I have developed decision trees for the restoration process.”

Zest for work

Professor Nijkamp’s success derives from creativity, boldness, and an enormous zest for work. “When I first started my career, the Department of Regional, Urban and Environmental Economics at VU University Amsterdam was still in its infancy.” Now it has outpaced its competitors throughout the world. The success of a good research institute is tied to a lack of self interest on the part of the head of research. “It is vitally important to headhunt talented and creative researchers. Heads of research are often scared of appointing people who are better than they are. Yet, when such a man or woman retires, the research institute soon collapses like a burst balloon.”

The most easily accessible university in Europe

While his post as president of the NWO demands a great deal of time, Professor Nijkamp still manages to find time for VU University Amsterdam. The regional, urban and environmental economist also has a great tip for the university, set up an international conference centre in the heart of the campus. Professor Nijkamp’s eyes glisten. “VU University Amsterdam may well be the most easily accessible university in Europe. It is close to Schiphol and just fifteen minutes from the centre of Amsterdam. With numerous conferences being held literally on their doorstep, it would be simplicity itself for the academic staff of VU University Amsterdam to contact the leading lights in their respective fields!”

A glance at Professor Nijkamp’s own curriculum vitae shows that his successors within the Department of Regional, Urban and Environmental Economics will need to be highly capable people if they are to fill his shoes. For instance, Peter Nijkamp’s name appears near the top of the list of most published Dutch economists, and he is the proud possessor of the Founder’s medal of the Regional Science Association International (RSAI). In 1996 he won the most prestigious scientific award in the Netherlands, the Spinoza Prize (also known as the Dutch Nobel Prize).

© Copyright VU University Amsterdam

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