‘Frontrunner on the A1’ big success

The national valorisation-program led to double figures in the number of starters, double the number of students that have entrepreneurship in their curriculum, three times as many participants in events and an increase in employment rates. Together with Kees Eijkel from Kennispark Twente and André Roos from the Saxion Center for Entrepreneurship we look back on 6 years of valorisation and look at challenges for the future. 

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Valorisation-program

In 2010 the national Valorisation-program started as successor to the funding-program KennisExploitatie. Purpose of both programs: making sure that knowledge held by universities and universities of applied sciences contributes to solutions for societal challenges. The program ‘Koploper aan de A1’ (‘Frontrunner on the A1’) focuses on the valorisation of knowledge in our region. The government contribution of more than 13 million over 6 years will be used by us to stimulate entrepreneurship and the acceleration of innovation and growth at existing entrepreneurs.

595 starting companies in six years’ time

“In the past six years, the program Frontrunner on the A1 has already resulted in 595 starting companies”, explains Kees Eijkel, managing director Kennispark. “It makes us the region with the highest number of spin-offs in the Netherlands.” Knowledge and creativity are important for our economy and society. “Valorisation of knowledges increases the number of new companies and improves the innovative strengths of existing companies. Thanks to the program we have strengthened the unique ecosystem for innovation and entrepreneurship in our region and made it possible to become frontrunner.” Together with other activities across the region, the valorisation-program created almost 11.000 new job up until 2015.

Six focus areas

The program Frontrunner on the A1 focuses on the six areas: incorporating entrepreneurship in educational programs (1), creating a connection with the business community (2), support with knowledge protection (3) and financing (4), creating a knowledge network (5) and inspiring and connecting teachers (6). “Kennispark is the entrepreneurial director that takes care of quality and consistency in the program”, explains Kees. “Entrepreneuring and valorisation is all about sharing. The first inclination is often to keep things close to you. We stimulate students, entrepreneurs and scientists to exchange knowledge and experience. That’s how others become enthusiastic. It also goes for collaborations with hub’s from other regions.”

‘This is so cool’

Kennispark works together with the University of Twente and Saxion University for Applied Sciences. André Roos, managing director of the Saxion Center for Entrepreneurship: “In six years’ time we, with the Saxion Center for Entrepreneurship, have built on an infrastructure with which we encourage students to become entrepreneurs. With events, advice and coaching we reach around 2500 students annually. Our goal? That students yell: ‘This is so cool’ and enthusiastically choose for entrepreneurship because it suits them.” It wasn’t easy to build up to this. “The educational structures at universities of applied sciences is often more focused on becoming an employee. This cultural shift has been put in motion and more students are interested in entrepreneuring, but we haven’t finished yet. We connect ourselves, also in the coming years, to an increasing number of educational programs to make sure that entrepreneurship becomes commonplace.”

Keep building a strong ecosystem

Partially thanks to the Valorisation-program the ecosystem in Twente is now in place. What’s next? “The ecosystem is in constant need of attention”, Kees states. “Knowledge institutions maintain the need for support. They need to learn how to think and act differently than before, while their environment of governments and society still looks at them and judges them in the same way as before. Take government funding for example, they still do not take valorisation into account.” A next step is needed to make the ecosystem less vulnerable. Financing of start-ups is mentioned by Kees as an example. “In the Netherlands, this is still in a very immature phase. With the pre-seed loans by UTI BV, United Twente Innovation, we offer financial support to start-ups with innovative ideas. That’s all very nice, of course, but a larger financial network is needed to give more start-ups a chance. “The ecosystem has proven itself. However, we constantly need to invest to secure it in future.”

More numbers about start-ups and employment rates can be found on the website of the Twente-Index.

Date: 30 January 2017
Author: Twente.com