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East Netherlands

Digitalisation Strategy in East Netherlands


The digitalisation of our society accelerates faster and further, thanks to the progress made in the information and communication technologies (ICT). This leads to new data-driven activities.

Key enabling technology

Digitalisation and the key-technology ICT are essential in creating solutions to major challenges and transitions in all sectors of society and economy. Also, digitalisation is crucial to the transformation of sectors and companies in the economic value chain. For this, a further development of the right skills, systems and services is essential. It imposes new challenges for companies, also in East Netherlands.

ICT landscape

An important supplier of digital services is the ICT sector. ICT companies are considered key players in the interaction with users of this technology. However, it was not yet clear what East Netherlands’ ICT sector looks like and how interaction with buyers – the SMEs – of the ICT-related products, services and solutions takes place. In order to better stimulate the innovative capacity based on the digital developments of the SMEs in East Netherlands, the ICT sector needs to be charted. A better understanding of East Netherlands’ ICT-landscape enables a better support of this important target group and encourages collaboration with companies from other sectors. For this reason, this report zooms in on the ICT-sector in East Netherlands specifically.

Report ICT sector

The report shows, next to an overview of East Netherlands’ status quo with reference to ICT, that a number of obstacles and opportunities occur for ICT companies and SMEs. The report elaborates upon the following conclusions and recommendations:

The report shows, next to an overview of East Netherlands’ status quo with reference to ICT, that a number of obstacles and opportunities occur for ICT companies and SMEs. The report elaborates upon the following conclusions and recommendations:

ICT is a relevant sector to East Netherlands

  • Quantitative study shows that the ICT sector in East Netherlands currently holds a middle position. It is noteworthy that the growth rates of recent years are above average, which suggests that the sector is developing well.
  • East Netherlands meets the right conditions to make the most of the opportunities offered by digitalisation. At the moment, policy in East Netherlands has insufficient attention for the ICT sector as a whole, which is imperative for the integral strengthening of the sector and various target groups.

The ICT sector challenges

  • Large profits can be gained by the ICT sector by collaborating more intensively. It would be good if more initiatives were launched such as TalentIT in Twente, the ICT Campus in Veenendaal and ApeldoornIT. Also, encouraging cooperation between these various initiatives could prevent the loss of more ICT talent for the region.
  • Attracting and retaining talent is a major challenge. ICT employees are in high demand at present, making it important to present East Netherlands as an attractive area for business establishment.
  • It is recommended that grant sources and projects are made more accessible to ICT companies, and that (tailor-made) funds are developed to finance ICT start-ups and ICT growth companies. This can further stimulate the ICT companies’ growth and innovation. These instruments also can be deployed in promoting East Netherlands as business establishment region.
  • ICT companies can improve themselves by developing business development skills and new business models. Supporting the development of these soft skills can help these (predominantly technology-driven) companies to a further growth.

SMEs have difficulty in digital transformation

  • Informing SMEs about the possibilities is essential to accelerate the digitalisation in East Netherlands. The ICT companies could play a major role to overcome the SMEs’ barriers. At present, the dynamics between SMEs and ICT companies is still insufficient. By actively including ICT companies in the information campaigns, the sector’s visibility to SMEs will improve. More generic methods are also needed to stimulate digitalisation in SMEs. An example of a generic method is ‘the digital workplace’, which helps a large number of companies to make a start with digitalisation in a fast and practical way.
  • The availability of vouchers (or other grants) can also provide impetus to the digital transformation of SMEs. Such means may lower the threshold for entrepreneurs to involve a knowledge supplier and to test new technologies. Next to this, a voucher scheme may stimulate SMEs to prioritise digitalisation more.

Strengthening East Netherlands’ ecosystem 

  • When it comes to innovation power, East Netherlands has a strong foothold with the presence of three universities and three universities of applied sciences. Although part of the existing knowledge successfully translates to new business, still insufficient knowledge runs through to SMEs. It is therefore necessary to launch initiatives to improve this. An example of a situation in which this is now taking place is the regional collaboration arising in the field of artificial intelligence and digital twins.
  • Existing facilities and network organisations in East Netherlands are often oriented locally. By stimulating a better cooperation between the various facilities and networks, East Netherlands’ existing networks will be used better. This may strengthen the knowledge position in the field of digital technologies in East Netherlands.

Focus more on software innovations

  • The value from data can be optimised by striking a balance between software and hardware innovations. More focus on software innovations in East Netherlands can result in an optimisation of the value that is generated from data and data-related services. Establishing collaborations between hardware-oriented companies and software-oriented companies can be a first step in shifting the companies’ focus to software innovations.

Attractive, underused business climate 

  • Important steps in attracting more foreign ICT companies are a strong focus on a better profiling of the region and working towards stronger value propositions. Next to this, improving facilities is key to get ICT companies to settle in the region, like affordable office space. The focus on attractive business settlement facilities and a better profiling may bring about an important change.

Visibility and image of the ICT sector 

  • Improving the visibility and a better profiling of ICT companies by, for example, the sharing of showcases, may help to strengthen the whole sector. It could also increase the attraction of working in the ICT sector to young people. ICT companies should take steps themselves in order to improve their visibility and image.
  • Forming clusters of several specific key technologies or themes (such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, etcetera) can also increase the visibility of ICT companies. This may not only improve the companies’ visibility, but also increase the knowledge among the SMEs about the possibilities of digitalisation.

Digitalisation strategy

A digitalisation strategy in which both target groups are central may accelerate the digitalisation process of companies in East Netherlands, and offer the necessary support during this transition. The actions as mentioned should lead to a further development of the East Netherlands digital ecosystem. The match between the existing ICT sector and the SMEs’ digitalisation task could lead to a digitally competent SME and an enriched ICT sector in East Netherlands. It will result in smart solutions for SMEs through which new economic opportunities and new business models are created. This will make the economic climate of East Netherlands stronger and future proof.

Download: report ICT sector in East Netherlands (in Dutch)

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