The North of the Netherlands and Northern Germany have a strong competitive edge when it comes to energy and cleantech. Many SME’s and knowledge institutions however are having a hard time finding each other. They would create strong partnerships, but lack the mechanisms to properly connect. Very usable innovations are not being realized or are having a hard time to reach the market. The Energy Voucher (or E-voucher) helps entrepreneurs with innovative products and ideas to move forward.
SME’s are the key to innovation. However they sometimes need some support to launch new products and services. That is why the Energy Valley foundation, in cooperation with the Province of Groningen and the Landkreis Aurich are developing a cross border voucher system. With this voucher entrepreneurs in the Eems Dollard region can invest in knowledge or help to make their final move towards the market, quickly and without too many regulations. The pilot with the vouchers will start early 2015.
“A real entrepreneur will undoubtedly ask: how much money can I get?”, Robbin van der Linde, project manager European projects at the Energy Foundation, states. “This will range from 2.500 to 5.000 euro for further development of innovative ideas. Alternatively, a company can request a larger voucher up to 9.000 euro for advanced technical assistance, testing or market application.” Fighting money as Van der Linde describes it.
Approaching new markets
Van der Linde describes what entrepreneurs can do with this money: “In Drenthe there are many companies in the field of sensor technology. Their solutions could be used in developing intelligent energy system solutions, but in the Netherlands we are not as far advanced in this field as in Germany. For those potential products there is no market yet. The aim is towork across borders, but it can be difficult for entrepreneurs to make that move.” With a voucher they can for instance obtain knowledge at a knowledge institute that knows how it works and they can be supported by someone that understands their potential and helps them to move towards the new potential market.
The European Union supports the project from the European Fund for Regional Development through the Interreg IVa Nederland-Deutschland program. Brussels is aiming at cross border cooperation and strongly supports innovative SME’s. That is why this union between the border regions is very important. On both sides of the Dutch-German border there is a lot of knowledge in the field of energy which is not yet being shared and which does not always reach the markets. The pilot for a larger voucher scheme will start early 2015 and should lead to cooperation between SME’s in energy and knowledge institutions.
Help from knowledge institutes
Within the E-voucher project SME-companies can use a voucher to get help from regional knowledge institutes and use demonstration and test facilities with a 65% to 80% subsidy. “As a guiding line the entrepreneur is requested to search for cooperation or support with across the border”.
An E-voucher can be spent on research and projects that:
- Are aimed at energy and clean tech: power-to-gas, biogas, hydrogen, LNG, accumulators, decentralised energy use or production, energy storage, wind energy, water power, the development of services in the field energy savings, monitoring etcetera;
- Are innovative;
- Have market potential and contribute to the turnover of the company;
- Are preferably crossing borders.
Two kinds of vouchers are available:
- Small vouchers up to 5.000 euro. These are intended to solve theoretical problems and answer any question an entrepreneur might have. This could be research into the current technical status, literature research, a feasibility study or consulting an expert.
- Larger vouchers for 9.000 euro. These are meant for prototype development, experiments, demonstrations and measurements.
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