Hotbeds of innovative talent
Regional incubators boost innovation and the economy
Incubators are environments devoted to fostering innovative entrepreneurial talent – meeting places for like-minded people who share the same grand ambition of turning their idea into a reality. Incubators provide start-ups with access to workspace, services, networks and capital.
The Netherlands is home to a large number of these incubators, concentrated in knowledge hubs around knowledge institutes such as universities, universities of applied sciences and research centres. This type of set-up has proved to be highly conducive: experience has shown that when groups of like-minded businesses with similar goals choose to settle in the same space, they grow at a faster pace, are more innovative, have a greater chance of achieving success and are more profitable than other companies. Thus, if you encourage the growth of knowledge hubs, you encourage economic growth. Of course, promoting economic growth has always been Rabobank’s plan in its aim to be a leading force of innovation and entrepreneurship. Supporting incubators and knowledge hubs fits in perfectly with Rabobank’s philosophy as a cooperative organisation, and the bank collaborates with educational institutions, research institutions, public authorities, businesses and other financiers in order to strengthen regional economies. Rabobank is therefore involved in a large number of these initiatives, and below are some examples of how the bank helps incubators across the Netherlands thrive.
Haarlemvalley is the leading startup community in the Haarlem region for startup businesses with innovative ideas and growth ambitions. Rabobank supports Haarlemvalley by providing funding, knowledge and networks. Present Your Startup was inspired by the Dragon’s Den television show and is one of the seven programmes Haarlemvalley has on offer. The Present Your Startup programme gives startups the opportunity to pitch their ideas for new products or services to a group of potential investors. Dozens of startups seized this chance and took part in Present Your Startup. After multiple elimination rounds, seven finalists remained in the race. They had the chance to pitch their business case to the investors, professional jury and audience in the grand finale. Startups raised 200,000 euros this way in 2014. The 2015 finalists received one million euros’ worth of Microsoft services and raised 400,000 euros in cash, partly through crowdfunding. All seven finalists now have the opportunity to participate in the ‘Incubate Your Startup’ programme that gives them access to advice, office space and other resources. Haarlemvalley has helped several startups to be successful in this way. One example is Bardoggy, a ‘digital bar promoter’ that entices customers to visit bars through special offers. Another is UseClark that provides software that helps users absorb and analyse information faster so they can do their work more efficiently.
Affiliated with Delft University of Technology, the YES!Delft incubator is – not coincidentally – a hub for technology start-ups. Local Rabobank Zuid-Holland Midden has been involved in Yes!Delft since its creation in 2005. Along with various scientists, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, the bank is part of the selection committee that chooses which talented entrepreneurs get to take up residence in the YES!Delft building. Students and former students are entitled to use various facilities at the technical university, including a 'clean room', a wind tunnel and several labs. Around 100 businesses have joined the successful project to date. One renowned business that got their feet wet here is Ampelmann, which developed a footbridge that enables marine personnel to easily and safely transfer to and from offshore facilities such as drilling platforms on the open sea. The footbridge is known as a ‘motion compensation platform’ because it compensates for the vessel’s motion on the ocean to ensure safe offshore access.
Space Business Innovation Centre, Noordwijk, the Netherlands
The Space Business Innovation Centre is located in the Space Business Park in Noordwijk in the Dutch province of South Holland, near the largest research facility of the European Space Agency (ESA). The Space Business Innovation Centre and its partners offer a special programme for start-ups interested in using space data and space technology on Earth. As part of this ESA BIC Noordwijk programme, a select number of companies receive an incentive of EUR 50,000 for research and product development, more than 100 hours of technical support by various specialists (including the European Space Agency), coaching, business support, and participation in the start-up community. Companies interested in signing up for the programme must complete a rigorous selection process taking up approximately eight weeks altogether. The local Rabobank Bollenstreek is a member of the selection committee for the programme and is providing a EUR 50,000 credit facility to all participants in the programme.
Kennispark Twente (Twente Research Park)
The Gallery in Enschede (Overijssel province) is an inspiring space where young entrepreneurs and people from the innovation network get to meet and exchange ideas. The building is 300 metres long and offers 13,000 square metres of business space to Twente-based companies. The Gallery is part of Kennispark Twente (Twente Research Park), which supports innovative start-ups through initiatives such as coaching programmes and shared innovation projects with established companies, as well as cooperating with various knowledge institutes. This region has a great deal to offer new businesses and helps foster a nurturing environment for knowledge-intensive companies. Local Rabobank Enschede-Haaksbergen has its own office in The Gallery and is one of the driving forces behind this initiative. Rabobank is a participant in TOP scheme. For the past 25 years, this programme has been providing innovative Twente-based entrepreneurs with legal advice, communications advice, access to networks and – through Rabobank – interest-free loans.
