Wim A,B.: "Thanks to European cooperation, we have achieved even more with offshore wind"

Inn2Power works on offshore wind supply chain

"For Inn2Power I can combine my work as project manager Foreign Direct Investment with business development. After all, offshore wind offers wonderful opportunities in Europe, but also beyond. What I find especially important is that from NOM we can offer opportunities and practical solutions to the entrepreneur."

Achieving more together in offshore wind

"The European project Inn2Power is actually a logical extension of the activities within Northern Netherlands Offshore Wind (NNOW). This SME cluster was created in 2010 on the initiative of NOM, the Chamber of Commerce for the Northern Netherlands and Energy Valley. Offshore wind was then on the rise and a colleague of mine wanted to do something with the market opportunities that arose. He then managed fairly quickly to bring together a group of interested companies, knowledge institutes and other relevant organizations, including Groningen Seaports. Setting up NNOW turned out to be a good move, because the cluster has now grown into an independent foundation with about ninety members.

I myself have also been involved in the NNOW network from the beginning, but not exclusively as a business developer. Indeed, as Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) project manager at NOM, I am responsible for the promotion and acquisition of foreign investments in our region. From this role, I can bring NNOW to international attention in order to attract new investments. After all, an important goal of the business development projects is to create more business and employment, by strengthening the economic profile of our region."

European cooperation offers new market opportunities

"Due to the success of NNOW, the idea arose to extend the cooperation to other North Sea countries. After all, we share the North Sea with Belgium, Germany, Denmark and the United Kingdom. So when NNOW continued as an independent foundation in 2016, we felt the time was ripe for cooperation with similar clusters at the European level. This eventually became the Inn2Power project, for which NOM applied for an Interreg subsidy together with the Province of Groningen.

Inn2Power is thus similar to NNOW, but cross-border. Eleven parties are participating in the project on behalf of the five main offshore wind clusters in Europe. These five regions have in common that they have a seaport on the North Sea and that much has already been achieved in the development of a supply chain for offshore wind. With Inn2Power, we are helping entrepreneurs to collaborate on sustainable energy generation internationally as well. Moreover, in this way we open up interesting European markets for SMEs.

The Inn2Power project consists of five components or work packages. The core objective of the project is to connect SMEs across borders and have them collaborate on innovations and market opportunities. Important instruments for this are the development of a joint SME database, improvement of the accessibility of ports for SMEs, the inventory of test sites, and the development and provision of MBA courses in the field of offshore wind. In addition, all regions should organize cross-border knowledge meetings where SMEs can meet."

Bringing parties together is our strength

"NOM's main task is database development. This suits us very well, because we use it to promote international cooperation between entrepreneurs in a practical way. The database should consist of a company directory with some 1,400 SMEs from the five regions. Our Danish colleagues are also working on a networking tool. This will allow companies to find potential cooperation partners based on ambitions, innovations, knowledge and competencies. The challenge for us is to get the database filled with the right data and to get the companies excited about using it.

Linking entrepreneurs together is, of course, right up NOM's alley. And with this database we can facilitate them even better to exploit market opportunities in the offshore wind industry. We also spent a lot of time organizing our Inn2Power knowledge and matchmaking event. I think we managed to organize a very successful event with a good content program. We managed to attract many participants from home and abroad. A visit to Eemshaven was of course also on the program."

Important to stay close to the SME

"Relationship management is an important aspect of any cooperation and that is precisely NOM's strength. At the same time, it is also one of the biggest challenges of this project. Entrepreneurs are often preoccupied with the delusion of the day. So it is up to us to get and keep the companies involved. What I find very important is that we from NOM can remain practical and pragmatic. Such a European subsidy project also involves political and lobbying aspects, but fortunately that is not up to us. We want to stay close to the companies and help them with what they find important. That's what I like best about these kinds of projects.

For Inn2Power, I therefore maintain active contact with the board of NNOW and with member companies. But on behalf of NOM I can also advise individual companies more broadly. For example, if a company needs practical support or funding to enter into cooperation abroad. And thanks to my role in FDI, I can also put our offshore wind cluster on the map outside Europe. In China, for example, they have big plans in offshore wind, and I also see opportunities in Taiwan and India. It would of course be wonderful if they were to invest in our Eemshaven area."

Proud of successful European cooperation

"With Inn2Power we have been able to significantly strengthen the positioning of our North Sea region. I find it very nice to see that the companies know how to find each other across national borders as well. It is very fascinating to see the similarities and differences between the five European clusters. In such an international project, you also have to deal with cultural differences, which is also very instructive. For example, I noticed that our Dutch corporate culture fits very well in a project like this. The Dutch are more willing than average to travel abroad and to seek cooperation. I have seen especially nice collaborations between Dutch and Danish companies, which is probably because our cultures have a lot in common after all.

I am very happy with what we have achieved so far. Through Inn2Power, we have been able to extend NNOW's success to Europe. Some promising collaborations have already emerged from the contacts we have made. One of the goals of the project is to achieve a total of 15 strategic collaborations, i.e. three per region. So far, everything indicates that this will succeed. The grant project runs until November 2020, so we still have a year ahead of us. In the coming year, of course, we will also decide whether and how to continue this international cooperation. But I am confident that the European relationships and networks we have established will bear fruit beyond 2020."