Gerard Lenstra 'Dealing with disappointments'
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2020 marked by crisis and agility

That 2020 will go down in the books as a special year is clear. The Covid-19 virus had a global impact, including on the economic front. It was the year of crisis and agility. Through the implementation of the Corona Bridging Loan (COL), NOM was able to help many, mostly young and innovative companies. Meanwhile, a new strategic plan was developed around the global transitions More Sustainable, Healthier and Smarter. Transitions to which NOM wants to make a fundamental contribution.

In addition to these transitions, the concept of Agility took on even clearer connotations. Despite all this, ordinary work also continued. NOM continued to invest and realized a number of exits (sale of equity participations), closing 2020 with a positive result. This creates space with which numerous other innovative ventures can be financed. Great innovation programs have been started and the pipeline for acquisitions is well filled. Covid-19 also leaves its mark in terms of acquisitions: projects have longer lead times.

Corona Bridging Loan

On the initiative of TechLeap, the joint ROMs, together with the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate developed the Corona OverbruggingsLening (COL). As of April 29, 2020, NOM will implement this scheme in the Northern Netherlands. It is an emergency instrument for companies that have demonstrably run into financial difficulties due to the Covid-19 crisis. The loan should provide a temporary bridge to "break-even" or a next round of funding. To date, 123 companies applied for a COL of which 68 applications were approved.

Director Dina Boonstra: "Startups, scale-ups but also other innovative companies fall partly outside the schemes offered by the government at the beginning of the crisis. While precisely this category of entrepreneurs is crucial for the innovative power and future earning capacity of the Netherlands and therefore also for our region. The COL does connect well with that. We are proud as an organization to have shown agility in the development and implementation of the COL."

Strategic plan

A strategic plan was delivered in 2020. An important part of this strategic plan is that NOM focuses on the contribution of the Northern Netherlands to social issues, such as resource scarcity and climate change. The transitions in the themes of more sustainable, healthier and smarter are central to this.

For large innovative programs, NOM develops the ecosystem (cooperating organizations that pursue a common goal), in which large companies, SMEs, knowledge institutions and governments work together. Two of these, Chemport and Smart Industry, are already running. The third, AgriFood & Health is under development. In addition, new programs are being developed. These may be completely new and may also consist of one or more spinoffs from existing programs. This offers opportunities for entrepreneurs to play a role in the innovations in these programs and in the economy of tomorrow. Part of the strategy also includes close cooperation with cluster organizations such as New Energy Coalition, which is developing the ecosystem around energy.

Gertjan Lankhorst, Chairman of the Supervisory Board: "Even in a very difficult year, NOM did an excellent job. Moreover, a new strategy has been formulated that will help the northern economy address the major societal challenges even better."


Despite Covid-19, NOM continued to work with companies to develop programs to accelerate innovation together. Important projects in which NOM is involved are PGO Netwerk Noord and Smart Industry Hub. Within the latter project, hundreds of innovative SMEs in the Northern Netherlands are being put along the Smart Industry yardstick. Many of these will take steps to work smarter in the coming years.


Acquisition processes are proceeding differently this year. No contact moments at trade fairs or headquarters abroad and, conversely, no visits by potential foreign investors to the Northern Netherlands. That does not alter the fact that the pipeline is well filled. However, final decisions take more time.

Financial result

2020 will end with a positive result of €4.7 M. This is partly the result of selling the stakes in three successful companies: Detact Diagnostics, Organ Assist and Dutch Theatre Systems. With the positive financial result of 2020, many wonderful innovative companies can be helped further in the new year.


All in all, we look back on a year of crisis and agility. A crisis caused by Covid-19 with all its consequences. But 2020 also showed another side. The side of enormous agility of entrepreneurs. Agility is always important and in 2020 even more so. A great example concerns the portfolio company EventInsight. They developed tooling in 2020 where live events are converted to virtual with a similar experience. A very successful product that was created in a short period of time.

And that very agility is a key pillar. Last year, now and in the future. Agility in the broad sense of the word; innovative and future-oriented. Dina Boonstra: "We remain committed to this in our work on a sustainable and robust economy in the Northern Netherlands in which future-oriented and innovative companies are decisive. The return obtained through the sale of the majority of the shares in Catawiki at the beginning of 2021 is a great start with which many startups and scale-ups can be helped. Companies with innovative plans that contribute to global transitions."

  • For the full 2020 annual report, click here.
  • This link to the dashboard provides an overview of 2020 goals and results.