Bright Move Eindhoven
'Helping innovative start-ups in South East Brabant achieve their ambitious dreams' – that is the mission of the Bright Move incubator, which combines the talent of specialists at Brainport Eindhoven, Eindhoven University of Technology and the Brabantse Ontwikkelings Maatschappij (BOM) (Brabant Development Company) to help budding entrepreneurs to achieve their goals. In their selection process, they use a funnel model to filter out the best ideas. The first step in this model is the Business Development Committee, in which various participants all play a role in honing the idea, carrying out the actual research, and clarifying the idea. Rabobank is also a member of this committee. If the idea is believed to be viable, the Expert Panel helps to ensure it can be further developed. This panel is comprised of specialists affiliated with research and educational institutions, test consumers and leading companies such as Philips, ASML and VDL. If a company shows itself to be truly exceptional, the Investors Committee – of which Rabobank is a member as well – decides whether they will receive a loan, and on what terms. Finally, local Rabobank Eindhoven-Veldhoven decides, based on the Expert Panel’s findings, whether it will provide an additional credit facility. The long-term support of talent in this incubator is paying off: an impressive 40 percent of all patent applications submitted in the Netherlands originate in the Brainport region, making it Europe’s leading incubator.
Brightlands Chemelot Campus, Sittard-Geleen
Limburg-based Brightlands Chemelot Campus is a hub of innovative companies operating in the chemicals and biomaterials industry. PharmaCell, one of the start-ups that first flourished here, invented a method to multiply human muscle cells and cartilage cells by isolating and culturing them, and then reintroducing them into the body. Local Rabobank Westelijke Mijnstreek maintains a satellite office on the Chemelot site and provides banking services to all the campus companies. Four or five bank employees act as mentors to talented entrepreneurs with smart business ideas. Rabobank aims to boost innovative start-ups by sponsoring initiatives such as the Startup Bootcamp Smart Materials. Ten innovative teams from around the world participate in this Bootcamp in order to develop their strong ideas into viable businesses in just three months. The Bootcamp is also known as an ‘accelerator programme’.
The PortXL programme, set up by Port of Rotterdam and audit firm EY, is an initiative to help Port of Rotterdam achieve its aspiration of becoming the ‘world’s smartest port’. Specialists from major port companies and from local Rabobank Rotterdam act as mentors in this accelerator programme to start-ups from all over the world. For 100 days, the start-ups receive intensive coaching from more than 150 mentors, including offshore company Van Oord, shipbuilder Damen and tank storage company Vopak. The start-ups also gain access to a network of affiliated companies and investors. The objective is to launch their port-related product or service in the market within 12 months. This includes ideas related to transport, energy, chemicals and offshore services. They are also given access to test spaces on the RDM Campus and office space in the Cambridge Innovation Center in the Groothandelsgebouw (Wholesale Building).
UtrechtInc is a joint initiative of the University Medical Center Utrecht (UMCU), Utrecht University and the local Rabobank to support innovative start-ups in growing their businesses. Together, they introduced the Pressure Cooker programme where fledgling entrepreneurs spend four intense months working on preparing the prototype of their invention for a market launch. They pitch their ideas to an advisory committee comprised of experts from the business world, and if their idea is approved, they receive seed capital from the Rabobank Pre-Seed Fund. These are low-interest loans through which local Rabobanks boost innovation across the region. One business that got its start in the UtrechtInc incubator is GitLab, which invented a product that enables developers to create and further develop software together. The product is used by high-profile organisations such as Interpol and NASA.
Rabobank is involved in a selection of the other innovation initiatives:
Rabobank’s Teckle innovation platform finances innovative start-ups. The fast-growing platform currently includes various local Rabobanks from the Eindhoven, Sittard, Maastricht, Nijmegen, Enschede and Ede-Wageningen areas.
Local Rabobank Hilversum-Vecht en Plassen is a partner to this incubator for businesses operating in the media sector.
Inqubator Leeuwarden is a partnership between the City of Leeuwarden, the local Chamber of Commerce and local Rabobank Leeuwarden, which specialises in IT, biotechnology and the water sector.
T-IC Tilburg focuses on IT, medical technology and healthcare, with Rabobank providing financial advice.