European millions require elaborate plans

European millions require elaborate plans

'The North gets 438 million euros'. That widely read headline - especially at this time of year - brings to mind a fine gift. Just unwrap it! It's not like that. The Northern Netherlands must invest itself in order to use the subsidy. Well-developed plans must be ready for this. NOM contributes to that.

The 330 million euros coming from the European Just Transition Fund (JTF) should be spent on energy transition projects. Groningen's commissioner of the king René Paas already gave a foretaste. 'We are going to use this money for new jobs in the transition from fossil to renewable energy. We will become the country's green power outlet.

This is a wonderful prospect that will obviously be more complicated to realize in practice than it sounds now. For although some of the media almost enviously talked about "free money for the North" in their headlines, we have to work hard to get the euros rolling.

Own investment required

''It is about subsidy and that includes an own investment,'' NOM director Dina Boonstra explains clearly. ''Whoever, as an entrepreneur, puts money into a project that fits the objectives of the JTF, can receive additional resources for it.'' That's how it is. But: then you have to have that money on the shelf somewhere, or be looking for funding.

For years, NOM has been investing in companies working on the energy transition, and in solutions and innovations in that field. Indeed, the transition is one of the important main points in NOM's strategic multi-year plan (2021-2024). Dina Boonstra: ,,We have named three main points, under which hang a multitude of topics. More Sustainable, Healthier and Smarter. Projects around energy transition fit with More Sustainable, but certainly also with Smarter.''

Green hydrogen is one of the better-known topics in that context, though. But it is about much more. About raw materials transition, about circularity, about the different use of personnel from the fossil industry. ,,We really want to move those elements forward in the Northern Netherlands, including with funding. With the European subsidy funds included, we have a golden opportunity to take big steps.

ERDF offers opportunities

The same goes for the 108 million euros coming in from the European Regional Development Fund (ERFRO). That grant is intended for the development of SMEs and the economic strengthening of a region, in this case the Northern Netherlands. Drenthe deputy Henk Brink is quite clear about it: ''With these funds we can boost the innovative power of our SMEs, while stimulating development and research.''

As with the JTF, the North itself must do something in return: investment. The NOM can play an important role in this as well. And not only as a financier of innovations (the so-called early phase funding), but also from its network. With its large number of contacts in the northern business and investment world, the NOM also actively helps to advance innovations without being a direct part of them itself. And through innovation programs it works to convert innovative ideas into business opportunities.

In many areas, the ERDF funds fit seamlessly with NOM's focal points (again: More Sustainable, Healthier, Smarter) in the coming years. Dina Boonstra: ,,Think of innovations in the field of personal health, biorefinery and circular agriculture. Those belong under the heading Healthier. Smart manufacturing, smart farming and much more belongs under Smarter. And More Sustainable also covers a lot, such as greening raw materials and smart maintenance.''

Taking steps

A counter for all those hundreds of millions of European money does not yet exist. NOM does have a counter, virtual or otherwise. Boonstra: ,,We should not wait for the JTF and ERDF counter to open. Now is the time to work out projects, to make the step from plan to concrete idea. Let's make sure that the well-developed proposals are already ready, then the grant can be awarded quickly or not. That is the best way to use top investments to seriously advance the Northern Netherlands.''