The University of Groningen (RUG) and NOM are working together to promote entrepreneurship, innovation, sustainability and well-being in the North. The 50th anniversary of the NOM is an ideal time to travel through time together. 'The North has a pioneering position in many areas that is already quite old. We should be more proud of that'.
Who traveled with us through time? Dina Boonstra (director NOM), Jouke de Vries (chairman of the Board of Governors RUG), Marijn Molema (associate professor of regional vitality and dynamics RUG and program leader Fries Planbureau), Aleid Brouwer (assistant professor of spatial sciences RUG and lecturer NHL Stenden) and Frans Sijtsma (associate professor of spatial sciences and interim director SUSO Agricola School of Sustainability RUG).
That the North is bubbling with entrepreneurship and innovative ideas is a fact. However, there is still often the idea that 'we' in the North lag behind the national average. 'Awareness of the strength of the North could be a bit stronger,' says Marijn Molema. 'It is very interesting to see that certain sectors in the North have grown historically and have enormous strength, also internationally.
RUG students have therefore been researching the strength of the North for a year. Boonstra: "We have very deliberately involved students in this project. It is important that a new generation takes up this issue. Not only for the benefit of NOM, but also for the students themselves. So that they might realize that it is not only nice to study here, but also to work.'
'If you have the story of the North's strength in order for yourself you can tell it to the rest of the world,' Molema said. This is something you have to work on from the inside, Aleid Brouwer observes. 'The story of the North' is still quite a complicated concept for many of my students. This is where we can still make real strides.
Strengths of the North
The RUG research therefore provides six strengths of the North with an identity: the smart manufacturing industry, green chemistry, energy transition, food production 2.0, healthy living and water technology. History students look at the past. Economic geography students examine how northern entrepreneurship can be strengthened in the future.
The initial results show that the North took a leading position toward more nature-inclusive agriculture as early as the 1970s. This period also saw strong anticipation of aging, which made healthy ageing one of the North's strengths. 'We have a leadership position in this that is therefore quite old,' Molema said.
'Taking part and not being afraid of the future'
'When people are proud of their frontrunner position, it strengthens cultural identity and interconnectedness. For example, the moment you work together on a transition towards innovative food production and are also leaders in this, it creates enthusiasm. People want to participate.
The findings from the study play an important role in creating an innovation ecosystem in the North. 'We as RUG and NOM are working to get a number of issues high on the political agenda. For this, a clear story about the strength of the North is crucial' responds Jouke de Vries. 'In the coming years there are a number of large funds, such as Just Transition Fund and the National Growth Fund ready to go, where it is really necessary that we position the North well'.
The future: one notch sharper
The cooperation between the RUG and the NOM may therefore become even sharper in the coming period, in the opinion of both parties. 'We are really seen by the outside world as the North and not as separate provinces or municipalities. It is therefore all the more important that everyone involved in the development of the North works together. In this way we can respond to opportunities as soon as they arise' said Boonstra.
So we can certainly go up a gear. But we can also be proud of what we already have, says Brouwer. Our cooperation already stands out. Businesses are setting up near knowledge institutes. For example, there is even an annex of the university in Emmen (Greenwise Campus) where, together with the NHL Stenden and the business community, research is being done on biodegradable plastic. The minister of education is heavily impressed by this.'
'A strong partnership gives a lead'
The strength of the cooperation between knowledge institutions in the North and NOM is that because of its apolitical character you can get much more done than in local politics
continues Brouwer. 'This works to our advantage. There is a strong partnership between the northern mbo's, colleges and the university (the University of the North). This gives us a leading role.'
'We have to keep things together' sang Job Cohen. That is our mission, concludes Frans Sijtsma. 'To make sure that the right knowledge is distributed to the right people and entrepreneurs and not just to the bright minds at the university.' With a consistent story and intensive cooperation, the North can go far.
NOM 50 years
In 2024, NOM will exist for 50 years. Of course, we don't want to just look back on the past 50 years. But also, or especially, look forward. As Godfried Bomans put it: history is the present, seen through the future. So we look back, but above all we look to the future. We are doing this together with the RUG, among others. They will investigate where the strength of the North comes from. And how we can further strengthen this strength.
In this white paper you will read:
- What the funding options are
- How we ensure that innovative ideas are turned into business opportunities
- How NOM can help settle in the northern Netherlands
- How we guide entrepreneurs in becoming investor ready