Nedcam Solutions
  • Internationalizing

Minister Schreinemacher impressed with northern innovation drive

Unprecedented innovation, leading in circularity and sustainability, tremendous commitment. Outgoing Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Liesje Schreinemacher was impressed when she visited manufacturing companies Nedcam Solutions in Heerenveen and Alumax Boats in Meppel on Thursday.

Proud we may be. Of the entire Dutch maritime manufacturing industry and of northern activity in particular. That was the message Liesje Schreinemacher delivered on Thursday. She visited with a sizeable entourage mold and plug manufacturer Nedcam Solutions and shipbuilder Alumax Boats. ''The maritime cluster here is so strong that it helps our entire country abroad,'' the outgoing minister said.

That abroad ran like a thread through the day. Export promotion in particular. Because today's (maritime) industry already gets a large part of its turnover across the border, and this will only increase in the future. It has to. The Netherlands alone is too small for many companies to grow. Apart from that, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find workers.

Question is: do medium and small businesses know how to handle that, expansion across the border? ''The minister asked quite a bit about that,'' says Erwin van Maaren. He is director of Nedcam Solutions in Heerenveen. ''Actually, the question was: what can we do for you in supporting export activities. I find that strong.''

70 percent are exports

Nedcam Solutions is already doing a lot of business abroad. The company makes molds and plugs for the shipbuilding sector, but also for other industries. And in a unique way: the products are made as much as possible from circular materials and are created in a giant 3D printer, which in turn is very good news for sustainability.

''About 70 percent of our sales are exports,'' Van Maaren says. ''How did we manage that? Mainly by finding our own way. But during our search we also crossed paths with clubs that could help us. For example, thanks to the Dutch Business Support Office in Nantes, we came into contact with large companies there that we now count among our customers.''

That's what those NBSOs - part of the Rijksdienst voor Ondernemend Nederland - are for. Only not every entrepreneur knows how to find them yet. And that has to change. To make that happen, and to unlock more support measures, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs subsidizes the so-called Trade Relations Program for companies. This happens within the national Trade & Innovate NL network. The northern three provinces also joined the network aimed at supporting entrepreneurs in doing international business. NOM, YnBusiness, GroBusiness and Ik Ben Drents Ondernemer (IBDO) work together in this.

''Yes, that is necessary,'' Anne Wil Lucas believes. She is the Innovation and Internationalization Manager at the Northern Development Agency (NOM). ,,We need to work together much more. As the Northern Netherlands, but also through networking with other regions in the Netherlands. That way we can get things done abroad and really promote our exports. The fact that the northern deputies decided to put this more intensive cooperation on the agenda immediately after the minister's visit is a big step in the right direction.

To foreigners, the Netherlands is small, regions do not exist at all. Most entrepreneurs feel the same way. They see no boundaries. Alumax Boats builds aluminum boats in Meppel. The most famous example is the sustainable water cabs in Rotterdam. But electric canal boats for Amsterdam are also built there, as are the electric water buses that cruise around Delft. The Netherlands, meanwhile, is no longer the only playground for the innovative shipbuilder. Sales are being made in Germany, and a major joint venture is even being established in Vietnam.

''We are going to build aluminum ships there together with a local party,'' says Danny Pol, responsible for sales and marketing. ''That started with the delivery of a fireboat a few years ago. The customer there was so impressed that he said: let's build more here, with your knowledge. We are very far with that now.''

It doesn't come naturally. Remko Germeraad, director of Alumax Boats, flew back and forth to Southeast Asia a lot to arrange things. We received a lot of help from the export advice of IBDO, the NOM and the entire network. You get support from the embassy, you are helped with legal issues and so on. So we were helped to find the right way.''

The outgoing minister was particularly impressed by the drive at Alumax Boats, their drive for innovation and their motivation to bring knowledge to Vietnam: not only to grow further, but especially to help the population there find interesting work. Pol: ,,The program surrounding the visit ran considerably longer, because the minister wanted to know more and more about our activities and how the government can help entrepreneurs move forward internationally. Really nice.''

Both Nedcam Solutions and Alumax Boats are already moving in fruitful networks and have already found their way to exports. Still, they too see the importance of an intensive program aimed at promoting exports. Erwin van Maaren: ,,We want to take advantage of all opportunities to grow and develop further, especially abroad. You always run into things and if you have a warm network, you just solve them faster.'' And so it is.