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“Becoming the Silicon Valley for quantum, I see that as a great ambition for Quantum Delta NL”
Cis Marring is the newest member of the Supervisory Board of Quantum Delta NL. In the interview below, she elaborates on her role. She looks back on her career so far but also gives a glimpse of the future. “It is very important that quantum technology benefits our entire country.”
We spoke to Cis Marring on the day that two of her ‘kids’ indicated in the media that they were thinking about going public after successful funding rounds: Nearfield Instruments and LeydenJar. These are two startups that stem from the successful Tech Transfer Program, which was given a new boost in 2017, partly by Marring, to bring TNO knowledge to the market and thereby realise social impact.
“It is of enormous importance that a smart idea reaches the market quickly via entrepreneurs,” she says. “That creates high-quality employment and is also good for society – in the case of LeydenJar, for example, by producing a sustainable super battery, an important solution for making transport emission-free, and at Nearfield Instruments by applying metrology systems in the semiconductor industry so that more powerful electronics can be produced more cheaply.”
“It is of enormous importance that a smart idea reaches the market quickly via entrepreneurs. That creates high-quality employment and is also good for society.”
Creating innovations with impact. It is an important aspect of the 58-year-old Marring’s work. At TNO she co-founded the Tech Transfer Program, and during her seven years as Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and member of the Executive Board, she helped TNO grow into the innovation flywheel it is today. “At TNO, I have always been captivated by the passion of scientists who often are not interested in the money side of things but are driven purely by making a difference with their science. It is rewarding work to support them in this and to give them the framework within which they can flourish.”
Yet that same adventure at TNO stopped last May, at Marring’s own request. “I think that as a CFO, you should always create added value. But when you work somewhere for such a long time, automatisms do creep in. It was also good for TNO that a new breath of fresh air came with the arrival of my successor (red: Susan Swarte.)”
The approaching farewell also gave her much-needed ‘space in her head’. Indeed, Marring was looking forward to having a beautiful summer to think about the continuation of her career. That beautiful summer was ruined by all the rain in recent months, but it did lead her to Quantum Delta NL, which asked her to join the Supervisory Board – a challenge she grasped with both hands.
“From my role at TNO, I was already involved with QuTech. The idea of making a further contribution to quantum development appealed to me. In addition, I wanted to expand my number of supervisory directorships and work for startups. Those two things come together perfectly in this role.”
She is therefore very much looking forward to her new role at Quantum Delta NL where she will mainly focus on delivering a good account of the 615 million euros that the Quantum program received from the National Growth Fund last April, and on further setting up the quantum ecosystem. A big responsibility, she believes. “It is crucial for the Supervisory Board and the Executive Board to spend that money well and deliver the technology and economic activity we promise with the program.”
In this, Marring is well versed. She has experience in the financial field that she gained – alongside TNO – working for several large internationally operating companies such as Unilever and Royal Wessanen. She is also currently a supervisory director at Westpoort Warmte, NOVEC (a subsidiary of TenneT), St. Antonius Hospital in Nieuwegein/Utrecht and the North Sea Foundation.
All this experience means that she isn’t phased by big budgets. On the contrary. “At TNO, it was about the annual turnover.” Although the amount of money is not decisive for the way you perform your job, she emphasizes. “But in the case of Quantum Delta NL, we are also talking about taxpayers’ money. That gives us extra responsibility.”
In bearing that responsibility, Marring is pleased that the Supervisory Board is simultaneously being strengthened by a second woman, Marietje Schaake, who like Marring, also started on the 16th September, in her case with the ‘society’ portfolio. “Technology and science are technical sectors and therefore male-dominated worlds that could use some more women. But I am used to working with many men around me. More important is that – in whatever board – there is an inclusive culture where people feel welcome and heard and dare to speak out: men and women.”
Fortunately, she has always felt that way, in all the jobs and roles she has done so far. But does she have a tip for women who are up against the glass ceiling or feel the pressure of working in a male-dominated sector? “Yes, make sure you are yourself, only then are you visible. Just keeping your head down and working hard doesn’t pay off in the end. And certainly not shouting yourself down.”
The need to be visible. This of course also applies to the Dutch quantum ecosystem, she concludes. And why not? “I see becoming the Silicon Valley 2.0 in the field of quantum as a nice ambition for Quantum Delta NL. Of course, we are a small country and have to cooperate with other countries, but at the same time, we are at the forefront of the international quantum peloton. I am looking forward to working with the Executive Board and the Supervisory Board to expand this position and to ensure that quantum technology helps society, stimulates Dutch business and creates new jobs. Because ultimately it’s all about converting knowledge into new business.”
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